Or, how I learned to stop caring and love video games.
In brief, I have no idea what The Game Awards 2015 are but then I suppose the name tells me all I really need to know. I had not even heard of these awards until I opened Steam today and saw it splashed on the front of the store page, along with discounts on the nominated titles. This is, by Steam’s own account, “the ultimate videogame celebration live from LA.” Well, I guess I better do some sincere research now. Wait right here. I’ll be back!
Okay, so apparently this is being hosted by some guy named Geoff Keighley, who was part of G4 back when that was a thing (side note: how many people watched G4 when it was on? I don’t know anybody personally who did and I’m beginning to think this is something that we all have lied to ourselves about existing, like a funny Dane Cook joke). Anyway, Mr. Keighly was involved in the Spike Video Game Awards until that ended in 2013. Last year, Mr. Keighly created The Game Awards as the spiritual successor to the VGA, so that is all you really need to know. In a nutshell, these are the Oscars for video games, and like the real Oscars, nobody actually cares about them. You remember these blights on our nerdy culture. In 2013, Joel McHale’s hosting was met with such negative reception that everyone walked out the back door with paper bags over their heads so they would not be recognized on the streets. This was the same awards ceremony that seriously considered as contenders for best video game character of that year Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V. Trevor from GTA V. The poster child for what ill-informed, out of touch parents think happens to all video game players was a serious nominee for best video game character of the year. I hope no one wonders why the VGAs went kaput.
What really amuses me is the “I’m taking my ball and going home” mentality of The Game Awards. Mr. Keighley would not let a mediocre idea die and so he made his own video game awards show in 2014. Reading one interpretation of the 2013 ceremony, one might think the VGA were a boys’ only club of fart jokes, insults to women, and a constant string of quips playing up to the mindless frat boy. That is only worth building upon, right? I mean, that was clearly a great concept cut down before its prime. Count me as unsurprised by all of this. Unlike movies or television, video games have always been closely held by an insular demographic of nerds and dude-bros. The whole concept of playing exclusively to that demographic, which is apparently all they knew how to do at the VGA, made games journalists scratch their heads. Keighley’s reinvention of the biggest video game awards ceremony did not present us with anything revolutionary. I mean, last year’s awards had Super Smash Bros. for Wii U win Best Fighting Game…a category in which Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS was also nominated. It’s the same game!
Am I the ludicrous one here? Tell me there’s nothing wrong with this! Really, tell me! Ken and Roberta Williams, responsible for watershed titles that inspired generations like Phantasmagoria and Leisure Suit Larry, won industry icon awards. What planet did this awards ceremony come from, pray tell?
The Game Awards, to me, represent a flawed premise: that video games can be made more mainstream by treating them like film or television. I don’t know who wants that. Then again, that is my broader problem with games journalism. Somewhere along the way, people got it into their heads that they would elevate the medium of video games to a higher, more respectable standard if they put on suits and acted like film snobs and programming enthusiasts. All that did was make games journalism boring. Canned responses from developers and executives, noncommittal answers and vague promises, and now the gaming industry does not even need to reach out far to peddle its corporate message. We are not advancing the medium with the phony glamour draped over an awards ceremony. It’s just kind of boring and uninspired. Do you stand around the office water cooler or the school playground and talk about how exciting The Games Awards were last night? No, of course not! Instead of watching a three and a half hour-long awards show talking about video games, you are playing video games. Last year’s The Game Awards brought in 1.93 million viewers through the combined power of YouTube, Twitch, IGN, and Niconico. For comparison’s sake, there has not been fewer than five million people logged into Steam at any point in time in the past three days. Four media sites could not equal half of the traffic Steam pulls in an average day, and why is that? Put simply, video games are for playing, not for putting under glass and talking about esoterically.
Honestly, I don’t care whether or not video games awards ceremonies exist. The amount of people who care are tremendously outnumbered by the people who don’t and that’s not surprising. Is the average, twitchy Call of Duty player with an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s going to sit through three and a half hours of chatter, blather, and natter? E3 is a days-long expo for video games. We don’t need E3 Lite dressed down in a tuxedo shirt. What we need is for people to remember that video games are about fun, and the best way to have fun with a video game is to shut up and play.
I swear I’m not butthurt that Skyward Sword won best Wii game of 2011. Promise.