Gamers deserve a show of reverence for what is becoming a more important pillar of popular culture

Spike VGX, 2013, Sac City GamerI’m calling it right now; we should have an Oscar equivalent for video games. The pageantry, the bombast, the self-appreciation, and the glamour that dominate the Academy Awards are not what I refer to when I say this, although I do want those components as well. What I want is a respectful show. A show of reverence for what is becoming a more important pillar of popular culture.

We need it because what passes as an awards show is a goddamned travesty. The Spike VGX was a nightmarish failure of gargantuan proportions. Between Joel McHale acting like a complete asshole and Spike continuing to treat this like a giant commercial,  this was just another example of Spike TV not getting it.

Like in the past, the show was more focused on marketing than reverence. The most noteworthy positive aspects were the reveals of Telltale working on a Game of Thrones game and the announcement of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky. Geoff Keighley also interviewed developers and Reggie Fils-Aime about upcoming games in an apparent attempt to come off as more legitimate. That’s not good enough because those interviews are still just pieces in the marketing machine, manufacturing hype instead of reverence, despite Keighley’s intentions. And worse yet, those pieces of marketing still took up the screen time that the actual awards should have had.

They announced Grand Theft Auto V as the Game of the Year an hour into the three hour stream. That should have been a huge deal that capped off the night. Instead, it was rattled off casually to make room for Fils-Aime to talk about another Nintendo necromancy in the form of Cranky Kong.

The VGX still treated games as products, not as art. The marketing-first approach signifies this, but so do the awards categories. Here are some VGX categories: “Best Action Adventure Game,” “Best Xbox 360 Game,” and “Best Shooter.” Here are some Oscar categories: “Best Director,” “Best Costume Design,” “Best Cinematography,” and “Best Art Design.” The Oscars value specific artistic achievements while the VGAs/VGX go for broad product descriptions.

And throughout the show, Joel McHale did the best he could to completely derail it. I only assume McHale knew what kind of trash he was working on, but that still doesn’t excuse his flippant attitude and transphobic jokes, especially when Geoff Keighley was so clearly trying to be enthusiastic. If Spike TV/Game Trailers try to continue this event, Keighley should be the sole host. Unless they want to outsource and pursue Jeff Gerstmann or somebody like that. Either, this event needs a charismatic and informed individual to host. Not somebody just showing up for a paycheck.

And for guests, it needs actual game developers and stars, not B-list celebrities. Tim Schafer, Sean Vanaman, Harvey Smith, Jennifer Hale and other famous gaming figures should be the ones on stage. They and their ilk should be in the crowd applauding each other for their achievements and talents, dressed in their best attire.

The VGAs have been torn to pieces every year by games journalists and fans. You might be wondering why we even watch it or if we can ever be satiated. I personally watch it because I want it to be good. I don’t enjoy getting pissed off every year I tune in. It’s just that it’s still so bad that I can barely believe it. I’ll stop criticizing it so harshly when Spike TV figures out that the only thing I and many others want is a show that respects the medium and doesn’t shit talk us.

Another view:

spike-tv-logo-150x150Daniel writes: I definitely agree with Michael here. I posted on Facebook during the overly-hyped, way-too-long rap and music performance of GTA V’s soundtrack that Spike needs to stop making video game award shows and they need to do it now. It was no lie.

The show was atrocious. The “World Premieres” weren’t even any good and didn’t announce much, if anything at all. In the past, we’ve gotten some pretty cool game announcements at these shows – usually the only saving grace – but this year it was a whole lot of nothing.

As Michael pointed out, the hosts were lame. The concert sucked, the overall feel of the show didn’t give off a video game vibe at all and the point of the show, the awards, was overshadowed by advertising, boring interviews and a presentation that felt like it was aimed at 80-year-old non-gamers.

Overall, I think Spike needs to stop. When video games were a niche, “nerdy” market, a show like this may have passed, but the sales of GTA V alone show that the video game industry is huge and the industry really does deserve better. I applaud Spike for trying, but their efforts to make this show more relevant, interesting and exciting have been futile. Until they can figure out how to make it work, I think the world is better off going without a video games award show.

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