In February I wrote about how gaming needs its own Academy Awards, and it looks like we’re getting there. The Game Awards have come a long way from the thing that airs on Spike between episodes of MANswers.
There’s still a lot of advertising and corporate influence (PLAY BATTLEFRONT) but we have gaming personalities like Troy Baker and Courtenay Taylor on the red carpet, tributes to lost gaming icons, and the only celebrities in attendance are ones that have something to do with video games. Most importantly, they’ve become truly relevant to the industry, giving games the award rather than an award.
With this new legitimacy comes a complimentary evisceration at the hands of the enthusiast press. So without further adieu I give you The Game Awards, the good, the bad and the horrific.
The Satoru Iwata tribute
This year we lost a giant in the gaming industry when Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata passed away at the age of 55. Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime took to the stage to give a speech about Iwata’s impact on the industry. It was a great moment because it dispensed of everything but the thing we all share, a love of video games; no ads, no hype, just love for a great man and his role in making our industry great.
Greg Miller’s Speech
Regardless of who you think should have won the Trending Gamer Award (or what the hell a Trending Gamer Award even is), the thrust of Greg Miller’s speech was a great. It was a well-deserved shout-out to the developers who work long hours, often for no thanks and little job-security. The Game Awards can go a long way to showing that love for the devs, and this was a great step … Just don’t call yourself a “Duly-Elected Representative of the Gamers” again Greg, that part was cringey.
Quiet’s Theme Performance
Whatever your editorial says about the black bikini, you have to give it up for this performance from Quiet’s voice and mo-cap actor: Stefanie Joosten. Quiet’s Theme is an excellent song, but more than that it’s an excellent song that came from a video game. At The Game Awards this year we had a performance from CHVRCHΞS and a “performance” from deadmau5, but at an award show for video games, the video game content will always hit harder. More of this, less of everything else.
The Witcher 3 Wins Big
I’m biased; I love The Witcher 3; I love Marcin Iwinski, the Sex-on-Unicorn endorsing developer who accepted the awards, and I just love the story of The Witcher 3 this year. It felt like a game made just because they wanted to make something awesome, not because it was November and that’s when you release a new one. It’s a departure from how big games are supposed to work. It was delayed out of the best launch window to make sure it was ready, with a ton of features not seen in big RPGS and released with a bunch of free DLC! CD Projekt Red didn’t focus on controversy or politics, they just wanted the gamers to have a bunch of fun and it paid off hugely for a developer who deserves all the accolades they have received.
Honorable Mention: Deadmau5 doesn’t market
Joel obviously doesn’t care much for these big gaming events, given his performances at the DOTA 2 Finals and the show last night, but he also doesn’t care about what they wanted him to say about Battlefront. Justine tried to get him to praise the game that was paying the bills, but he wasn’t going to do it. Not only that, but his detached, honest answers highlighted just how fake every other interviewee was being.
Hideo Kojima Can’t Come
Hideo Kojima must have the worst contract in history, because apparently it contains a “you can’t go to award shows” clause. Right before the Quiet’s Theme performance Geoff Keighley announced that Hideo Kojima wanted to attend The Game Awards but was unable due to his contract with Konami. In the tone-deaf manner we’ve come to expect from Konami, while the the whole gaming world was raging at them for yanking on Kojima’s leash, they were tweeting about the awards they won! This is the latest in a long series of bizarre moves from Konami, including removing Kojima from MGSV packaging, reportedly antagonizing staff and attempting to sanitize the internet. Konami seems set on burning their video game department to the ground and they are doing a bang up job of it.
What Are Games For Impact?
When first looking at the categories for The Game Awards you might have had the same question I did, “What are Games For Impact?” According to Geoff Keighley they are the games that “look at the industry a different way, and have a real message and meaning to them.” The nominees this year were Cibele, Sunset, Her Story, Life is Strange ( the eventual winner) & Undertale.
So it’s the important subject matter category—the art game category essentially. I’m all for celebrating games that do cool or impressive things, but this category feels like it is separating the “important” games from “regular games” like The Witcher 3, Splatoon or Bloodborne. It’s dismissive of what all other games are doing and feels forced in an otherwise well thought out list of categories. This entire show is proof that games are an art form worthy of praise, but awards that single out certain games as more “impactful” only works to divide the industry in my eyes.
Psychonauts 2 is coming! … Maybe.
Psychonauts is gaming’s defining cult hit. Its our Blade Runner or Rocky Horror Picture Show, the title that we wish we had given more attention to in the past, but now is looked back at fondly as a gem, misunderstood in its time. Psychonauts is a huge part of Double Fine’s success as a developer, demonstrating their ability to produce quirky, creative adventures. Unfortunately, Double Fine has also had a myriad of issues over the last few years, all of which can be traced back to one thing: Crowdfunding.
When Double Fine began crowdfunding for what would become Broken Age, they raised 3.45 million dollars. But the development of Broken Age ran long and the game had to be split in half so revenue from Act 1 could pay for Act 2. Broken Age limped across the finish line due to a mismanaged crowdfunded budget. A smaller Double Fine game, Spacebase DF-9, was on Steam’s Early Access program, but development was abandoned when they ran out of money. DF-9 was released incomplete with the expectation that modders could finish it.
At The Game Awards, we saw an announcement trailer for Psychonauts 2 and people went wild, only to have Tim Schafer tell us he needs about 3.3 million dollars to make it. It’s a tragically ironic situation; in order to get the game we’ve been clamoring for over the better part of decade, we need to give our money to the company with the worst track record for budgeting in the gaming industry.
Levelling Up with Bud Light
Remember the old video game ads that showed gamers leaping around the room, swinging the controller like a battle axe, generally making asses of themselves? Remember how we hated those ads because they made video games look stupid? Well it looks like Bud Light and The Game Awards didn’t get the memo.
These remote segments were some of the most cringe-inducing things I’ve seen in gaming since “Intimidation Game.”
“Show us your gaming face!”
“How does she look when she’s losing!?”
“Do a Raiden impression!”
If you’re going to do a “Man on the Street” segment, maybe ask people what their favorite game was that year, which of these 5 should win best multiplayer. You know, normal human questions. If we’re trying to get away from the Mountain Dew chugging stereotype (and we know Geoff Keighley is) you can’t have people jumping around like idiots making faces like they’re constipated.
The Battlefront AMD Green Room Battlefront Area brought to you by Star Wars Battlefront.
The Game Awards would like you to believe that this is the grown-up, independent award show that will be about the games and their creators, not about the corporations. But renting out the Microsoft Theater isn’t cheap and it looks like a good chunk of the bill was footed by EA.
The backstage area was dedicated completely to Star Wars: Battlefront. iJustine was there to ask a couple tertiary questions and then to hype Battlefront. Pair this with the fact that the mediocrely reviewed Battlefront was nominated for best shooter before it was even released and the EA hype train when from annoying to shameless. The Kylo Ren Disney Infinity Figure™ didn’t help either. To its credit, the rest of the show didn’t lean on advertisements nearly as much but that just made these segments stick out like a sore thumb. A sore thumb that was on fire.
You can have sponsors Geoff, you need them to pay for the lavish event but treat gamers with a little more respect than this. We can tell when people are bullshitting us, and we typically don’t like it.
So that’s The Game Awards. It’s impressive that in its second year, an awards show can carry this much weight. Likely this is due to the complete absence of anything approaching an acceptable video game award show. Hopefully the show continues to learn from its mistakes, grow and become an measure of true prestige.
And stop hiring deadmau5 games industry, learn your lesson!