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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. It is an honor to share the winner for 2023. This award holds a special place for us at RPGamer, as Michael loved being part of our awards process. Choosing a game 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.
Unlike the other awards that are voted on by the staff as a whole, the Michael A. Cunningham Memorial Award is determined solely by the awards committee and given to a game deserving of special recognition in the field of innovation, emotional resonance, or evoking Mac’s enthusiastic support for RPGs.
This year, we’re proud to recognize Meg’s Monster, a story of unlikely friendship and found family in a world of garbage. Odencat has built its name on cozy, heartfelt stories that relish little joys, and those joys are present here. Crab-armed, grouchy Roy’s journey to return Meg to the human world is filled with gentle smiles, nostalgic jokes, and top-tier hanging out. However, “cozy” doesn’t necessarily mean freedom from danger, risk, or sadness; in Meg’s Monster, cozy is about recognizing tender, supportive moments and celebrating them in spite of the ravenous monsters across the street and the wider world’s heartless machinations.
Although the game ends if Roy can’t prevent Meg from crying, players have no such defense from cathartic tears. The nostalgic SNES/GBA-era graphics and plaintive Laura Shigihara-voiced theme “Wishing Star” signal Odencat’s intent to make players feel hopeful, thankful, and other -ful adjectives that evoke an overwhelming abundance of earnest emotion. Working in a creative space without a protective layer of irony is risky, but delivers the sort of singular experience that pushes RPGs forward as a genre.
Meg’s Monster offers a peek into a world of beautiful, hopeful imagery and unconventional friendship amid seemingly insurmountable challenges. In this paradigm, combat is a puzzle to be solved, rather than celebrated. The antagonists are clear in their motivations, inviting understanding (but not support) of their actions. They remind us of the darkness in the world and the value of creating community and sharing light where possible. Mac saw the value in sharing the light, which makes Meg’s Monster a perfect fit for the Michael A. Cunningham Memorial Award for 2023.
by Zach Welhouse