McGinnis: Gaming deserves a better — much better — awards ceremonyWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s time for the video game industry to have a real awards show, not the useless, pointless fiasco that is Spike TV’s “Video Game Awards.” This grandiose and overproduced sham of a ceremony has poisoned audience’s perceptions of both awards and gaming for nearly a decade, and it’s time to stop.
As gaming continues to grow in importance and public visibility, many who enjoy to play have to continuously fight the image of being immature, anti-social misfits. How is this helped by the fact that this year’s edition of gaming’s most visible award ceremony — broadcast on macho-centric cable channel Spike on Saturday, December 10 — featured a man in army fatigues threatening to squat over recipients who spoke for too long?
Not that the awards were the main focus of the ceremony, anyway. It seemed as though the vast majority of the “honors” handed out as part of the ceremony were a complete afterthought. No, the real point of the VGAs was made plain by their true focus: Shameless marketing.
Minute after minute was devoted to games being announced, new trailers being revealed, appearances by creators plugging their next project and so on. Really, it’s not a bad idea to use a grand stage to promote upcoming projects. But when your show is, superficially, supposed to be honoring the best work of the past year, it doesn’t leave a good taste to have almost all your focus on the next big things.
The end result was a production which showed little but disrespect for those it was seemingly meant to celebrate. Whole categories were omitted from the broadcast, leaving nominees in the audience utterly confused as to why they even attended. Mark Hamill — fresh off his apparent farewell performance as the Joker in “Batman: Arkham City” — was completely unaware that his award for Best Voice-Acting (Male) had even been announced.
“Don’t mind losing but I’d like to know when it happens,” Hamill, who had been stuck in the bleacher seats, said on Twitter.
All of this, and we haven’t even gotten to talking about the production’s ridiculous celebrity cameos (Charlie Sheen, everyone?) and terrible comedy writing, none of which raised its standing in the eyes of the world one iota.
Gaming deserves — needs — better. Here are a few quick suggestions to Spike’s producers for next year:
1. More Awards Presented On Air. This one seems obvious, given the word “award” is so prominent in the title, and words like “commercials” and “lame comedy” are nowhere to be seen. If you don’t take the trophies you’re handing out seriously, why should anyone else?
2. A Better Voting System to Determine Recipients. As of right now, the majority of the VGAs are determined by an “Advisory Counsel” of 25 gaming journalists. No actual gaming professionals are involved in choosing winners. This stands in contrast to, oh, every other award ceremony in existence — Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys — whose voters are made up of people who actually work in the industry being honored. Why don’t game designers get the same consideration?
3. Seriously Limit the Number of Trailers/Commercials/Announcements. The gaming industry already has many, many platforms to get the word out on the latest and greatest. No one would mind a few plugs for upcoming titles (especially highly anticipated ones), but devoting countless minutes to plugging games that won’t see the light of day for months or years to come just feels shameless on a production that is superficially meant to honor the best of the year that has passed. Stop trying to make the VGAs feel like little more than an extended press conference.
4. Fire the Writers. Or, at the very least, get their heads out of the gutter. The show’s purile sense of humor only reinforces the public’s perception that gamers are immature, slack-jawed delinquents, and once again undercuts any notion that we are to take any of the evening’s events seriously. Even if Mark Hamill had won the award he was nominated for, how was he supposed to feel honored by being gifted it at a show as juvenile as this?
5. Gaming Can Be Awesome. Celebrate That. Say what you will about the Oscars, but the ceremony at least feels like a genuine tribute to the wonder of the cinema. The show tries to get across to its audience the majesty of what can be accomplished on the silver screen. I firmly believe gaming can summon up the same level of emotions from its players. What about the VGAs even remotely hints at that fact? What I find most offensive about this pointless, immature production is how the true greatness that can be found in games is an utter afterthought, leading one to question if those behind the ceremony have ever played at all.
Gaming has grown into an important part of the pop culture landscape. It’s time for the awards which “honor” it to grow up, too.
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.