There are many video game award ceremonies that happen every year, awarding the best the year had to offer. Much like the movie industry, however, there is only one award that truly matters in the minds of many: The Game Awards. Every year in December, Geoff Keighley hosts his annual award ceremony (though calling it a show about awards is a stretch), and many consider it to be the award above all others. While this year’s show had no audience, the structure mostly remained the same as before. It’s this sameness, though, that broke me.
Before I go further, I should address the elephant in the room: this blog isn’t about The Last of Us Part 2. While I disagree with it winning some of the awards, these awards were chosen by a jury of media outlets and not The Game Awards themselves. While there could be an argument against The Game Awards for being structured that way, the vote still ultimately comes down to a jury. If you came here to either bolster your hatred of the game or to fight me about it, then I guess I’m sorry to disappoint.
So, why is this year my breaking point? While there is nothing new or different structurally with this year’s show (I even wrote about this in 2017 back when I was worse at writing), the ultimate issue is it’s now comfortable with a formula that doesn’t care about the awards it gives out. A majority of the awards are quickly listed off, with only a few being given the whole nominee montage-announcement-acceptance speech treatment. This shows both a lack of care for the awards given out as well as a valuation to each award, with awards given the full award show treatment having a higher value according to The Game Awards.
Not only does this structure show a higher priority to certain awards, but the priority of importance is all out of place. This show usually has a pre-show to it, which in my mind implies a warm-up to the main event and where game announcements should happen, but they gave out the Best Score, Best Family Game, Best Action/Adventure Game, and Best Debut Game out during this time. The host of the pre-show, Sydnee Goodman, even stated how the Best Action/Adventure award is “one of gaming’s most popular genres” and that the previous winners of this award also won Game of the Year (which was proven true this year as well), but someone decided to put this award in the pre-show and without a nominee montage. During the main show, they rushed through Best RPG and Best Indie Game, but Best Fighting Game, Best Mobile Game, and Best Multiplayer Game (which I only bring up because they forgot to announce the winner of this category in 2017) got the full treatment. This last point is more preference on what I think are more important awards, but the fact that I even need to debate which awards should be given the full treatment instead of all of them having the same treatment is ridiculous.
Sorry nominees, but this is all you get. I guess you should’ve been a different genre if you also wanted the montage and acceptance speech.
Is there a reason for a majority of the awards being crammed together? Of course there is: game announcements. The Game Awards cares way more about game announcements than the awards they give out, and I found its blatant carelessness for the awards to be more infuriating as the show went on. During the main show, I counted anywhere from ten to twenty minutes of announcements and ads between each award or each award batch, with some games getting up-to five minutes of time. I think my tipping point in regards to this was a two minute sketch where Geoff Keighley had a “comedic” conversation with a Muppet just to announce a new character in Overcooked. The more these moments happened, the more I began to think about the developers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into a game and have it win, only for their time to be appreciated instead given to an ad for a game like Monster Hunter: Rise where gameplay has already released. The people who were nominated and didn’t win had it worse, because the best acknowledgement they got was their game’s title in a list of other nominees. Award shows are about appreciating and awarding the best that year had to offer, but The Game Awards would rather have a sketch with a Muppet so they can announce a new character in a released game than allow the developers or us viewers to truly appreciate the nominees and winners of the majority of the awards given.
If this show were up to me, I would have no announcements. Every award gets the full award show treatment, because that is what an award show is about. Is this approach more boring than The Game Awards currently? Maybe, but I think it leads to an important question that has popped up as a result of this year’s show: are award ceremonies meant for the viewers, or are they meant for the nominees and winners? Clearly, The Game Awards prioritizes viewers and making the show as entertaining as possible, but I don’t believe that is the purpose of an award show. They can be fun and entertaining, but they need to prioritize the awards and the people/groups nominated for them over trying to be flashy and fun. Award shows aren’t for us, they are for the people making content in this medium, and I think it’s sad that the biggest award show for video games doesn’t really care about the accomplishments of the nominees as much as they care about announcements.
Even the Devolver parody ad gave more time to the nominees and winner than the majority of the awards in the actual show.
