The Game Awards Has Lost any Semblance of Balance

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock (12637642e) Geoff Keighley hosts The Game Awards 2021 at the Microsoft Theater on December 9, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. The Game Awards, Show, Los Angeles, California, USA - 09 Dec 2021

Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards showcase can’t be both a way to “honor the gaming industry” and an E3 competitor at the same time.

Last night brought about this year’s The Game Awards. As always, it was a fun presentation filled with industry vets, random celebs, and copious amount of game trailers for fans to chew on. What it skimped on, however, were the awards themselves.

At this point, making jokes about The Game Awards being little more than a bunch of ads is cliche. We all know this. Something about this year, however, felt even more egregious than before. Last year’s showcase felt a little more forgivable considering we were still heavy into the pandemic and doing everything virtually. But with the return to a live audience, the heavy-handed nature of the trailers/reveals seemed over the top.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock (12637642ch)
Host Jeff Kealy (R) interacts with a “pot boy” from Elden Ring
The Game Awards, Show, Los Angeles, California, USA – 09 Dec 2021

What’s the point of bringing in industry icons, having them sit in the audience, only for them to have almost nothing to engage with. For the most part, they’re sitting there watching a big screen for the same trailers/footage we’re seeing at home. Kinda feels like a waste of time, wouldn’t it?

What’s worse, however, is how so many of the awards are treated in their presentation. It’s a complaint I’ve had for a number of years, but again the 2021 show seemed even more inadequate than usual.

Several of the awards were done via quick, rapid-fire announcements. They were done back-to-back, not allowing for any of the devs to come up and accept the awards themselves. Hell, they didn’t even take the time to discuss the nominees. They literally posted a graphic and mentioned the winner. That’s it!

For the handful of awards actually presented throughout the night, winners still weren’t given much time to accept the awards or give any sort of thanks to their teams. At one point, the Deathloop director asked for more time while accepting the award for Best Game Direction, outing the fact all the winners really only had 30 seconds total on stage.

I mean, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t sandwiched in between TWO trailers for different versions of PUBG, and an ad for a mobile game you can see attached to pretty much any YouTube video you click on. Between the rapid-fire awards and rushing presenters off almost as soon as they make it to the stage, it became harder than ever to see the show as something to “honor the best in the gaming industry” as they continually proclaim to do.

So yeah, it’s frustrating. We’ve always know the trailers/ads were a big, major focus for the show. Part of me understands, they use these things to help pay for stuff and keep the show going in general. Even so, with how things were handled this year, I’m starting to wonder if Geoff Keighley has decided to switch the focus entirely.

When The Game Awards first began under him in 2014, the passion for gaming was evident even among the plethora of reveals on display. Who can forget Ken and Roberta Williams’ Icon Award acceptance speech from that night? Despite not being household names, the show gave them a presentation highlighting their impact on the industry and gave them time to discuss their love of gaming and gratefulness.

It remains one of my all-time favorite moments from these shows. It was so…humanizing, and put the emphasis on what games can do, the impact they have on people, and those who create them. I still get chills when I look back and rewatch it.

Previous shows are littered with great moments like this. From Reggie Fils-Aimé’s heartfelt eulogy for Satoro Iwata, to Kiefer Sutherland’s off the cuff speech for Hideo Kojima, or Ryan Green’s emotional (I re-watched and started balling) acceptance speech for That Dragon Cancer. These moments are what highlight the importance of gaming and what it can mean for people. That’s how you honor the industry and good people who make them.

While things have always been uneven with this show, beautiful moments managed to shine through. Last night gave us none of that. In fact, last night didn’t even give us the opportunity for such a moment. Can you imagine if Ryan Green had been pushed off the stage at just 30-seconds into his acceptance speech? What an incredible moment we would have missed out on.

There needs to be a better balance. The game reveals/trailers aren’t going to go away, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the awards themselves a continually smaller presence. Within three and a half hours of time, they could have easily allowed for a better equilibrium between it all.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock (12637642n)
Ashley Johnson and Laura Bailey present Best Performance during The Game Awards 2021 at the Microsoft Theater on December 9, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
The Game Awards, Show, Los Angeles, California, USA – 09 Dec 2021

Especially right now, with all the upheaval going on in the gaming industry (as major devs finally get their own reckoning), a chance to humanize developers, was much needed. Lift up the voices of those who’ve been marginalized and taken advantage of by predatory company leaders and showcase why gaming can still very much be a force for good/positivity.

By focusing so much on just the announcements, it made every statement about The Game Awards’ purpose ring hollow. There’s definitely room for both, but not as long as Keighley wants to make this E3 2.0.

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Editor-in-Chief: Writer and cartoonist who went to college for post-production, he now applies his love of drawing, movie analysis, filmmaking, video games, and martial arts into writing.