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If The Matrix was really GOTY in 1999, here’s what it beat

Geoff Keighley retconned Keanu’s game into his HOF

Thomas Anderson walks through a city street as it devolves into code in The Matrix Resurrections. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The reality that The Matrix has constructed for Thomas Anderson (aka Neo) in The Matrix Resurrections is not the one that fans of the original trilogy will remember. Anderson is still a programmer, but a vastly more successful one than a cubicle-dwelling “program writer” for respectable software company MetaCortex from the original 1999 movie.

In Resurrections, he’s a rockstar video game designer and responsible for a blockbuster trilogy of games called ... The Matrix. In another instance of reality-writing, The Matrix — the multiple-layers-deep fictional video game — is also a Game of the Year award winner at The Game Awards.

[Ed. note: This post contains minor spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections.]

In the world according to The Matrix Resurrections, which premiered on Wednesday, Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards existed 15 years earlier, and The Matrix, a game designed by Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) took home its top prize in ’99. Keighley on Sunday revealed that director Lana Wachowski asked for a TGA statuette to use in a key scene, and he was happy to retcon them into his show’s hall of fame.

Naturally, this kicked up a chuckle-inducing parlor game on Twitter: What games did The Matrix beat out that year? Even if there wasn’t an awards series with the kind of wide audience (and entry pool) as The Game Awards, the leading games publications of the day recognized some landmark works, which means Keanu’s game really had to be something else.

Deus Machina is the name of Anderson’s studio; it’s not Eidos’ RPG series coming in second. (Although Deus Ex did launch less than a year later.) The scene is basically a meta-joke about the Matrix films’ popularity; three video games that Anderson designed were huge hits, so naturally Deus Machina’s parent company — literally Warner Bros., by the way — is demanding a fourth.

I mean, can you blame them? Look at all the games The Matrix whooped for its first GOTY. The shareholders would fire any C-suite officer who didn’t milk that kind of an IP:

  • Chrono Cross (Square/SquareSoft)
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (Neversoft/Activision)
  • EverQuest (Verant Interactive/Sony Online Entertainment)
  • Final Fantasy 8 (Square/Squaresoft)
  • Soulcalibur (Project Soul/Namco — launched Sept. 1999 for Dreamcast)
  • Silent Hill (Team Silent/Konami)
  • System Shock 2 (Irrational Games/Electronic Arts)
  • Syphon Filter (Eidetic/989 Studios)

Others have mentioned Shenmue, but it launched in Japan on Dec. 29, 1999, and in the West one year later, so it probably wouldn’t have been in the candidate pool of an awards show airing in the first week of December. As for Quake 3, while it was no doubt a groundbreaking work among multiplayer shooters, it launched Dec. 2, 1999. (Another great work of 1999, Gran Turismo 2, launched Dec. 11 in Japan and Dec. 23 in the West.)

The Matrix would have also beat out Unreal Tournament, Epic Games’ arena shooter that garnered multiple Game of the Year awards and nominations in 1999. That makes things only slightly awkward for Epic, which produced The Matrix Awakenings in Unreal Engine 5 as a tie-in to Resurrections, and whose chief technology officer, Kim Libreri, and chief creative officer, Donald Mustard, make appearances in the film as Deus Machina employees.

Ouch! The TGAs have been called many things, but that’s cold! Also, Lana Wachowski is fortunate that the first film premiered in 1999 — one of the few years in that time when Hideo Kojima didn’t launch a game. Had Metal Gear Solid come one year later, we’re not sure his good friend Geoff Keighley could have gone along with this sight gag.

Just kidding. Anyway, if Keanu Reeves is a presenter at The Game Awards 2022, for the third year in a row, it’s a good bet this scene will be re-enacted. In which case, we’d ask Keighley and his production company not to stage it on a rooftop bar, and to maybe reposition The Game Awards Orchestra if it’s back in L.A.’s Microsoft Theater.

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