As I alluded to in my last post, the mainstream population has yet to recognize and embrace gaming as a true art form. While this will undoubtedly change in future, the industry has already begun its move towards this goal. Instead of film festivals there are trade shows like E3, and instead of the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes there are…the VGAs.
The award show’s biggest positive is that it makes Joe gamer more aware of what exactly goes into gaming. These aren’t casual gamers mind you, but gamers that stick with blockbuster franchises like “Madden” or “Call of Duty.” Not many of these players pay attention to a games voice acting and even fewer know the difference between a developer/studio and a publisher. These awards also showcase great lesser known titles to these gamers like “Limbo,” download only games, or just the fact that there are still quality hardcore titles for the Wii. Finally there are announcements for next years’ blockbuster titles we might not otherwise get until E3.
Unfortunately the rest of the show doesn’t provide any depth outside of these few characteristics. This is due to the choice of celebrity guests and writing based on the perceived gaming audience, the show is on Spike, and the awards don’t feel like the ultimate achievement for any studio that they should be. The result is a show that feels more like VMA’s but without the performances or events recounted in the office and schoolyard the following day.
There is at least some credibility to MTV’s award show as the station used to play and talk about music. Spike is the channel for 12 year-old boys. Their programming consists of nothing but censored “Entourage” episodes, UFC and college debauchery sit-coms (I almost forgot the monthly airing of the entire “Star Wars” saga). As I mentioned in last week’s article, the average gamer is 34 – hardly Spike’s audience.
It’s time for a change of venue. This proves difficult as Spike created the show but the station is owned by Viacom. The broadcast would be better suited for MTV instead of “16& Pregnant” re-runs. As far as selling the rights to the broadcast, it’s a chicken and egg conundrum. There’s no doubt the show would do better on a station like FX or USA but the show and medium doesn’t garner enough viewers to warrant that purchase. Since this change is unlikely, Spike will have to work out the kinks.
This brings us to the celebrity appearances which were mainly a victim to poor writing. Neil Patrick Harris did better with the material than he should have and the best job anybody could under that circumstance. Dane Cook, who despite recent backlash can be funny, just looked content in cashing a check with the same amount of effort put into the pre-written jokes. Even Dominic Monaghan, (“Lost,” “Lord of The Rings,”) said he was just reading a bad joke off the teleprompter.
I hope that was a big paycheck.
If Viacom insists on airing the awards show on Spike, then the least they should do is hire some stronger writers. Maria Menounos is a fine green room correspondent but that position isn’t worth however much money she pulled for that gig. They could also save money by putting in some other aspiring reporter with a pretty face. Also, what was the point of the My Chemical Romance performance? Aside from the fact that they’ve fallen in quality after their last two quality offerings, not every gamer is a fan but everyone loves to laugh. These are just two ways to save money better spent on writing to make the event must-see TV.
That’s the biggest flaw with the concept of a video game awards show in general: it’s not the highest authority in deciding which games were the best of the year. The Oscars are the highest honor in film and the same is attributed to the Emmys for television and the Grammys are gold for musicians. Even the ESPY’s are highly regarded amongst athletes despite being second to winning a championship or MVP award. Before it blew up into the billion dollar industry it is today, gaming was very much an underground industry and games journalism was unknown to all its news, sports and art oriented peers. However gamers paid attention to these grassroots publications because they knew these writers were just like them and their opinions could be trusted. Hardcore gamers are now in the habit of following outlets like IGN, Game Informer, and Gamespot for all their gaming news and review needs. How is this show supposed to grow if it can’t even attract its target audiences’ attention?
The show would gain instant credibility if it were to integrate a gaming site into the show. The easiest way to do this would be to purchase an established website and have its writers do the voting. This could give the show interest credibility among games by making it the exclusive way to reveal so-and-so.com’s game of the year. The other option is to sell the awards to another corporation with a highly regarded site or publication but this is highly unlikely as anyone of these corporations could turn it into a huge.
After Sunday night’s debacle of an awards show, it’s clear the VGA's need to catch up with rising status of the medium. If Viacom can truly get in touch with what gamers want in an award show, then maybe more will watch instead of checking Twitter for updates.
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