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Recently, like about a billion other people, I watched the Academy Awards. It was a fun night of glamour, forced interviews and overhyped jokes about NPH’s Oscar predictions that had no real payoff. Somewhere around hour three I started thinking “Video games need this.”

“But Wyatt!” I hear you, dear reader, say “We already have awards and shows for games! What about the Spike VGAs or Keighley’s Game Awards?, E3, GDC, TGS? And every site gives out its Game of the Year awards!”

To that I would say “We don’t need those things, we need our Oscars”

Now let me be clear, I’m not saying we need our own Oscars so we can emulate the film industry, we need our Oscars because games deserve true recognition. The video game industry loves to brag that we’re bigger than movies, that we’re the new frontier for storytelling and list all the inadequacies other mediums have compared to ours but one area we are sorely lacking in is prestige. We don’t have a definitive award, no names that command respect if you put them on the box surrounded by laurel leaves.  Maybe its because the games industry is too young, maybe an entity like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could only be borne in a bygone era but for whatever reason we are a medium without a grand prize.

If a developer says “My game won ‘Game of the Year’ last year” the response should not be “oh? Which one?”. Awards given to games seem to mean almost nothing, to the point that advertising lists the number of awards received instead of the awards themselves. It’s like each one is a stamp on the loyalty card.

When you reach 12 Game of the Year awards your next piece of coverage is free! 

Twenty titles a year might get a “Game of the Year” edition or put a “best game of the year” quote on their box. This happens because the games industry is massive and there are dozens of media outlets out there to choose from if you’re in marketing. They’re all equally correct because at the end of the day they’re all opinions. My GOTY is not your GOTY but is one less valid because of it? Can you objectively say a Polygon GOTY is more valuable than Kotaku’s? Is an IGN award more substantial than either? Of course not, because when all we have is each sites opinion, none carry the weight that they could. Because we don’t have our Oscar, if you want an award for your game its not hard to get one.

E3, GDC, PAX and other trade shows are a different story. Don’t get me wrong, its amazing that our industry has these massive melting pots of gaming culture, but the awards have to go. Publications will hand out dozens of “Most Anticipated” awards and have dozens more conversations about who “won” the show. All this does is feed a hype cycle that everyone but PR reps and publishers hate. These shows are driven by business so they seldom stop to look at what we’ve accomplished but are constantly telling us what we should buy next. Correct me if I’m wrong but games seem to be the only case where such awards are given out before anyone has seen the product. For the love of god Evolve advertises with “Over 60 Awards”. Want to take a guess at how many of those came post-release?

Because the industry is massive and because there are so many outlets dispensing their opinions there is no authority, no one that carries enough weight that their word will be respected.

We have no Academy, not yet.

Dumb name aside, is this the answer?

Dumb name aside, is this the answer?

Spike tried to fill that void; the Video Game Awards were supposed to be that definitive “This is the One” award for video games but it shot itself in the foot a thousand different ways. First by paying disinterested celebrities to present awards, then dedicating tons of time to trailers and advertisements, and by occasionally giving Game of the Year awards to Madden. It was a show for hype, for profit and ultimately for Spike. It was never going to be the prestigious award show we needed, especially on the network that does “the Guys’ Choice Awards”

Keighley’s Game Awards (which are desperately in need of a better name by the way) want to be our Oscars and it seems like a step in the right direction. More focus on the people who make games rather than celebrities who say they once played one but it still doesn’t move far enough. We still see “World Premiere” trailers at the Game Awards and there are still upcoming games being pimped left and right.

To have an awards show that commands respect we have to be looking back at our accomplishments, not looking forward at what we should pre-order. We shouldn’t be dedicating air-time to advertisements. If companies want to advertise their upcoming game, let them buy ad space outside the broadcast. And unless he’s there to talk about San Andreas, I’m sorry but Samuel L. Jackson can’t come.

Say what you will about the Oscars, they’re too white, decided by old men, overly self-congratulatory etcetera etcetera.

They command respect.

We need that in games. We need our Academy, someone needs to form it. Not for advertisement money on a specific network, not to support their specific clique of friends and not at the direction of major publishers or manufacturers. This needs to be truly impartial, initially it will likely be unprofitable and it will certainly be difficult. But don’t we deserve it? Countless games writers talk about gaming growing up or needing to grow up, this is part of it. If you agree games aren’t toys for children, that we’re doing something worthy of recognition, I’d say you should agree with me. Because right now it seems like gaming wants the clout and the respect of a major industry but when we should have our own Oscars, we instead have a bunch of MTV Moon Man awards.

