The Game Awards need to change

The Game Awards need to change

A train wreck I desperately wanted to look away from

The Game Awards is the weirdest night in gaming. It’s a bloated three and half hours full of stilted presentations, musical performances that are good but feel out of place, and of course, lots and lots of promo for new games. So much promo, in fact, that it feels more like a big excuse to show us new trailers than it is to honor the devs that worked so tirelessly on the games we loved that year. Things need to change.

The Game Awards have kind of always been a mini version of E3 because of all the trailers and endless slew of “world premieres.” The actual awards feel like an afterthought, which is a real shame because of how tirelessly game developers work on the projects they put out. The only real recognition we see for the development teams is a sweeping statement to the studios that win awards, or at most a game’s director, main actors, composers, etc. when they win the award that year.

Although the pacing has always felt rushed, in years past there have usually been some genuinely sweet moments in the midst of everything. But I could not believe my eyes last night when most of the awards were passed through as quickly as possible to get back to the trailers. For categories like Best Role Playing Game, they didn’t even read the nominees out loud. Speeches were cut to be egregiously short. There were tons of categories that got skipped over altogether. The time management was just disrespectful, in my opinion. 

In an ideal world, I’d love to see some of the fluff and filler from the show exchanged for profiles on some of the more unsung heroes of the games industry. We had a few of those last night, like for the drag queens Deere and Samira Close who stream games, or Black creator Kahlief Adams, who used his platform to discuss racial justice, which were great to see. But those were over so quickly, and there was nothing like that to feature any of the developers who made the games that were nominated. 

Games for Impact is a great award category, and has given us some of the most genuine moments of the show in the past. So when they stuck this award right at the beginning of the show with absolutely zero pomp and circumstance, I was more than disappointed. When giving their speech for winning the accessibility award, the Forza team was told to “wrap it up” in the middle, after which Geoff said “what an important speech” promptly after. These are arguably two of the most important awards of the show, in my eyes, because they strictly focus on making games better for everyone, and to see them pushed to the side was a difficult pill to swallow.

I was also waiting to see how they were going to address the ongoing lawsuit and strikes at Blizzard. Right at the start of the show, Geoff gave what I assume is a purposefully vague speech before emphatically stating that they would not tolerate any harassment whatsoever, while then continuing on with trailers for studios that are known to mistreat their employees. Well done there.

I just find it ironic that it’s like “we’re here to celebrate what we love most about gaming” and then it’s all advertisements. Because that’s everyone’s favorite part of games, right? The part where they get you to buy stuff?

It’s also funny that the show has tried so desperately to claim its stake as THE gaming awards ceremony. Sure, it’s probably the biggest and most bombastic, but the British Academy Awards, also known as the BAFTAs, have been awarding those in the games industry since 2004 — a full decade before The Game Awards started. Plus, it’s, you know, a real award show from a respected institution.

I’m not saying that The Game Awards needs to lose all of its jokes and silliness in lieu of a serious, sterile ceremony — if it were up to me, The Game Awards would take a big lesson from other awards shows and have comedians host. Easily one of the best parts of the show last night for me was when Ben Schwartz, the voice of Sonic in the movie, came out to introduce the trailer for its sequel. He’s relaxed, he’s charismatic, and he’s really funny and entertaining to watch. We got a little taste of what the show could be with a different host, and man did I want more.

If you go on social media for more than two seconds today, you’re likely to see how dissatisfied fans were with the show last night. The Game Awards have always been pandering, self-aggrandizing, and entirely too long, but we’re experiencing a climate in the industry right now that is less willing to tolerate it. It begs the question: will they ever be willing to change? 

If we really want to celebrate games the right way, we need to get rid of the “hype” culture for a second, not give a platform to abusers, and focus on shining a spotlight on the people who don’t get the recognition they deserve most of the time. Then, and only then, will I be able to respect The Game Awards.

Noelle Warner