The Game Awards 2016: The Highs and Lows

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It’s no secret that I’ve given The Game Awards some crap over the years.  While much of it is light-hearted jabs, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made.  For better or worse, The Game Awards is about the ONLY major awards show for the games industry.  While there are other (some would say more prestigious) awards, they’re all attached to conventions and aren’t big public affairs.  

As such, there’s a lot of potential for the show to be a shining moment for gamers and something we can all be proud of, but there are some things that continue to hold it back.  Last night’s awards show brought much of the same from previous years, with a mix of high points and awkward lows.  

THE HIGHS

The Reveals/Exclusives

One of the staples of The Game Awards (even back in its days on Spike TV) has been the reveal of exclusive game footage and even entire announcements.  Over the years Star Wars games, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3, and many other AAA titles have made their debut announcements at the awards show.  This year was no different, and while we didn’t get a lot of major announcements, we did get new footage for highly anticipated games.  

Fans eager for Legend of Zelda got a brand new trailer and some gameplay footage to boot, showing Link taking on bad guys utilizing the new systems coming to the brand new game.  While the demo showed the guys playing on a Wii U Gamepad, I can tell you right now, the footage we saw wasn’t running on a Wii U.  But whatever.  

The biggest highlight in game reveals, for me, was the gameplay footage from Mass Effect Andromeda.  Last month finally gave us a solid story trailer for the game, introducing us to the story and new characters, The Game Awards gave us some badass looking gameplay footage.  It’s gorgeous looking and is at once familiar to fans of the previous games, while bringing in plenty of new elements.  The combat looks frenetic, with some swanky new power-ups that will be fun to play around with.  While I would have loved to get a more solid release date, it’s hard to complain about such incredible footage.  

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Honoring Kojima

The Game Awards show proper kicked off by trying to make things right from last year.  One of last years most infamous moments came when it was revealed Konami didn’t allow Hideo Kojima to attend and accept his own damn Game Award.  It was a move that infuriated fans rightfully so.  Geoff Keighley wasn’t pleased about it then, and made up for it this year by presenting Kojima with the award he so rightfully deserved.  

“I think what happened to Hideo Kojima last year was a tragedy, but he never complained. He just sat in an isolated room for months, looked inside himself and focused on his art. He hoped that his love of entertaining us would carry him through the darkest days of his career. And we thank him, for all that he went through.”

It was an incredible moment that ended with another gorgeous (albeit hard to explain) trailer for Death Stranding.  It was a wonderful way to start the show, highlighting some of the better aspects of the industry and the passion people have for gaming.  It’s too bad the momentum couldn’t keep up afterwards.  

That Dragon, Cancer Speech

I can’t think of anyone who watched the show last night can argue with the fact that this is THE highlight of the night.  Not only was it a touching, emotion filled moment, but it put the spotlight on just how powerful games can be for those who make them and those who play.  

That Dragon, Cancer won the Games for Impact award and rightfully so.  The game is a personal one developed by Ryan Green based on his son’s struggle with cancer as a way to share/work through his grief.  It’s a powerful game that shows the ability of games to tell stories in an engaging way other things (movies and books) can’t.  

Ryan Green accepted the award last night, fighting through tears the entire time, leaving the audience and all those watching at home in tears as well.  Seriously, that speech wrecked me, and watching it again/reading transcripts continues to give me chills.  When the speech was over you could tell Geoff Keighley was fighting to hold back his emotions and proceed with the show.  It was great to see, for as much crap as we give the show at times, you can’t deny the genuine passion that goes into making it happen. 

THE LOWS

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The Awards

As has been the case for a while now, the awards themselves seem to be one of the weakest aspects of The Game Awards.  It’s odd and frankly, crazy to think they still can’t seem to get the most important element of the show right.  The majority of the awards weren’t even presented during the show on stage, and simply handed to people off to the side…if at all.  Frequently, the awards were just announced without fanfare or prestige.  

As I’ve mentioned in the past, this way of handling awards just feels…disrespectful.  At the very least, it’s hard to take them as serious awards.  If the host barely takes the time to announce them, how can they be considered a special honor?  Hell, they gave out a few awards during the damn PRE-show this year, meaning most people weren’t even watching or knew about them.  It’s really strange, and something I’ve been hoping they’d fix for years now.  

That’s not to mention some of the strange choices for winners.  I get it, we’re not going to agree with every award winner choice and there were plenty of well-deserved winners this year, but some of the choices were just…strange.  The strangest, by far, was the fact that The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine won for best RPG of the year.  Seriously, a freaking game DLC was able to beat out, Dark Souls 3, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Deus EX: Mankind Divided, and World of Warcraft: Legion.  I love Witcher as much as the next gamer, but I don’t feel DLC show even be considered against full games, especially was many good ones as we had this year. 

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Music Performances

Musical performances are nothing new and pretty much every awards show, ever, features them.  In The Game Awards, however, they just feel entirely out of place.  The artists brought on last night seemed only marginally connected to gaming, making it feel entirely out of place with the rest of the show.  Not to mention the fact that no one in the audience really seemed that interested. 

There several people crowded up at the front of the stage, suitably dancing and acting engaged…but they were there for pretty much the entire show.  More than likely they were told to stand there to look better for stage presentations, but any time the camera panned out to the rest of the seated crowd, you could tell they weren’t feeling the beat, so to speak.  

Myself, I took the musical acts as a good bathroom/snack break time, but as the show seemed to drag towards the end, they became more and more obnoxious and extraneous.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for adding more “show” elements to the awards presentations, but they need to be more fitting for what’s going on.   

 SChick

Pacing

Two hours for an awards show really doesn’t seem that long.  Considering that many of the awards weren’t even presented on the stage either, it seems odd how much the show DRAGGED.  The first half of the show was okay, and seemed to be moving at a good pace, but the latter half of the show felt twice as long and unnecessary.  

Between awkward attempts at humor that mostly fell flat, strange presentations, and general lack of hype over awards that should have been taken more seriously it was tough to make it to the end.  It’s the mark of a bigger problem with the overall pacing of the show.  

From monitoring things online via our live-tweet stream, it was clear to see that everyone else watching the show live was feeling the same way.  Where the first hour was solid and kept people talking, it was hard to get through the next hour, and most were just trying to hang on for that promised Mass Effect Andromeda footage.