Without 'Red Dead' Competition, 'God of War' Is WGA Awards Game Favorite

God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2_Split - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment; Courtesy of Rockstar Games

Of the five games up for the award, Sony Santa Monica's reimagining of the Greek god Kratos is the clear standout, and its biggest competition isn't even nominated.

The Writers Guild of America revealed the nominees for its annual awards on Monday, and the among the contenders for best video game writing were a number of the year’s most popular, critically acclaimed titles — with one major exception.

While AAA blockbusters like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Sony Santa Monica’s God of War and Insomniac Games’ Marvel’s Spider-Man (all of which were up for the game of the year award at December’s Game Awards, with God of War taking home the honor) received nominations, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 was left wanting.

It’s a shocking snub, in many ways, as Red Dead was not among the top-two highest earners of the year but also received nearly unanimous praise from critics for its storytelling, acting and attention to detail. The omission by the WGA Awards follows the surprise of December’s Game Awards, where many believed the Western would earn the night’s biggest prize before it was upset by the smaller, PlayStation-exclusive title God of War.

According to the WGA Awards’ guidelines, eligible games must have been released between Dec. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018, and feature onscreen credits in order to be considered for an award. Red Dead Redemption 2 was released on Oct. 26 and features onscreen credits. The rules also state that the credited writers must “have been or must have applied to become members of the WGA Videogame Writers Caucus” at the time their scripts were submitted. 

According to the WGA, Red Dead Redemption 2 was not submitted for consideration.

The WGA has honored writing in video games since 2008. The past two winners, Horizon Zero Dawn in 2018 and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End in 2017, were PlayStation exclusives. This year, both God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man were exclusively released on Sony’s console. Meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey — the eleventh title in the main series of action games from Ubisoft — is the third entry from the franchise to earn a nomination (Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation were nominated in 2011 and 2013, respectively).

Rounding out the five nominations are Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within Episode 5 – Same Stitch and Obsidian Entertainment’s Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire. Neither game was a significant financial hit on the level of the other three nominees (it’s also notable that Telltale declared bankruptcy in November) and their inclusion over a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 is likely to raise a number of eyebrows both in the industry and with fans.

The omission of Red Dead leaves the category all but wide open for a God of War victory as the game, which is a semi-reboot/sequel of the long-running action series, is one of the strongest examples of writing in the video game medium to date. While Odyssey delved into more RPG elements than even its predecessor (last year’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which did not earn a WGA Awards nomination) featuring deeper, character-driven writing and Spider-Man was a fan-favorite that offered an entertaining — if rather familiar — superhero tale, Cory Barlog’s reimagining of Kratos in God of War was clearly the year’s standout and should secure yet another trophy for the already heavily adorned awards shelf at Sony Santa Monica.

Jan. 7 2:41 p.m. PT Updated with WGA's statement that Red Dead Redemption 2 was not submitted for consideration.