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The 2010 GDC Awards, or, "Why do the VGA's still Exist?"


So, last Thursday night, the Game Developers' Choice awards were once again held in sunny San Fransisco. This was the first time I've actually sat down and watched the thing, and I really enjoyed myself. If you missed it, you can find some great coverage of the whole thing over on Joystiq. The event really got me thinking about how the industry gives out honors and how the VGA's are shit, and so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts here, in easily digestible list form.

First, we'll start out with some of the things I didn't like.

- In many instances, the production values were rather poor. The camerawork on the Gamespot stream was iffy; there were times when we were left with a rotating logo from the display screen feed while the person we were supposed to be looking at provided voice over. It was particularly problematic during Newell's and Carmack's presentations, in which stream viewers were totally unable to see the slides on the screen behind them. Oh, and the teleprompter placement was just awful. There were also a few technical gaffs, most notably right at the end when the stream decided to cut off Warren Spector mid-sentence, just before he revealed the new Deus Ex 3 trailer. Awesome job on that one, guys.

- It seemed like no one could agree on how to dress. The host, Mr. Spector, was in a full tuxedo with tails and a bright red bow tie, which looked great as an homage to Mickey Mouse, but as the night went on, it was pretty clear he was extremely overdressed. Conversely, there were quite a few award winners who seemed extremely under dressed. John Smedly from Sony looked like he was wearing a bed sheet. The guy accepting the award for Batman: Arkham Asylum and the dude from the Farmville team also stood out as pretty poorly prepared to show up on stage.

- Speaking of that Farmville douche, man, there were some bad speeches. I mean, I know that's true of any award show, but seriously, Farmville guy? Is this really the best time to be asking for applicants to your company? It made you look like an enormous toolbag. As if we didn't already think you were a tool just from having worked on goddamn Farmville. And are you seriously wearing a shirt to advertise your own shitty game? Stay classy, Zynga. Not that he was the only one, of course. The guy from 5th Cell gave some pretty bad speeches, too.

Okay, let's move on to the things I really did like about this thing, and in particular, what makes it so, so much better than the Spike VGA's.

+ Everyone who got on that stage was someone who is legitimately involved in the games industry. There were no bullshit comedians or Hollywood celebrities showing up just to make the event seem more like an "award show". It proved extremely well that we don't need some jackass like Jack Black to host our award shows. Warren Spector has been a game developer for decades, has no professional acting experience, and guess what? He made a damn good host. He did an excellent job. We heard speeches from people that gamers actually give a shit about, like Gabe Newell and John Carmack. We didn't need shitty little skits every fifteen minutes (Mega64 notwithstanding). We didn't need to have Doogie Howser shoot anyone. Everything was about the games and the people that make them. Basically, the GDC awards are not ashamed to be about videogames.

+ I liked that it was very candid, very personal, and very uncensored. These people weren't talking through some kind of PR filter, they were speaking to their peers. Gabe and Tycho were allowed to swear (they also, unsurprisingly, had the best acceptance speech of the night. I highly recommend watching the video if you can find it). Everyone seemed pretty comfortable, speakers made jokes that only developers could understand, and they got laughs. There's no way they'd let something like that happen on SpikeTV.

+ All the commercial aspects that bog down the VGA's are blessedly absent here. Basically, no one was out to make money on this thing. Therefore, it didn't have all that crap that we as gamers do not need in our award show. We don't have to tease new games from tired franchises every fifteen minutes. We don't need categories that are sponsored by Doritos. We don't need overly extravagant sets featuring supermodels in body paint suspended from the ceiling in golden hoops. We want videogames and we want to honor the people responsible for them. And that's what we got.

+ Also related to my previous point is the fact that it was on the internet. Most of the reason that the VGA's are packed full of all that trash I just mentioned is because it's on a fairly major cable station. The show needs to make money. Basically, if you don't want to stuff Dorito's ads into your awards show, you can't put it on the air. GDC's solution? Don't put it on the air. The VGA's (and the people who support an award show of that sort for videogames) seem to be under the impression that in order for the ceremony to have legitimacy the way, say, the Oscars do, is to put it on television. I disagree. Going the streaming route is, I'd argue, preferable to the majority of gamers, and would solve many of the problems that exist with the VGA's as they exist today.

That's about it. Basically, after watching the GDC awards, I really have a hard time understanding why we ever thought we needed to turn to Spike to make the 'Videogame Industry's Oscars'. We already have them here. We just need to touch up the production values a bit and get better coverage of the event and it would be absolutely perfect.
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About Danl Haasone of us since 2:48 AM on 07.23.2008

I'm Danl. My twitter is @DanlHaas. I'm not planning on using this here blog for too terribly much (post-con picture dumps, primarily), since I write for DualShockers, but I hang around here a lot for the forums, Dtoid Midwest (which I run with the very sexy Jon Bloodspray), and The Alcoholocast, the community podcast Allen Park and I run.

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My Intro post (warning: wall of text):
The Long Way Home

My Promoted Stories:
Playing With Others: The Cyberathlete Amateur League

Other Monthly Musings:
A Cast of Thousands: The Merchant (RE4)
Steam ID:ThatsMyHaas
Mii code: 4893 5106 3009 2648


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