Video games have always struggled to attain legitimacy in the eyes of the mainstream. But now, gaming is closer than ever to being recognized as equals beside art forms such as movies, music and television.Something that was always missing from the gaming industry was an annual night of recognition for the greatest achievements of the industry.
To fill that void, video game journalist Geoff Keighley produced The Game Awards in 2014 in the hopes of creating a serious awards show where the best of the industry are celebrated. And after three years, there are still some of the cringey moments you come to expect in gaming award shows, but The Game Awards is closer than ever to attaining Oscar-status.
Is it the 'biggest night in gaming' that the show touts itself to be? No, not quite yet. But Keighley is almost there. Just give it a few more years.
So how was TGA 2016? Let's give it a review.
Reveals – 7.5
The Game Awards 2016 had some of the biggest reveals in TGA history. Standouts included a new Death Stranding trailer, two huge looks at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the first look at gameplay from Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Gaming award shows have always struggled to convince publishers to give them their juicy announcements, and so usually the "exclusives" were things nobody really cared about to begin with. There'd usually be small fry indie game announcements, DLC reveals, and trailers for AAA games that not many were particularly excited about. And while there was still some of that filler, there were things for people to freak out about, which is more than can be said for years past.
The day that The Game Awards can guarantee killer reveals is when the gaming community at large will begin to look forward to it in the same way they look at E3 or PSX. But for just the third year of TGA, these were some pretty solid gets.
intrusive marketing – 8.0
"Hydrobot, taking it to the next level? That was sick! Think you can go for a few more rounds?"
Yeah Hydrobot was pretty bad. But other than that, most of the sponsorships either made sense or were done tastefully.
The AMD Red Room with the "Assassin's Creed VR Experience" was a little tacky, but it's clearly game-related.
It'd be better do just do away with corporate sponsorships altogether, but they're a necessary evil for putting the show together. Keighley was pretty upfront in a Reddit AMA about the need for invasive marketing for The Game Awards to exist:
"Each year has been a bit of a rollercoaster in trying to at least break even on the production. It's challenging because we have to commit to a production budget months in advance, and a lot of the sponsorships for shows like this end up happening in the days leading into the show. I think that's just the way things work now when you can buy a Facebook ad with a few clicks.
"I not only produce/host the show, I also have to go out and sell it. It takes a huge amount of time and adds a lot of stress — and I'm sure the show creative suffers somewhat because I have to focus on making sure we don't lose millions of dollars. But it's the price I have to pay to make sure I can "author" the show in the way I want.
"Of course there are compromises along the way. Some people will be upset there are sponsors in the show, or it will feel too commercial. But it is a business at the end of the day, and my hope is that we can continue to grow it every year. It's less about making a big profit, and more about being able to do build up the show to celebrate gaming in a big way. If I had more money I'd invest it into marketing. Right now we spend almost everything making the actual show."
It does sort of take away the credibility of the show, but it's undeniably better than in years past. Tastefully done, Keighley.
Acceptance speeches – 9.0
This category isn't so much evaluating the show itself as how professional the talent acted when they accepted their awards. How the best of our industry present themselves speaks volumes to the people looking at it from the outside.
This year's TGA had some standout speeches, particularly Ryan Green, co-creater of That Dragon, Cancer, which won the award for Games For Impact. Green created the game as an autobiographical story of his son Joel who was diagnosed with cancer at twelve-months-old. Green gave an emotional speech about the ability for games like That Dragon, Cancer to explore the complicated and often unpleasant stories of our lives.
Also a highlight was Nolan North's speech accepting the award for Best Voice Actor. In light of the voice actor strike asking for additional royalty-based compensation and better working conditions, North asked that we also remember the unsung devs who don't carry the same recognition.
"I'm hearing a lot of talk lately about how 'performance matters'. And it does. The performance of every designer, every programmer, every artist, every hardworking, talented person… That performance is so important, they are so talented, they are so hardworking, and their performance matters more than mine… Because without their performance, my performance would not only not matter, it wouldn't exist," North said.
These kinds of speeches add back the legitimacy that gets taken away by the likes of Hydrobot. It shows that our industry isn't just a bunch of manchildren "gamers", but a group of professional, complicated and multifaceted people.
LIVE ENTERTAINMENT – 8.0
There were three performances at The Game Awards. "Run the Jewls", whose song appeared in the Gears 4 Horde 3.0 reveal, performed a set, Mick Gordon played music from the Doom soundtrack, and "Rae Sremmurd" performed their hit song 'Black Beatles'.
The music performances are usually a lightning rod of contention when people criticize these shows. Should the live music have something to do with video games? Or should they just feature good artists?
This show had a bit of bit. The Doom concert was an awesome performance of video game music, "Run the Jewels" were kind of video game related, and "Rae Sremmurd" was a nice choice for a mainstream artist.
Nothing quite on the level of Koji Kondo performing a Legend of Zelda medley last year, but like the rest of the show, this was a step in the right direction.
Final Verdict – 8.1
It's getting harder and harder to make fun of "The Game Awards" every year. We are a long, long away from the cringey nightmare that was 2013's VGX, and now that these shows are being put together independently, we should encourage Keighley's efforts to put together the Oscars of video games.
The only way the show is going to gain steam is if the industry begins accepting it. And is having an annual award show completely necessary? No, but it gives the video game industry an identity. Showing how we celebrate our best says to those outside of the video game that we're about: a passionate industry of professionals who love what we do.
Great job, Keighley. Can't wait until next year.
|+ Solid reveals||– "Dishonored 2" dancing guy|
|+ Professional, heartfelt speeches||– Hydrobot|
|+ Good entertainment|