I have never enjoyed Spike TV’s Video Game Awards (VGAs), but with each year the gaming industry is forced take it more seriously. It is getting harder to ignore and harder to endure. This past weekend, the 2010 VGA’s may not have been gaming’s finest hour, but it’s also all we got right now.
The event itself hinges on Spike TV’s neanderthal target demographic. From what I can tell, this demo makes up the exact gamers that we all complain about playing against online in shooters and sports games. Everything that doesn’t pertain directly to those fans, is shoehorned in as softly as possible. The range of games displayed has incrementally improved over the years, but don’t look for anything not released by a major publisher. This is a show driven by advertising, without it, it wouldn’t exist. Those are our choices. A fake awards show, or no awards show.
Why I even care
The big draw in the last two years, and the only redeeming quality to the VGA’s, is that it is becoming a showcase for major announcements and trailer debuts. Being placed at the end of the year, and during the last major shopping weeks, is a great way to reinforce the big holiday releases and start to generate interest in next year’s games. Sorting through rumors before the show and witnessing the premieres of titles I haven’t seen before, is beginning to rival the furvor of E3. That amount of excitement can only be a good thing for the industry, even if they are only pushing the AAA titles.
The awards themselves continue to be a let down. There are no surprise nominees or winners. Everything about it seems safe. But at the same time it is hard to get upset when Red Dead Redemption wins game of the year. That’s just the type of year it has been. Solid games from the biggest companies. There is just no diversity in the games being promoted, even if you can make arguments for them winning their categories. The cracks start to show in the “lesser” categories. Voice acting is always represented by a major name in a major game, downloadable games and DLC came from major publishers, and even the Indie winner (Limbo) was a bit predictable even if it did deserve it. No where in this list of winners is a game that would benefit from the extra attention. These games already sold well and they are by (with the exception of Limbo) established companies. Not the shot in the arm that struggling relatively unknown developers could really use.
Is there an alternative?
The VGAs are drawing obvious inspiration from the pop culture sh*tshow that the MTV’s VMAs have become. Which there is definitely room for in both industries, the difference being that their are contrasting award shows to the VMAs and again, the VGAs are all we have. I’d like to see something come out of fan conventions like PAX that focus on a wider variety of games that represent the entire gamer culture. Granted this could quickly skew into alienating the Spike TV fans, but if we had both it would be a much better alternative. The other problem with a gamer culture centric awards show, is that if we’ve learned anything from Scott Pilgrim, we don’t exactly consume media in a way that benefits the show’s promoters. It would be hard to draw a measurable audience to this for a traditional TV awards show. Why do you think G4TV has changed so much in the last 5 years? Gamers just don’t watch TV like they used to, so you start to see why the VGAs have become our only option.
In the end, I think the VGAs would be harmless if their was a respectable alternative to balance out the awards show scene. Most of us will retreat back to our favorite websites and pay attention to the awards from the people that matter to us. We’ll pretend that all of the noise that Spike TV makes doesn’t matter by ignoring it. However, I can’t help but grit my teeth at the fact that the VGAs still present the biggest mass media misrepresentation of gamer culture each and every year.
It Doesn’t Matter – We bring the gaming industry and media coverage back down to reality when they overanalyze or miss the point of a particular story or game.
Giant Bomb (images)