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.
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.