Every year, nearly every website, magazine and TV show about video games does their “best of” lists and every year we find ourselves discussing the highlights and low points of the past year. Now, I’m not going to ever do a “best of” segment, because I think they are kind of silly and I don’t feel that I’ve played enough of the games that came out this year to compare them at any reasonable amount. It’s this reason that makes me incredibly leery of awards that were voted on by fans since it tends to go to the games that sold the most copies.
Every year we hear many game journalists angrily decrying the idiocy that went on at the Spike TV Video Game Awards and condemning the lack of respect for the medium. Instead, the show tends to focus on stereotypes, celebrities and childish humor. Like last year when they “teabagged” Michael Condrey, co-founder and chief development officer at Sledgehammer Games, after winning an award for Modern Warfare 3, but was unfortunate enough to be onstage when Infinity Ward creative strategist Robert Bowling exceeded his allotted speech time and ran offstage to avoid the embarrassment. Oh, yeah and Charlie Sheen stood there grinning at the entire scene.
Every year though I see the show getting a little bit better… and this year it finally happened… After ten years, the show finally behaved with a level of legitimacy and respect for the medium, for the most part. Everyone won an award that deserved one and while the show was entertaining, it also focused on people in the industry and an awards show should really be about the people nominated for the awards. It even attempted to avoid immaturity and negative stereotypes surrounding the medium and having a live orchestra play scores for many of the trailers really played up the artistic side of these games. This is a monumental step in the right direction considering there has actually been a big, televised awards show on the air now for ten years, despite its shortcomings.
You have to keep in mind that there is no network that would probably appease gamers with an awards show. No other network has a staff that covers games except G4 and most of the criticism that is leveled at Spike is also frequently leveled at G4. Spike advertises to a certain demographic and they need to at least try to make sure that their content lines up with their other shows. These kinds of events are expensive. I mean Samuel L. Jackson can’t be cheap and they need to make sure that the show makes good on the investment, so I do expect a certain amount of pandering. This year they finally managed to have a respectable balance and while the show is nowhere near perfect and much of the past criticism is still true, I had much less criticism than in years past.
Even the awards themselves are fairly meaningless since the industry’s most respectable awards are the Game Developers Choice Awards which are handed out at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the Interactive Achievement Awards from the DICE summit in Las Vegas. The VGA’s are actually pretty harmless when you think about it, considering the only people who watch them are gamers and most of us know that they are just another list of awards that someone is doing. I can only think of a few times in which I’ve had a conversation with a non-gamer about the VGAs and it amounted to little more than small-talk. At the end of the day, why does this list of “the best of” mean any more than any other random website’s?
So, why do we make a big deal out of the VGAs? They are big and represent what we could potentially have for our medium. We want there to be a grandiose gaming awards show that’s televised globally. We want there to be some kind of shared respect for these achievements. We want to see the developers awarded for their work and we want to publicly show our appreciation for their efforts. Unfortunately, we don’t have a true event like this. As I said, there are other awards that are actually more meaningful in the industry, but none that make a spectacle of it like the VGAs. We want our Oscars and unfortunately that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so until then we get the VGAs.
After ten years of the Spike TV’s Video Game Awards the show finally was able to not be crap and that makes me feel a little better about the future. Maybe by VGA 20, we will get what we ultimately want. I doubt it, but who knows.
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.