The Spike Video Game Awards have come and gone, and if you listen really hard you can hear the “Lawls” of a million gamers on the internet. To be honest, I’m somewhat disappointed in my fellow players. It’s one thing to be upset with the quality of the VGA’s, but I’m amazed at how many people want it completely abolished. Do they not want to have a nationally recognized awards show for the best and brightest in the industry?
I know that isn’t what Spike is offering us, but if we shoot down everything that doesn’t immediately line up with what we want, we’ll never reach that lofty goal. And no, the idealistic hippy-speak people have been throwing around isn’t going to work either. An internet based awards event compromised of real industry members can’t happen when
a) you couldn’t get all those people together without someone or some organization of great money and clout
b) no one will give a shit if it’s not on something like Salon or Slate or Yahoo. 90% of the ‘net is not Serious Business
Instead, I’m at least optimistic that some day, these VGA’s will get better. This year, it seemed like they might. I guess they kind of did. At the same time, I think this year showed once and for all what major problems the show needs to address if it wants to be something really special.
First, the good. It looks like this year the actual nominees were greatly improved. I couldn’t believe the con they tried to pull last year, when the overwhelming majority of games were from Ubisoft and EA, some of which weren’t even out by the time the pre-recorded show aired. The only thing they didn’t do was explicitly tell us how much they were paid to plaster King Kong in every category they could.
This year, the same might have happened with games like Scarface, but we also saw some nods to Bully, Electroplankton, and even Clover Studios, of all things. Most of the nominees this time made some good sense, and actually seemed to represent the best the industry had to offer, give or take a few names that the most niche of gamers would like to see on there. I was especially glad to see the Critic’s Choice category for games that came out a little too late in the year.
It also seems that, slowly but surely, more industry faces are being shown. We may only see guys like Cliffy B. for a while, but it’s better than nothing.
Sadly, this is still all overwhelmed by the bad. Whoever is picking these winners needs to put more thought into it. We’re still seeing average-to-good games with huge popularity clean up at a show that is supposed to reward the best. Also, in a year where Guitar Hero 2 was on everyone’s mind, and Gears of War single-handedly boosted Xbox Live activity, I’m quite shocked to see that the buggy, often controversial, Oblivion won GOTY. This seems more to do with the massive amounts of hype that the game had than anything, and I’m sure if more AAA 360 games were out at the same time, the story might have been a little different.
A lot of the other problems were things that we’ve been hearing from both the game and mainstream press through their impressions as attendees. For one, the award categories also don’t have their priorities straight. Some of the biggest categories were given a couple seconds of mention and were awarded “before the show” just so they could have plenty of time to give out awards for celebrity voice actors. Since this is a televised awards show, one thing is for certain; no matter what the hell it is for, celebrities will invade.
That has always been the case with the VGA’s, but now it’s frustrating instead of comical. You’ve still got more celebs getting screen time than industry folk. Voice acting is given priority over every other aspect of development, because once again, it’s the only category with celeb factor. Worse yet, these folks continuously show us how little they know or care about gaming, even when they’re involved with it. Yet these are the people who are given top priority, to the point where B-list actors who never worked on a game in their life can get into a VGA party easier than Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
Now as much as this sucks, I’d like to play Devil’s Advocate, and wonder if anything can actually be done about it. If you’re going to have a big, popular television event, I don’t think you’re going to succeed by cramming the show solely with industry types. For every Cliffy B. or J. Allard, you’ve got a lot of quiet, awkward intellectuals and business types. Sorry to say it gamers, but not everyone out there wants to watch a theatre full of nerds (well, I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t count).
Sex and fame sell, so I don’t think you’re going to see those things go away in the near future. Some might argue that plenty of writers, directors etc. are given their time to shine at movie and television awards, regardless of whether they are pretty. There’s one key problem with this argument; gaming still isn’t taken as seriously as those media, and it won’t be easy to make that change.
You see, it’s not just that the VGA’s are swarmed with celebs. The whole vibe they’re giving off is, as one gamer put it, “here’s another chance for us to be on screen while mocking you all for being awkward, silly geeks.” If this is an awards show, it is just as much a circus, filled with plenty of classic gamer stereotypes. As long as the industry lets this happen, the VGA’s are going to go nowhere.
And you know what gamers? Regarding the VGA’s with one big “LOL” sure as hell isn’t going to make it better.