The Game Awards Isn’t What the Industry Deserves, but it Could Be

This past weekend saw the debut of The Game Awards, a successor to the Video Game Awards show that previously aired annually on Spike TV.  The inaugural show was streamed far and wide to gamers around the world, but it wasn’t great and seemed to ignore what makes the industry great.  Not all is lost, however, as The Game Awards could be great, if they change a few things. 

I went into this year’s Game Awards with a lot of excitement actually, but it became evident very quickly that this show wasn’t what the game industry (or developers) really deserved in terms of an awards show.  Slapdash feels like a strong way to describe the show, and if you followed my live-tweet of the event and interactions with fellow gamers, you could see us go from eager to bored and frustrated very quickly.  

For me, however, the biggest problem with The Game Awards is that it COULD have been really good and engaging.  It could have been a highlight of the gaming world and community and a representation of how far the industry has progressed.  The result was ultimately disappointing, but I don’t think this is cause to give up entirely.  Rather, I think The Game Awards has the potential to be those things if they make some changes:


Scale it Back

When I say The Game Awards looks like it was put together at the last minute, I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  One of the most annoying aspects of the show, were the various sound issues.  The sound was all over the place, being incredibly loud for some, while you could barely hear most everyone else.  

Combine this with other niggling problems, and generally, the show felt like it was put together for a very low-budget.  Which, in part, this may be the case.  Without Spike TV’s backing and support this time around, Geoff Keighley put up his own money (plus a few sponsors of course) to make the show happen.  Frankly, I applaud this.  If someone is passionate enough about a thing to put his own money down on the project, it’s a great thing.  

That being the case, however, the scale of the show should have been toned down.  The problem, is that they tried to match the same size of show they were able to with Spike TV.  Production set pieces, big reveals, etc. were all included, but it was obvious they were trying to “look” big on a vastly different budget.  This is what made the show feel so cheap and slapped together.  They tried to do things to seem like a larger production, but without the money needed to pull them off effectively.  

As such, maybe it’s time to scale things down.  Craft a show within the budget you have and make it as solid as possible.  Maybe dedicate more money to your sound production to ensure there aren’t problems like there were, would be a better use of money than some musical light-show.  Just saying, I’d much rather have a smaller show with higher production values, than one that tries to be over-the-top and ignores the important technical aspects.  

Game Awards

Make the Awards IMPORTANT

I, and many others, had a number of complaints about the show, but possibly the biggest issue I had with the presentation was how the awards themselves were handled.  The majority of the awards given away were treated so irreverently it was ridiculous.  They literally had people come up on the side area of the stage with Geoff Keighley, and he straight up said, “Oh, here, these awards are for you in [blank] category.”  Sometimes he didn’t even HAND them the damn award.  They just picked it up off the table themselves and left.  

There was virtually no showmanship behind the awards presentations and only a couple of them were actually given away on stage with presenters.  I mean, it’s an AWARDS show, so shouldn’t those be more important?  Instead, the way they were handled, made it painfully obvious that honoring the game industries finest was secondary to reveals and advertisements. 

This is where the show failed the hardest, and made it tough to enjoy.  Movies have The Academy Awards, as their most prestigious honors for filmmakers and it’s presented that way.  It’s a massive affair and one of the largest industry events around.  It’s a showcase for films, and while the fluff and extras may seem over-the-top, it shows a level of significance of filmmaking within the mainstream.  

Frankly speaking, the game industry doesn’t have an event like that.  While E3 is certainly more prominent in our culture than ever before, it’s still mostly a marketing event.  Gamers/developers don’t have a prestigious outlet in which to share the highlights of the industry as an art form.  So when The Game Awards treats the actual awards as secondary, all we’re doing is taking BIG steps in the wrong direction.  If you’re going to honor the year’s best in gaming, make sure it’s an honor and not something done so flippantly.  Put a little more showmanship into them in order to make the awards mean something, instead of using them as an excuse to sell ads.  Which leads me too…     

Jamie N Commons

Ditch the Sales Act 

The Game Awards shouldn’t be a press conference; this isn’t E3, and treating it as such only hurt the show, rather than help it.  I understand using it as a platform to reveal new games, and that’s a great hook to snag additional viewers…but that shouldn’t be the thing you focus on.  

As I mentioned, the awards were most certainly secondary to the game announcements.  The result is that the show felt more like one gigantic sales pitch than a highlight of the gaming industry.  I didn’t care for this aspect, and felt it brought the entire event down a notch.  The show featured a handful of commercials as well, but honestly it was tough to tell when a commercial started and when it was just the show.  That’s how much emphasis was placed on announcements.  

While some people, admittedly, turn into the show just to see the announcements, the premise of the show is as an awards platform.  Announcements should be secondary and come as genuine treats for audiences watching, nestled nicely in between important awards.  

By putting so much emphasis on the reveals and “exclusives” (which were mostly lackluster this time around), it felt like the entire show was a bought and paid for farce.  Instead of feeling like the awards were handed to the most deserving, several of them felt like they’d been purchased by the developers.  I’m not saying that’s how it actually was (and I hope that’s not the case), but due to it’s over reliance on reveals and exclusive announcements, this is how it felt.  

If they scaled down the sales pitches, stopped trying to generate hype over the announcements, and focus on what’s important in an awards show, I think it would be better overall.  It’s possible to balance the awards and reveals to make a better show, but balance is the key to making BOTH of those aspects in the show feel more important.  

Make it About the Industry

The best moment in the entire show, came a little after the mid-way point, in which they gave away the first Industry Icon award in which Ken & Roberta Williams were honored for their many contributions to the industry.  It started off with a great little history video, in which they discussed how they became involved in the industry and ultimately how they influence continues to be felt even today.  Then they came on stage and talked about their experiences and how honored they were to be a part of gaming culture and able to pass the torch to others.  

This was the most genuine and heartfelt moment of the show.  It was an excellent example of the great things in gaming and why the people who make games are integral and significant.  Watching it, my first thought/reaction was, “THIS is what the industry is about, and what we should be focusing on.”  As such, I wish the show had tried harder to give us more moments along those lines.  Imagine if, like I mentioned earlier, more awards had been presented like this and given more significance?  Then you’d have a show with prestige and a strong case for the influence of games in culture and as art.  

I know I’m coming down on The Game Awards really hard, but that’s only because we need a show like this for the game industry, but we need it to be better than what we got.  It could be a great show, but some serious changes will need to be made.  Did you watch The Game Awards?  What changes do you think need to be made, if any?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!