From its debut, these Video Game Awards shows (the VGAs if you will) have been nothing more than a shallow attempt to pander to the simpler minded gamers, while providing an overdrawn extravagance with its unnecessary filler. Aside from the very first VGAs (which actually featured WWE superstars Rey Mysterio and Trish Stratus against Chris Jericho and Victoria in an intergender tag team match), this so-called yearly stage for gaming excellence has been anything but excellent. Just when you think the bottom of the barrel has been scraped, Spike TV and the shows producers seem to unearth another layer below that barrel. Although the first show can still be considered the worst, since 2004 the steady decline of quality, genuine care for the matter at hand, and the unknown process for most of the nominations and nominees have lead to panning across the board, making this award show a virtual joke. I’m sure most of us can gather together why the VGAs are an unfaithful representation of awarding excellence to developers and publishers. So lets take this opportunity to do so; why aren’t the VGAs properly representing games, gamers and gaming as a whole?
Lets take a look at some of the omitted, or grossly under-represented factors in this years VGAs, as well as the last several years — PC games in the Game of the Year category. While PC gaming isn’t the all the rage as it was years ago, not having any kind of representation for this platform in the Game of the Year front is an absolute disgrace. Between Starcraft II, Civilization V and even a late year release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, you have three powerhouses that more than deserve a crack at Game of the Year (though the latter is really too late into the year for consideration IMO). Same goes for the handheld titles. Meta Gear Solid: Peace Walker was more than a legitimate choice for a prestigious honor, yet was absent. Probably the biggest blunder was not having Super Mario Galaxy 2 in line for Game of the Year. In fact, not one Nintendo franchise title has received a Game of the Year award, with such titles as Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and even the Metroid Prime series being represented with releases throughout the year.
Instead, we get Madden NFL 2004 winning Game of the Year on the very first VGAs.
Award categories never seem to take its audience seriously either. While the VGAs will never be close to the caliber, prestige or importance of say, the Oscars, that doesn’t mean that the categories should be pandering to the lowest common denominator. Best Performance by a Human Male? Cyber Vixen of the Year? Best Music Game and Best Soundtrack with more or less the same nominees, and then have a Best Original Score on top of that? Instead of insulting the intelligence of your viewers and your sponsors, why not class it up a bit and take it a little more seriously? Just rename Best Performance by a Human Male to “Best Male Vocal Lead”? Why isolate females from choosing a “Hunk of the Year” when there are so many female gamers out there? Better yet, don’t ever bring back Cyber Vixen of the Year (which wasn’t in this years show thankfully) and stick to subject matters that require an intellectual process in determining a winner? Why have several musical awards as well? Simplify things; have “Best Musical Title” and “Best Soundtrack”. With Best Musical Title, you would put in your Guitar Hero and your DJ Hero, as well as any Dance Dance Revolution game into that bracket, leaving Best Soundtrack to every other game that has music in it, but does not pertain to the rhythm genre. Most of this is common sense, and embarrassing to even point out.
While a two hour block seems like it would be difficulty to fill with enough material, this years show proved that not only is it possible, but they went out of their way to admonish fans by locking out more nomination segments in favor to tasteless, classless and overall brainless skits. Did we need the abhorrent chicken and pigs portion, which fell flat on its face? Did we need the musical memoriam that, aside from the NBA Elite insertion, was nothing but a groan session? Does anyone care that Olivia Munn is a female gamer, whom felt it necessary to flaunt her status as if she was special? Instead of all these harebrained skits and failures at comedy, why not have a “backstage interviewer” combing through the audience, hunting down Felicia Day, tracking a Major Nelson (whom wasn’t in attendance. but just for an example) or even a well known IGN or Gamespot personality and give them a 30 second interview about the show and gaming as a whole? Instead of pothead and druggie jokes, why not take the time to recognize what just happened in Seattle days before, with the Child’s Play Charity Dinner? That’s the kind of padding between awards that would work, because it’s a more sincere and legitimate portrayal of care and interest with the gaming community as a whole. With the wealth of extra time from the axed skits, you can give more categories time to shine, instead of flitting them into a 30 second presentation that didn’t bother telling viewers who else was nominated.
