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Michael A. Cunningham Memorial Award
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For our 2018 awards we unveiled a new special award in memoriam of our longtime Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Cunningham, and it is an honour to be sharing the winner for 2021. This award holds a special place in staff hearts as Michael loved being an active part of our awards selection process. Choosing a title that represents Michael’s integrity and his passion for smaller titles is often a daunting task and one we take pride in selecting and sharing with you all.
Michael was someone who loved being emotional invested in a game’s story, enjoyed a killer soundtrack, and loved experimentation in game mechanics. He was also a very positive individual who believed in the strength of community and the power that games can bring forth important feelings. The game that we felt most represented that this year is Finji’s Chicory: A Colorful Tale. The game focuses on the world of Picnic losing its color, and a little dog takes on the responsibility to restore the world’s color and make it new once more. Chicory is an emotional experience that focuses on grief, loss, and even imposter syndrome. It’s a story that anyone can relate to, and it reminds us of the importance of being gentle on ourselves, learning to take a break, or even say no when too much is being asked of us.
The storytelling is just one part of what makes Chicory so endearing, and the gameplay is something he would have found fascinating. Players use their magical paintbrush to colour the game’s environments, as well as to solve puzzles. The game also features a lot of unique accessibility features, including a colorblind mode, and even provides content warnings for sensitive subject matters. The game also features a beautiful soundtrack composed by the amazing Lena Raine, which I think he would have adored.
Chicory is one of those games that will stick with me for a long time. There were so many moments that resonated with me on a personal level, or reminded me of difficult conversations that Mac and I had during his time at RPGamer until his passing. Not only is Chicory’s gameplay unique, and it’s soundtrack playful, but it’s emotional core is so strong that will stay with you until the very end.
by Sam Wachter
This award is dedicated to the memory of our friend Michael A. Cunningham, who passed away in 2018. Mac started at RPGamer in 2006 and would go on to become the long-running Editor-in-Chief. While Mac loved RPGs, he especially loved handheld games, founding the #TeamHandheld hashtag as well as running a personal project site featuring his musings on portable games.
You can see Michael’s top games, which is to a Google Document because Mac loved organizing lists in spreadsheets, a tradition continued with our speadsheet-based awards voting form. You can also read the tributes to Michael from the community as well as a list of our favorite works by Mac as well as Francis Gayon’s musical tribute based on Mac’s favourite game, Final Fantasy IV. Also, a special thanks to our friends at RPGFan who dedicated their Top 25 Nintendo 3DS Games and Top 20 PlayStation Vita Games features to Michael’s memory.