As I sit down to type out my thoughts on the total Gong Show that is the Spike TV VGA's and the fervor that ensues every single year from unhappy members of the gaming press and community, I'm still questioning if I should even write anything. For almost a decade now, the VGA cycle has continued unabashed: Geoff Keighley gets on the media train a couple weeks before it airs and promises the show will be better, then it airs, its still awful, then people bitch, then you forget about its existence until the next year when it starts back up. However, nobody had ever been teabagged on stage up to this point, so the incessant complaining about the show's format has hit critical mass this year with seemingly every blogger denouncing the shenanigans that continue to piss off just about everybody on the internet.
For the sake of full disclosure, let it be known that I didn't watch the VGA's. I decided going to an ugly holiday sweater party and drinking too much would be a far better use of my time, and even the raging hangover I had this morning didn't sway my belief that I had made the right decision. Today was spent mostly watching Tim Tebow go all Tim Tebow once more and the Cowboys shitting all over themselves (again), but I did manage to check out the results of the show. I must say that if your only experience with the VGA's was reading which games won what and watching the trailers, it's not so bad. While I can't say that I agree with some of the winners, I didn't find any of them to be particularly egregious, and even games like Bastion and Portal 2 won multiple awards. Plus the trailers for FortNite, Metal Gear Rising, and Alan Wake: American Nightmare certainly have me interested.
Holiday sweaters make life worth living
So why am I writing this? I'm not exactly angry that this show is balls considering I knew that already, and I'm sure whatever points I make here have probably already been made elsewhere by more talented individuals. Am I writing this at 2AM because I believe that video games deserve a better spotlight than the one Spike puts forth? Is it because I believe that the industry needs a De Facto awards ceremony to highlight the years achievements? Does it have something to do with the Eggs Bennedict induced coma I was in off-and-on all day while I watched football on the couch that has thrown my sleeping habits out of whack for the evening?
No, I'm unfortunately here to give the people who continue to demand better from this show a harsh reality check. As the great American thespian The Rock once said: it doesn't matter what you think.
To me, the most obvious point as to why this debate is rather unnecessary has already been made by Jeff Gerstmann on Giant Bomb where he argued that television sucks and you should adjust your expectations accordingly. But while Jeff attempts to soften his points by going out of his way to not sound elitist (On that subject: If you predicate what you are about to say by saying, “Its hard to describe that without sounding like I'm some sort of elitist snob, but...”, you are about to sound like an elitist snob.), I don't have any problem sounding elitist: American television is a fucking abomination.
To be fair, one could argue that we are currently in a golden age of TV, as shows like Mad Men, Dexter, Breaking Bad, South Park, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, and The Walking Dead show that some of the finest television content ever produced is currently on air. However, for every one of those, there's a landfill's worth of shows like 2 Broke Girls, Teen Mom, Fox & Friends, True Life, and (ugh...) Toddlers & Tiaras that are meticulously designed by the Big 4 media conglomerates to be as mentally deflating to the viewer as feasibly possible in order to inject their cynical worldview into the American psyche. The purpose of television in the United States is to keep people scared, distrusting, uninformed, and to get you to buy shit you don't need at the expense of Malaysian slave labor. If that makes me an elitist snob, than I'll go ahead and keep partying with James William Bottomtooth III.
So with that in mind, instead of asking the people who demand a better video game awards show what their expectations of “better” are, I instead propose a challenge: Find me an example of American television, on ANY TOPIC, that covers that topic in the same way you want video games to be covered on TV. Good luck. Video games are presented in a shitty fashion on TV because EVERYTHING is presented in a shitty fashion on TV. What makes you think the evil fucks who turned the news into reality television gossip rags, who spend more time talking about Kim Kardashian's wedding cake than they do about government run Syrian death squads, have either the ability or the desire to present your entertainment of choice in a rational or fair manner?
And to the people clamoring for a video game equivalent of the Oscars, may I ask what exactly is it about these awards shows that you would like in the VGA's? Want Todd Howard to rip the Bush Administration during his acceptance speech? Do you want real celebrities? What, was the Hulkster not good enough for you, brother? Sorry to tell you this, but Jack Nicholson ain’t leaving the front row at the Staples Center to present the Most Addictive Game Presented By Mountain Dew award any time soon, nor will Hugh Jackman be leading an extravagant musical number while fighting Captain Price on stage. Also, how many of you have actually sat down and attentively watched all three hours of an Oscars ceremony? I think I would rather pay $90 for Duke Nukem Forever again.
Furthermore, what's wrong with the Interactive Achievement Awards that the AIAS puts on every year? Publishers, developers, and the gaming press all hold it in a high regard that's probably about on par with how people in Hollywood view the Academy Awards at this point. It's a mostly button-up affair, the winners are given time to talk, and the people running the operation clearly take the subject matter seriously and give the medium the respect it deserves. Hell, Jay Mohr isn't half bad as the host either. Sure, it's a little dry, but because its on the channel featuring constant Cheaters and Cops reruns means it's not as important as the awards show on the channel featuring TNA Impact and 1000 Ways To Die?
Who the fuck cares what channel it's on? On that note, why the fuck should we care IF it's on TV? The idea of being on Television as a measure of importance went out the window around the time TV channels reached the 500 or so mark. People in gaming communities have been striving for cultural acceptance of video games for years now, but the truth is that we achieved that some time ago. The problem is that this isn't readily apparent when you watch TV because of televisions warped morals. If you go by what your TV says, EVERYTHING stinks, so why are video games going to be any different? You expect Bill O'Riley to go on TV and start his show with, “hey, you know what? Video games are alright in my book. Man, Bastion sure is cool!”? These people make their living off of sensationalistic grandstanding, making huge deals out of little deals. and creating false controversies in hopes of getting people to stay glued to the screen. Their negative world view doesn't allow them to say nice things about their own grandmother, let alone video games.
Now here's the part you may not like, because we need to accept the fact that we are not the target demographic for the VGA's. Whether you want to believe it or not, the same 18-34 year-old Call Of Duty/Madden playing, monster energy drink chugging male audience many of you rail on for “ruining” the industry happens to be exactly the demographic Spike TV caters almost exclusively to, and they also happen to outnumber us by a great deal. Remember how G4 first started out? How it was all video games all the time? Hey if that was financially successful, Judgment Day would still be on the air. The television executives in charge of the VGA's, whose soul purpose in life is to make as much money as possible with minimalist effort, do not give a fuck what you have to say on the matter, because they tried banking on you once before and it blew up in their faces. They see you as statistics, and they are ignoring you for the bigger statistic, and apparently that statistic likes Charlie Sheen and teabagging jokes.
So why should we give a shit? An awful TV channel put on awful programming for the sake of pandering to their target audience. Like the Fox News debate, it's a complete waste of time because they people in charge of Fox News are completely aware of how deceptive and horrendous their programming is, but they don't give a fuck because it makes piles of money while appeasing their target audience, so it's not going to change anytime soon and they could care less about your objections to it.
Above: The scene outside of my window as I finish writing my small novel
So, like many people have already said: Fuck the VGA's. But, more importantly, fuck the scumbags that put on this crap on air, because the VGA's are just a very small part of the astonishing structural problems associated with American television. Remember that you, as a consumer, still have options. The VGA's are only the be-all, end-all video game awards ceremony because we make it so, and if you want to stop being so pissed off at its existence, I suggest ignoring it altogether. I assure you I had a better time at the ugly sweater party than anyone watching a fucking awards show on a Saturday night.