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Editorial: The VGAs need to go away…or at least be renamed

Every year in early December, GameTrailers.com and games uberjournalist Geoff Keighley start pumping up the hype train for Spike TV’s Video Game Awards (VGAs). Every year, gamers are forced to sit through a total mockery of their favorite hobby while they shake their heads and mutter, “no wonder nobody takes video games seriously in mainstream culture.” Because, unfortunately, Spike’s VGAs have turned into the industry’s highest-profile awards show. While the less-attuned might take that to mean the VGAs equate to gaming’s Oscars, the sad truth is that calling the VGAs a gaming award show is akin to calling The Jersey Shore the pinnacle of TV drama.

Fact: in the show’s first hour, exactly 2 awards were handed out on stage. That number only rose to 4 by the end of the 2-hour telecast. Sometime in between, the producers rattled off over 10 awards in a matter of seconds without actually giving anything out. This is the most egregious–though far from the only–problem the so-called “Video Game Awards” has. Despite the words “Awards” the show’s very title, it seems that the producers have done seemingly everything they can to ignore the awards part of the production. As one tweeter succinctly put it last night, the VGAs are more like a kick-off to next year’s hype trains that comes with a look back, rather than a celebration of the year that was that comes with a peek ahead. In past years, the awards categories and winners have been utterly laughable to anyone who has spent any time at all playing the year’s best games. While the VGAs have thankfully improved significantly on both those fronts (despite remaining dubious), that progress is all thrown away by inexcusably ignorant planning.

Instead of an awards show that gives out, you know, actual awards, viewers are instead subjected to a two-hour long marketing show with equal parts homoerotic “dudebros” and faux-celebrity cameos by people who have nothing to do with and know nothing about video games. Instead of Martin Sheen, known best in this medium as the gravitas behind Mass Effect 2’s mysterious Illusive Man, we got his degenerate son Charlie in a typical self-satisfying appearance. Somehow, he may have just turned out to be the best non-industry presenter of the night, since everyone else on stage (including host Zachary Levi) came out to stumble over their poorly-written and obviously un-practiced teleprompter jokes that drew few laughs and spoke even less of these people’s gaming acumen. Look, there’s nothing wrong with celebrity guest appearances, but it would just be nice if the guests have actually worked on a game before–is that too much to ask? Take the night’s guest DJ for example–Deadmau5, who’s actually working on the experimental music game Sound Shapes for PlayStation Vita. That’s cool! Can’t we get more cameos like that? Or the even cooler moment–perhaps this year’s only redeeming moment–when the celebration of The Legend of Zelda was excitedly punctuated with a surprise appearance by the one and only, possibly recently retired, Shigeru Miyamoto, the living legend. That was rad! If only that same stage he walked had not just featured Sledgehammer Games’ Mike Condrey getting teabagged by a fake soldier. Yes, the COO of one of the developers behind one of the year’s biggest titles was teabagged on stage, on camera, for the world to see. But hey, guys, these video games are a serious thing, I swear!

But you know what? No matter what gamers say, the producers don’t care, because at the end of the day all they want is viewers so they can make more money selling stuff, which is the real point of the VGAs as opposed to, you know, awarding video games. I think everyone accepts at this point that the VGAs are a giant marketing stunt for the big titles of next year and beyond. Frankly, there’s not really anything wrong with that; in the fast-paced gaming media cycle, early December means that all the biggest titles have already hit the shelves, so naturally everyone is already looking around for “what’s next” despite all the hours Skyrim is still demanding we put into it. Even the fact that the show is in early December is a tip off to the fact that this isn’t a serious award show; how can you fairly play everything for consideration and have time to reflect back on those experiences to see what truly stands out? There’s a reason Hollywood holds the Oscars in March. And there are several reasons why the VGAs are not anything close to gaming’s Oscars.

That being said, the VGAs are still currently the industry’s highest-profile awards show, which is a big problem when it’s not really an awards show. I don’t know that developers are really putting those tacky blue monkey trophies anywhere visible, but for the “mainstream” audience that maligns gaming as a hobby for the immature, 20-something frat boy, the VGAs perpetuate an image that is damaging to the entire industry. I don’t really know if the solution is raising the profile of the AIAS awards, but the VGAs are, at best, an embarrassing stand-in and a humiliating representation of what gaming is about. Surely there are plenty of 12-year-old mom-hating Call of Duty players out there who actually enjoy this flavor of trash, but for anyone who extols the virtues of the gaming medium as a legitimate form of artistic expression, the VGAs simply need to go away. At the very least, Spike could do everyone a favor and stop pretending it has anything to do with awards.

Jason Ragatz

Follow me @RaggySays

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3 Responses

  1. KenAdamsNSA says:

    Right on the money, as usual. Thanks for this, Jason.

  2. Penguin says:

    While I agree with this, I do want to just counter post, the few good things I feel about the VGAs.

    I think the production value is top of the year. I know some find them cheesy but I think the AR stuff is really cool.. though assume mostly for the audience at home.

    I also like the segments where they highlight the Game of the Year, and to a lesser degree the character of the year.

    And I do dig the trailers/reveal, though would ask for a more balanced approach. Maybe narrow it down to like 4-5 real big major reveals and sprinkle it between the awards and stuff, not make it the focus.

    And this is less of a positive, but something you didn’t really touch on. They need to stop insulting their audience. There’s a difference between making jokes that gamers will get and laugh at, and making jokes at the expense of gamers.

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