I understand money doesn’t grow on trees and Geoff has to get money for his show somehow (even though the show had A-list actors to announce awards), but I believe there is a compromise that keeps the integrity of the awards as well as allows announcements to be made. Put all of the announcements in the pre-show, then throw in a few announcements here-and-there as the show’s form of a “commercial break.” Sure, you can argue that’s how they had it structured with this year’s show or that this structure may not make enough money, but having up-to twenty minutes of announcements and ads between each award sounds like the awards are the commercial break, not the other way around, and you don’t need to pay celebrities to read award winners. With how much time this show gave to announcements and ads, I think they could’ve instead put that time into giving the full award treatment to all of the winners and still had time to spare for announcements.
The priority of announcements over awards isn’t my only issue with this year’s show, however. While the other issues I have with the show could be blamed on the industry as a whole, they felt exaggerated here in a way that made me annoyed with both the show and the industry at-large. One of those issues is returning to stale jokes. Back in 2017 during The Game Awards, Game Designer Josef Fares had quite a speech, which made waves throughout the industry. I thought it was hilarious at the time, and I still remember it to this day. You want to know who else remembers that moment? The Game Awards, who keep bringing him back to play on his eccentricities. It’s the same deal with Reggie Fils-Aime, Devolver trying to satirize the thing they are a part of (in this case, an award ceremony instead of an E3 showcase), and I guess now the Muppets. While not all of this is done by The Game Awards, it feels like the industry is trying so hard to hold on to these jokes that aren’t funny anymore, and I found every moment of it both annoying and frustrating because of the time it took away from the awards. On a side note, this show did have a lot of unintentional funny moments like Mario getting stabbed in the new Super Smash Bros. Ultimate trailer, Vin Diesel in Ark 2, Keighley introducing an ad for an SSD that includes two separate quotes from him, Master Chief going into Fortnite despite Halo Infinite being delayed again to Fall 2021, and more. Despite not really trying to be funny, I found these moments a lot funnier than the bits the show tries to push, and I think the industry trying to drag the same jokes through each year is getting tiring.
PLAYTIME IS OVER KID.
One final issue I have with this show, which really is an industry issue that just feels exaggerated here, is the idea that we need to be under the shadow of the movie industry. Video games are a different medium from movies, and yet the games industry and the people who play games idolize the movie industry. Naughty Dog’s entire existence is to make video games that are essentially movies with button prompts, people go crazy any time there is a celebrity performance in a video game, and articles galore are made whenever people find out a celebrity plays video games. When it comes to The Game Awards, just about every award that was given the full award treatment was announced by celebrities ranging from Gal Gadot to Christopher Nolan. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s neat to see a crossover between games and movies, and I’m not speaking the character of any of these celebrities in any way, but the glorification and idolization of people like Keanu Reeves and Henry Cavill just because they are movie stars with a connection to video games is ridiculous. Video games should be their own unique product and not just try to be a movie with controls because being an interactive form of entertainment allows games to have unique plot structures. Despite this, the constant ties to movies keeps the games industry under their shadow, even though the games industry is larger. Especially in the context of this year, where the pandemic has shut down the movie industry in a rather catastrophic way while the games industry has largely flourished, why should we be overly excited about movie celebrities announcing awards when all that really does is strengthen the connection between the two mediums? Also, on a side note, I bet getting some of those celebrities to read out the award winners costed quite a bit of money, which I think would’ve been better used to allow more time to the awards.
About ten-or-so minutes into the pre-show, co-host Sydnee Goodman gleefully stated “That’s five trophies down and The Game Awards haven’t even officially started yet!” after going through a quick batch of three awards. Why is this considered an accomplishment? Not only does this sound like they are trying to get through the awards like a kid trying to get through their vegetables at dinner, but it also begs the question on the valuation of awards. Is the work done on a game put into an award category that was swept through not as valuable as the work done on a game in an award category that was given the full award ceremony treatment? Even what many consider the most boring awards are given very similar treatment to the most exciting ones at other award shows in other mediums, but not having the same treatment given to all categories here gives this feeling that some games and categories don’t matter as much as others, which isn’t true. I think The Game Awards does more harm than good for the industry because it doesn’t fully appreciate the industry like other award shows do, instead opting for a half-assed E3 approach. If the games industry is really trying to be looked up to like the movie industry, then all this award ceremony displays is how the industry and its consumer base doesn’t care about the art of the craft.