The esports categories nominees at The Game Awards 2023

by Brian Bencomo

Updated Nov. 20

The Game Awards 2023 will take place Dec. 7 at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. This will be the 10th edition of the prestigious video games award show created by Geoff Keighley. There are 31 categories up for grabs, and like the 2022 Game Awards, the 2023 Game Awards will include five esports categories. The esports categories at this year’s award show are Best Esports Team, Best Esports Athlete, Best Esports Coach, Best Esports Event and Best Esports Game. To be better informed before you vote, check out a breakdown of the nominees for each of the esports categories.

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Best Esports Team

Photo credit: BLAST

  • Evil Geniuses (VALORANT)
  • Fnatic (VALORANT)
  • Gaimin Gladiators (Dota 2)
  • JD Gaming (League of Legends)
  • Team Vitality (Counter-Strike)

Recognizing a specific esports team (not the full organization) judged the most outstanding for performance and conduct in 2023.

Vote here.

Evil Geniuses’ VALORANT team had a remarkable arc this year. They went from being one of the worst teams in the VCT Americas league to miraculously making the league’s playoffs, qualifying for Masters: Tokyo and VALORANT Champions and ultimately winning Champions on home soil in Los Angeles. Before becoming world champions, EG lost the Masters: Tokyo final to Fnatic, a team that won back-to-back international events and was widely considered the best VALORANT team in the world heading into Champions. Fnatic had only lost once all year prior to Champions and then lost twice in VALORANT’s world championship to finish in the top four.

Read more: Evil Geniuses become world champs at VALORANT Champions 2023

Gaimin Gladiator’s Dota team had a similar trajectory to Fnatic in VALORANT. They won just about every big tournament you could win in Dota this year but failed to win Dota’s season-ending championship event, The International. Gaimin Gladiators won all three Majors and two of the three DreamLeague seasons, but they finished second at The International. JD Gaming’s League of Legends team also had a comparable year to Fnatic and Gaimin Gladiators. JDG won both seasons of China’s regional league (LPL) this year and the Mid-Season Invitational. However, they fell short of completing the “Golden Road” in losing to T1 in the semifinals of League of Legends Worlds.

There is no world championship in Counter-Strike, but Majors are the game’s de facto championships, and Team Vitality won the one and only CS:GO Major held in 2023. Like EG’s VALORANT Champions victory, the French team also won on home soil, winning the Major in Paris. Vitality also won IEM Rio and Gamers8, two other big CS:GO tournaments held this year.

Best Esports Athlete

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

  • Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok (League of Legends)
  • Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut (Counter-Strike)
  • Max "Demon1" Mazanov (VALORANT)
  • Paco "HyDra" Rusiewiez (Call of Duty)
  • Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk (League of Legends)
  • Phillip "ImperialHal" Dosen (Apex Legends)

The esports athlete judged to be the most outstanding for performance and conduct in 2023, irrespective of game.

Vote here.

Based on pure name recognition, Faker stands out. He’s considered the best League of Legends player of all time, the GOAT. Faker actually won this category in 2017. He won the League of Legends World Championship this year again, his fourth overall, but his first since 2016. Faker had a very impressive year heading into Worlds. T1 seriously faltered when he was out with a hand injury, but they were so much better with him in the lineup. Faker also led Team South Korea to a gold medal at the Asian Games’ League of Legends competition.

Read more: A legendary career: Faker's results at Worlds and MSI

Like Faker, Ruler was on the team that won a gold medal at the Asian Games. He won League of Legends’ Mid-Season Invitational with JD Gaming as well as both splits of the China’s regional league (LPL) this year. He arguably had a better year than Faker heading into Worlds, but Faker winning Worlds is the big differentiator between these two players.

Demon1 was a big reason why Evil Geniuses won VALORANT Champions. The rookie took the VALORANT scene by storm with his incredible mechanical gameplay, and EG began to turn their season around after he was added to EG’s starting roster. As EG’s main duelists, he was one of the deadliest players in VCT this year and was named MVP of Champions by ZywOo has long been considered one of the best CS:GO players, having either gotten first or second in HLTV’s ranking of the best CS:GO players each of the past four years. This year he finally captured the biggest team prize in the game in winning a Major, and of course, he was named MVP of the tournament by HLTV.

HyDra and ImperialHal were each standouts in their respective games this year. The French phenom HyDra was named MVP of the Call of Duty League this season and helped lead the New York Subliners to win the Call of Duty League Championship. He and the Subliners won a couple CDL Majors this past season too, and HyDra was named MVP of Major 5. ImperialHal won the ALGS Championship with TSM this year and was named MVP of the tournament. He also won the ALGS Split 1 Playoffs and finished second at the ALGS Split 2 Playoffs.

Best Esports Coach

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

  • Christine "potter" Chi (VALORANT)
  • Danny "zonic" Sørensen (Counter-Strike)
  • Jordan "Gunba" Graham (Overwatch)
  • Rémy "XTQZZZ" Quoniam (Counter-Strike)
  • Yoon "Homme" Sung-young (League of Legends)

The esports coach judged to be the most outstanding for performance and conduct in 2023.

Vote here.

Most of these coaches won world championships or major international events this year, but one of these stands out. Potter led Evil Geniuses to win VALORANT Champions, but there’s more to her than that. She’s the only woman coaching any of the 30 VALORANT teams involved in the VCT and one of the few women coaching at a high level anywhere in esports. She was subject to a lot of criticism early in the year when EG was doing poorly, but stuck to the team’s strategy, namely utilizing a reserve roster to practice against the main roster. This team was not considered one of the most talented in the VCT, yet she got the most out of them and she was beloved by her players.