What do you all think? Should gaming have their own Academy Awards? What should we call them? The Pixels? ….Okay that sucks I’ll work on it.

Wyatt Hnatiw

Staff Writer

Wyatt Hnatiw is a lifelong gamer with a borderline inappropriate love of BioWare RPGs and Bioshock. Maybe he just loves the prefix Bio...

  • BeakieHelmet

    This is why /v/ did their own awards show

    It was a community vote and tongue in cheek, and absolutely great.

  • Pint.DMG

    Gonna have to disagree here. We do NOT need our own Academy Awards. Setting aside the corruption, calculated decision-making, and other accusations one could easily fling at the Academy, this line about the Spike awards applies to the Oscars ceremony as well: “It was a show for hype, for profit and ultimately for Spike.” Except, of course, not for Spike.

    What we need are indeed better awards shows and awards that actually mean something. But taking the Academy Awards as an ideal? Not really.

  • Yeah, then Reddit took over and turned it into an e-celeb circlejerk and started giving awards to shit games that no one else liked.

  • Alex

    No! We don’t need more drama!

  • JackDandy

    Seconded. These things always end up being corrupt.

  • I see what you’re saying. I really hate the way Evolve was able to prop itself up on winning gobs of awards, no one has ever heard of, before it was even released. I just don’t see this as something that could ever happen or even should ever happen. As stated in the article people/companies have tried and failed. It’s always about the dollar, always about the marketing, never about the love of the vidya or the people within it. Then there’s the fact that everyone’s opinion on games are horrible so bad/mediocre/average games will win undeserving awards as it becomes a popularity contest rather than one of merit. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, If I can get the deciding vote then I’m all for it.

  • Wyatt Hnatiw

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Academy Awards are a paragon of impartiality and artistic integrity. I’m just saying we need our own respectable award, for better or worse, the Oscars are a touchstone for that. Ideally there would be less fart-sniffing in a games award show, but I think any steps taken away from the trend of ‘heres an award NOW CHECK OUT UNCHARTED 4″ would be a good thing.

  • Raziel Barkrai

    I don’t think having our own Academy Awards would do much. In the end, whatever company shells out the most money will win or whatever game has the most hype will win with no consideration of its quality.

  • PossiblyCthulhu

    If you must, but for the sake of all humanity, have it nowhere near San Francisco.

  • Wyatt Hnatiw

    First annual will be in my basement, seats 12, standing room tickets available.

  • Misogynerd

    Awards need to have meaning, the problem is that once something gets value (like an Academy Award) it will lose its integrity once marketing, profits, and corrupt individuals get their claws on it.

    The best one could hope is that a powerful individual with integrity and clout gives out awards, and frankly Youtubers are the only ones to sort of have that.

  • Misogynerd

    Then start encouraging people to stop watching that, they use it to market because people are watching it. Besides define “respectable”, is an awards show that gives only prizes to the video game equivalent of Oscar bait (“cinematic” games) respectable?

    What about less notorious, more arcade-like, but still excellent games like Crimson Clover? I’m sure that would get shafted in favor of “artististic” games. What about Japanese games in general? Who would form part of the “Academy”? Would “Early Access” games count as part of it?

  • Misogynerd

    That’s the problem of E3 Awrads which should be condemned by the gaming audience. This shit is what caused Watch Dogs to undeservedly sell 4 million copies.

  • Liberius

    If there is to be an awards show, it should be about recognition of excellence. Simply put, you can’t trust any insular group like the Academy decide that. Excellence in gaming is determined by what the gamers get out of a game: Fun, thrills, storylines, etc. Give the power to decide that to a small group, and it’ll get bent to an agenda.

    How do you fix this? Democracy. Have an institution that exists to organize the show, make the awards, and do the presentation (with people famous within the industry for any reason, from developers to voice actors handing out the awards), but have the recipients chosen by online voting (secret ballot, no visible results) for each category during a limited window – say one week or one month, not long before the show. One vote per person, anyone who wants to vote can.

    This’ll also allow gamers to give better feedback to the companies than they currently get from the gaming press about what they actually like. Maybe it’s time for the squeaky wheels to stop monopolizing the grease supply.

  • Typical

    I don’t think we need another forum for SJWs to take control of and get their agenda pushing games more spotlight time.

  • PossiblyCthulhu

    Sounds like a plan – but will you be streaming it live, and will there be awkward jokes?