If you want to take it a step further, how about add a few more categories. You have a Best Graphics category, but how about Best Artistic Direction? Since the VGAs are hell bent on having multiple sub categories within one major category (music for instance) why not have the same with graphics? Best Artistic Design would make sense; consider titles such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn and LIMBO. While they weren’t necessarily the best looking games this year, their artistic merits should have been considered and rewarded. Instead we have what seems like a double dip of categories and nominations in the musical realm. Innovation wasn’t celebrated this year either. With titles Heavy Rain showing a different direction in gameplay, no care was taken to applaud its successes.
In 2008, the VGAs handed out a “Gamer God” award to Will Wright, creator of The Sims, amongst other games. There’s no argument with celebrating his legacy in gaming, but two years have passed since this award has been given out again. With all the perennial household names in gaming, a yearly celebration for one of these heroes of gaming should be done. Shigeru Myamoto, Yuji Naka, Hideo Kojima and so many other masterminds have been awarded and rewarded before, but if you want to truly enshrine an awards show, selecting a yearly “Gamer God” from the prestigious crop of past geniuses would be ideal. We have grown up with these folks, and although they might have received accolades in the past, turning the VGAs into a respectable awards show and celebrating these developers, creators and such on a yearly basis would do wonders for everyone involved in gaming. This can be taken a step further by even celebrating some of the most famous players in gaming. The Billy Mitchell’s, the Justin Wong’s (and that’s not a shameless plug for the Lemon of Chocolate Lemon) are more than worthy of being recognized for their diligence and expertise in their fields.
Games, people and companies that win each category are all opinion based for viewers; we’re not all pulling for the same thing. However every year there are some head scratching winners, including this years show as well. The first VGAs had Madden NFL 2004 as the Game of the Year. Again, it’s all subjective really, but how the debut of an awards show has Madden NFL 2004 beat out Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, one of the biggest and most celebrated Star Wars video game releases ever, is beyond me. In that same year, Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball wins the award for Best Animation. The game its self was pretty shallow, and basically acted as a T&A title more than focusing on things that mattered, like gameplay. It seemed as if the VGAs were trying to get a stranglehold on that male 12-21 demographic than reward any legitimate nominees. Fast forward to this year, and you have the host of the VGAs, Neil Patrick Harris, beat out the likes of Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman and Rob Wiethoff for their Best Performance by a Human Male category, for his pretty bland portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. Comparing the performances of Rob Wiethoff to Neil Patrick Harris is like comparing a juicy, flavorful peach to a lead paint chip. This isn’t necessarily an opinion either; Harris’ performance was no where near the caliber of anyone nominated. What’s worse is his non-chalaunt, somewhat mocking manner of his acceptance of the award, as if he knew ahead of time that he was going to win.
Which is funny, cause I think that’s the only way he’d be caught dead hosting this farce.
This all brings me to the hottest topic here — who determines what categories are available each year, and who determines the winners for each one? With some of the backwards ass categories going on year after year, as well as some categories that come and go as they please each year, who is it that actually decides on what categories are being offered? Why do they keep adding the most unintelligent set up, with several musical categories that can be condensed into two separate ones? Moreover, who decides what games, companies and personalities are up for nomination? Why are certain games nominated when they were released a month before the show even airs, or even worse, weeks or days before? While Donkey Kong Returns is no doubt one of the years top releases, it was nominated for Best Wii Game weeks before it ever came out, and a couple of weeks before the show even aired. In hindsight, what if the game was either so deplorable that it was critically panned, or if it were delayed until next year? What if the latter happened and it won?
Who is in charge of creating categories and who is in charge of nominating these games, personalities and companies?
It’s depressing that every suggestion laid out and every valid complaint did not have to be waved around like this, since about everything here is common sense. Until those in charge of this so-called awards show start taking this all seriously, the VGAs will be nothing more than a bunch of unknowns talking down on us, ignoring what works and making a farce out of such a cherished hobby. I’m sure my suggestions were just the tip of the iceberg, and that there are plenty of other tweaks and severe overhauls that can be performed. What do you think? What should be changed about the VGAs to make them easier to digest? Leave a comment below and share your ideas with us!