There are times when a man must take stock of the things he’s done and account for them. Regret for things done wrong, bad choices made, and time lost can all weigh heavily against this accounting of the soul. This post is my attempt to try to make sense of a grievous transgression against all my sensibilities of taste and dignity. Saturday night, I watched Spike TV’s Video Game Awards.
Granted, I didn’t give the gaudy, pandering, and horrendously juvenile program my full attention. I was sitting in the floor playing through a walkthrough of Vlaada Chvatil’s awesome Mage Knight board game and sort of had it on in the background, glancing up occasionally to have my TV pour non-stop advertisements into my eyeballs peppered with intermittent “funny” skits and flashing lights. A lot of it is a blurry misasma of Hulk Hogan, Portal 2 references, and the talentless Felicia Day acting like an ass for charity. Then there are the Z-grade celebrities like Charlie Sheen with their empty, soulless canned speeches…”Games. We Play them and they are fun. Here are the nominees for ‘Most Bad Ass Bad Ass in a Bad Ass Video Game”
Like far, far too much of the attendant media that the games industry generates, the VGAs are really just an opportunity for publishers to shit out endless advertisements masquerading as “reveals”, “announcements”, and “trailers”. The entire show, with its meaningless awards that have absolutely zero credibility or sense of actual creative or artistic recognition, is nothing more than a marketing opportunity for the publishers and a sales opportunity for Spike TV. And if you watch this program and think there’s any merit or substance behind it beyond enticing dollars out of your wallet- you’re a sucker.
As for the awards themselves, it’s really a damn shame that there isn’t an actual peer-nominated and awarded program of recognition for the games industry. Maybe you think awards like the Oscars or the Emmys are meaningless, but try telling that to the directors, screenwriters, actors, and musicians that have been nominated or have won them. Or for those working in film and TV for whom winning those top prizes is a personal goal. Some kind of credible, authoritative game awards (i.e. not “as voted on by the visitors of SpikeTV.com” or picked by a committee made up of professional bloggers) is desirable, and I’d love to see a mature, dignified award for this business to acknowledge great work.
But the VGAs aren’t it. Mature and dignified means not having Sergeant Teabag or whatever come on the stage and teabag folks with long speeches. Mature and dignified means not having the on-stage valets dress like hookers in thigh-high boots. Mature and dignified means leaving all of the “hilarious” gamer jokes and memes on the Internet.
And it also means presenting a respectful awards program that isn’t just a bunch of fucking “reveals” and advertisements. But when so much of games journalism is marketing anyway, I guess I really shouldn’t expect more from an awards show. There’s a lot of suckers out there, enough to keep this kind of shit rolling for years to come.
The highlight of the show wasn’t the “reveal” of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us (another fucking zombie game) or Epic’s goofball Minecraft clone Fortnight (another fucking zombie game). It was when Hideo Kojima, one of the greatest of all video games creators, got up there at the close of the show and completely botched his entire “reveal” of Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance. His broken English stumbled, he apologized a lot, looked shy, and overall it was a very human, very “real” moment closing off an incredibly plastic and phony evening of high-tech holograms and super-slick commercialism.
At one point during the show, my wife came in the room and asked what I was watching. I said “some kind of video game award show”. She said “it looks really fucking stupid”. Given all of the time that I spend trying to convince her and others that games aren’t just for the ne’er-do-well, live-at-home teenage losers that this show is apparently targeted at, all I could say in response was “Yeah, it’s pretty shameful”. And I went back to reading rules and rolling dice.