Read more: Christine “Potter” Chi is blazing a trail for women in the VALORANT Champions Tour

Zonic led Team Vitality’s CS:GO team to their Paris Major win. His past history leading the Astralis dynasty speaks volumes about his ability to get the best out of his players. He’s actually won this category before in 2019 and 2020 when he was with Astralis. XTQZZZ has done great work in the past with Team Vitality and G2 Esports, however, his inclusion among this year’s nominees is puzzling. He was named coach of TSM as they made their return to Counter-Strike for the first time since 2017, but he only coached them for four tournaments and the team didn’t win anything. He is now back with Vitality but the team hasn’t competed with him as their coach yet.

Gunba coached the Florida Mayhem to the Overwatch League championship this year. Gunba and the Mayhem also won the Overwatch League Pro-Am to kick off the season, and finished top three at the other OWL tournaments and qualifiers this season. Homme coached the best League of Legends team in the world this year in JD Gaming. Homme and JDG won both splits of the Chinese regional league (LPL) and won the Mid-Season Invitational. However, JDG’s loss in the semifinals of Worlds cut short the team’s chance to travel the Golden Road in winning all four major League of Legends tournaments in one year. Homme decided to leave the team and retire following the loss.

Best Esports Event

Photo credit: Red Bull

  • League of Legends World Championship
  • BLAST.TV Paris Major
  • Evo
  • The International
  • VALORANT Champions

Recognizing an event (across single or multiple days) that delivered a best-of-class experience for participants and the broadcast audience.

Vote here.

The big question here is whether an event other than the League of Legends World Championship will win. Worlds has won this category every year since this category debuted in 2018. Worlds’ popularity is unmatched as it’s the biggest and most popular annual esports event and one of the few esports events that tends to get some attention outside of esports and gaming audiences. Each of the past couple Worlds have set new viewership records for the event, per Esports Charts, and Worlds 2023 was no different.

This year's Worlds featured a revamped format and excellent storytelling from Riot to build hype for the monthlong tournament throughout October and November. Worlds 2023 ended with a final involving Korea’s T1 and Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok going for their fourth world championship on home soil on a spectacular stage at the Gocheok Sky Dome Seoul, and it brought in a peak of 6.4 million viewers, a new record for League of Legends esports and a record for any esports event. That 6.4 doesn’t include China, where viewers were eager to see Weibo Gaming take down T1. Per Riot Games, Chinese viewership tends to add tens of millions of viewers to the viewership peaks tracked by Esports Charts. Oh, and ahead of this year’s final, K-pop group NewJeans, who sing the Worlds 2023 anthem “Gods,” performed as part of a dazzling opening ceremony.

Riot have made it a habit to include performances ahead of their big esports finals, and this year’s VALORANT Champions final was no different. Grabbitz and bbno$ performed the VALORANT Champions anthem “Ticking Away,” alongside a few other artists who performed songs created for VALORANT. The musical performances added to the spectacle of an epic final between North America’s Evil Geniuses and the Pacific region’s Paper Rex. The tournament peaked at nearly 1.3 million during the final, which was held at the iconic Forum in Los Angeles.

Read more: The best gaming events and tournaments at Localhost in October

The Paris Major peaked at just over 1.5 million viewers. Like EG’s win on home soil during the final, the Paris Major final saw Team Vitality triumph in front of a raucous French crowd at the Accor Arena in Paris. The Paris Major marked the end of an era. It was the last CS:GO Major as Counter-Strike 2 released this fall and future Majors will be CS2 competitions.

The International returned to Seattle this year for the first time since 2017. Dota’s most prestigious event traditionally was held in Seattle from 2012 to 2017. Over 1.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the final between Gaimin Gladiators and Team Spirit. One of the coolest aspects of this year’s International was the stained glass visuals that were used to make Climate Pledge Arena look like a cathedral. Valve’s other game, Counter-Strike, has its own “Cathedral of Counter-Strike” in Cologne, Germany, and Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena (formerly KeyArena) can be thought of as a “Cathedral of Dota” given its history hosting The International.

The Evolution Championship Series, aka Evo, is more than just a tournament -- it’s an annual celebration of the fighting game community. This year’s Evo, which took place as usual at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, gave us the first Street Fighter 6 Evo champion, Amjad "AngryBird" Al-Shalabi, who emerged atop a whopping 7,083-person field. For comparison, the next most contested game was Guilty Gear Strive with 2,474 competitors. Interest in SF6 was high as the game released just two months prior to Evo. SF6 had the biggest prize pool ($70K) and the highest viewership peak (over 400K) at Evo this year. This year’s Evo was so big, the founders got the key to the city of Las Vegas and the final day of the tournament (Aug. 6) was proclaimed Evo Day by the governor of Nevada. If there’s one event that might overtake Worlds this year, it’s Evo.

Best Esports Game

Photo credit: Riot Games

  • Counter-Strike 2
  • Dota 2
  • League of Legends
  • PUBG Mobile

For the game that has delivered the best overall esports experience to players (inclusive of tournaments, community support and content updates), irrespective of genre or platform.

Vote here.

Picking the best esports game of the year is probably the most subjective of all these categories. Each game’s community is different, and those who play and watch several of these games are the best equipped to decide which reigns supreme this year. Essentially what you have here is a Riot Games MOBA (League of Legends) and tactical shooter (VALORANT) going up against a Valve MOBA (Dota 2) and tactical shooter (Counter-Strike 2) alongside a mobile battle royale game (PUBG Mobile). Last year, VALORANT won Best Esports Game. League of Legends was the winner of this category three years in a row from 2019 to 2021. One thing worth noting is that Counter-Strike 2 released this year to much fanfare and anticipation, so CS2 might have the edge this year based on hype alone.

Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

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