20 December 2010

The VGAs and a Continued Lack of Self-Respect

It’s the end of the year again! A time to look back, assign everything a category and pick out the best example of each one. Awards are fun for everyone for different reasons: some boast about their clairvoyant ability to know the winners before they are announced, some enjoy entering never-ending arguments with others as to why one ‘thing’ should get the award over another ‘thing’ and Z-list celebrities get an oversized pay check to appear at an event they have no interest in. Of course, the gaming industry needs its own major awards ceremony to solidify its place as a normal, mainstream pastime and at the moment, providing this service is the Spike Video Game Awards. Game of the Year, Character of the Year, Best Downloadble Content, Best Soundtrack, Best Performance by a Human Male and Best Individual Sports Game were some of the many hotly contested categories at the ceremony held on December 11th.

And what an exciting ceremony it was: Neil Patrick Harris charmed the crowd with his quirkiness and gags, My Chemical Romance played a song and a fabulous array of celebrities from the revered Guillermo Del Toro to the useless ‘Girl from American Sitcom X’ took to the stage to promote and decimate gaming respectively. More importantly, the highlights were the exclusive reveals and trailers for some of the biggest games of 2011 peppered throughout the ceremony. But, we should really remember the winners: Red Dead Redemption was awarded Game of the Year, Character of the Year went to Sgt. Frank Woods from Call of Duty: Black Ops and running away with awards; Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare received Best DLC. In addition, the show’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, managed to beat Martin Sheen (The Illusive Man – Mass Effect 2) and Rob Wiethoff (John Marston – Red Dead Redemption) for Best Performance by a Human Male as Peter Parker/Spiderman in an awkward and disheartening turn of events.

Nevertheless, the question I have to ask is why does this ceremony even exist? The Spike VGAs are promoted as the most important video game awards ceremony, but who cares? For the most part we still have no idea where gaming stands as an industry, yet we insist on attempting to reaffirm a connection with other artistic medium in an attempt to appear mature by putting on a pointless event such as this.

If anything the ceremony has made us appear immature and desperate; clawing for attention to prove we can pull off a big awards show. However, watching the show reveals that we cannot. ‘Girl from American Sitcom X’ came out and read some lines to introduce an award and no one laughed. How did she react? Embarrassment. The ‘Oh God...’ she murmured during the silence just shows inside she’s thinking, ‘Why the hell am I here...? Just think of the money...’ Is this really what we have to resort to in an attempt to acknowledge the finest talent in the video game industry? The cast of Modern Family introducing Studio of the Year? It’s pathetic. I mean no disrespect to those who worked on games that won or were nominated; we all know they are excellent. It just sickens me to see them acknowledged in such an inappropriate manner. Especially with such tedious categories that just focus on games of different genres when they should also highlight specific individuals.

If it is going to stick around, what the show needs is integrity and a large dose of self-respect. To give the video game industry the intellectual awards ceremony it deserves. It should draw together the greatest talent in the industry now and from the past. Presented by people that are involved in games and who have experience playing, creating and reviewing. The likes of: Warren Spector, Peter Molyneux, American Mcgee, John Carmack, Goichi Suda, Cliff Bleszinski, Nobuo Uematsu, Michael Pachter, Hideo Kojima, Jade Raymond, Sam Lake, Shinji Mikami, Shigeru Miyamoto, David Cage, Jonathan Blow, David Jaffe, Jason Rohrer, Hironobu Sakaguchi and the countless other artists, designers, producers, journalists and bloggers etc. who are not as universally recognised. Look at this list, I could go on and on naming incredible contributors to gaming over the years, mainstream or otherwise, yet their presence is sorely missed for the sake of unrelated celebrities.

Maybe the Spike VGAs are not up to the challenge? Currently, I would be content with the absence of an important awards ceremony – it’s just not necessary. However, in due course I believe we need a new ceremony that has a strong respect for gaming and those involved in it; to get past this adolescent phase. I hope this happens as I’m tired of being in the minority that cares, tired of being told that it’s ‘just video games’. We deserve better.

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