  • I have to add my voice to the throng: Gaming “Oscars” will be rife with corruption and filled with nauseating champagne socialists before you say the words “critical theory”.

    You might as well call them the “Sarkesians”.

    No thanks.

  • Amen, if this terrible idea ever does ever happen, I hope they hold them somewhere like Warsaw: a place where great games get made, skirts are short and SJW types are likely to get looked in the eye and laughed at… or possibly used as kindling.

  • Johnathon Tieman

    Obligatory XKCD:

    While I agree with the premise that “Game of the Year” has been so overused that it is meaningless, the fact is the general idea of any sort of “game of the year” is honestly ridiculous. There is no way to compare games like the latest NFL game versus something like Vavra’s Kingdom Come: Deliverance versus the latest Mario versus the next Candy Crush. The field is just too fragmented. Honestly, the movie industry is just as fragmented, and “Movie of the Year” is equally a silly concept. I view things like the Academy Awards as really nothing more than a sort of “mass delusion” that almost everyone in the industry has simply agreed on. Gaming doesn’t need an Academy Awards, largely because we don’t need an “Academy” (even if we could magically make one that was somehow immune to corruption or being co-opted).

    I think the best thing that can be done is simply reduce the impact a claim of “game of the year” can have on people. This will be particularly hard, because those most influenced by the phrase are those outside the hobby. The fact is our hobby needs to educate basically the world on who we truly are and what our hobby entails. Once people realize most of these “game of the year” awards are nothing more than PR titles, they will lose their value.

  • Zanard Bell

    I’ll have to pass. Vidya is better off being championed by its own citizens rather than some elite circle telling us what is the ‘best game’ of the year. We already have the platforms to spread the message of good gaming, just us, humble everyday gamers who have all but 5 minutes to input a review on Steam, or post a Youtube video, or even just upstarts like TechRaptor.

    The last time we encountered a gaming ‘union’, it called us terrorists and dead. I have no desire for their opinions on what matters again.

  • Zanard Bell

    I want to be near a volcano, preferably somewhere cold.

    Reykjavik, it is. Home of EVE online.

  • Misogynerd

    Still should the games be limited or should it include ALL games. Smaller games tend to be lost in the marketing hype and mainstream games. One Death Hit Punch let’s take it for example, would it be a contender?

    The best voting system I’ve seen comes from SaiMoe and the /v/GAs.

  • Psichaos

    An awards show at this point in time is a terrible idea. There are too many people with their own agendas in position of influence in gaming right now, as we can see by Keighley’s award show (a barely week old game got Game of the Year because the characters were “progressive,” for instance) Speaking of which, we need to do these awards ceremony at a later point in time during the year because the blockbuster games that do typically win GOTY are released less than a month before hand. Those games need time to determine if they really are worth an award.

  • Wyatt Hnatiw

    Good point, I quite liked the Arbitrary Awards from TotalBiscuit. However you still run into the issue of one person/venues opinion given undue clout.

  • DariusQ

    As someone who’s already lived through a time when video games weren’t respected I can confidently say we’ll survive without the pageantry. Real gamers will continue to play no matter what others think about their preferences. In a way video games going mainstream has been both a blessing and a curse. Its good because it promotes confidence in furthering game development. Its bad because social Marxists now recognize gaming as another exploitable venue to fill their coffers through disinformation and paranoia.

  • We don’t need another one. The existing ones just need to be reworked to focus on actual games instead of advertisement. By the way, who the fuck takes movie awards seriously? What, you really think just because a movie won an Oscar it commands respect and people are going to watch it? Now that I think about it same goes for games. How and who exactly would decide which of these awards shows is “official”? Such awards don’t mean much these days when at the end of the year you go to the internet and every fucking site and person on there has a top 10/goty/best ever award video and you have sites like metacritic, imdb, etc. where users decide whats hot and whats not :).

  • That can be dealt with some introducton of new comer category

  • Ben Jeanotte

    That’d be nice if gaming had a non bought-out awards show that didn’t have a ton of sales, journalism and political interests attached to it.

  • DukeMagus

    We need qualified reviewers before this

  • BurntToShreds

    Gaming does not need another avenue through which pompous blowhards can give accolades to games whose content fits within their narrow worldview.

  • DynastyStar

    awards are shit, all they are, is market material, sometimes even handed out by corrupt press.

  • Indeed, unless they are certified as being sensitive to LGBTNKVDGRUKGBFSB needs, can prove they have a low carbon footprint and have a cat whose name is an anagram of ‘Sarkesian’, they cannot reasonably claim to be qualified to review games.