By now if you’ve been looking in the right places you will have seen the critical opinion of Spike TV’s Video Game Awards show, VGX. On Twitter, NeoGAF and a number of other sites, people have been vocal of the general presentation of the awards and their failings.
Many criticisms have been leveled at the lack of professionalism on the part of presenter Joel McHale, the obvious lack of preparation on the part of those being interviewed and the show’s poor production values. The latter two points hitting home especially hard with an audience of approximately five people applauding to those who appeared to accept the awards, the lack of acceptance speeches on the part of many, and at one point a game being demonstrated by holding up an iPad in front of the camera. The answer which has been made to many of these criticisms is “Why does this matter? It’s Spike TV, no one was expecting anything great, just like last year.” The answer is simple: This is supposed to represent our industry.
Think for a minute of other awards handed out to other forms of media whether it be film, television or music. You have the Oscars, the British Academy Film Awards, the Emmies and Grammies and many others. Each is recgonised as a kind of achievement and, despite whatever criticisms are levelled at it, in the public eye they are seen as being a professionally hosted and reputable award ceremony.
These are supposed to celebrate everything about their medium and be held as an example of has been accomplished in the past year. Each of them as humour yes, each of them has moments of poking fun at the films announced or even the medium itself. However, for every moment of humour or self depreciation there is something to show what they have accomplished. There are the speeches by those involved, there are the talks of the work on productions with people knowledgeable about their fields, and the show itself is hosted by someone who is a recognised figure within the industry. This is an awards show, one of the few purely devoted to video games, and it pales in comparison to every last one of these. By comparison it looks like an outright joke.
At the Oscars, people walk up to a podium, a stage where they accept their award in an official manner. Here? The award is given on a couch or offscreen.
At the British Academy Film Awards those who win are given their achievement in front of a vast crowd of people. Here? It’s in front of an audience of roughly five individuals who barely clap half the time they are required to.
At the Emmies, the point of watching such an event is to see who wins in each category with their nominees clearly outlined. Here? The majority of the efforts to draw people in are by hints of previews for upcoming video games or what the people supplying the awards think will draw in crowds. Usually its own primary demographic rather than people who truly love video games, with the awards themselves being meaningless. Not to mention the humour itself being juvenile and promoting negative sterotypes about gamers which don’t come across as funny so much as they do crass and hateful.
This is the image being streamed nationally to countless homes. This is how the industry is presenting itself to them and exemplifying itself to people. As a gimmiky show with cheap production values, no professionalism, nothing to even hint it is a medium to be taken seriously or even anything to suggest basic rehearsals were made prior to airing. It presents the industry not as something capable of producing things like The Last of Us, but once again as a childish medium churning out nothing but mindless Call of Duty shooters. Yes, very little of the Awards in past years have been better but this step down in quality only enforces the public view that the media cannot be held to the same standards as television.
Worse still, even those directing VGX seem to be incapable of taking video games seriously. Both in this and previous years, hosts have been selected not for their knowledge of video games or as figures in the industry but because of their ability as performers. There’s one article on Forbes which covers this the best with the following statements –
“They brought truckloads of B and C list celebrities and forced them to present awards they clearly didn’t understand. Speaking to many of them on the red carpet, when asked if they were gamers many gave an awkward laugh and made some reference to loving Mario or Frogger when growing up
When Neil Patrick Harris hosted the VGAs I attended we were told to “not ask Neil about gaming, just about hosting.””
The problem ultimately comes down to this: The VGX Awards are a bad joke. The people at the top who is responsible for the decisions them think they are a bad joke. As a result it makes video games as a whole look like a bad joke. That is the ultimate problem here, and beyond it there are unfortunately pitifully few awards devoted purely to video games.