Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Rant about the Spike VGAs

I kind of didn't want to write this, first, because it's such a bummer of a topic for an otherwise pleasant Sunday, and, second, because it seems like a fairly pedestrian point to make for anyone unfortunate enough to have seen the show. But, the truth is, if I didn't write this, it'd be sitting in my gut anyway, like a rotten bologna sandwich, and so I'd rather get it out on this blog than in some other more disgusting way.

So here's what I want to say: The Spike 2010 Video Game Awards Show was a fucking disgrace. It was an embarrassment and an insult to the industry it is supposedly saluting. Everyone involved should really take a moment, in the quiet of their own head to think about the kind of message they're sending--to game makers and game players both-- and whether this is really something they feel they should be proud of.

So let's acknowledge one thing first. We can take it as a given that almost every awards show in every medium sucks. The bar is extremely low. People can and do make the same kind of rant after every Oscar telecast, Grammy show, and so on. And I'll say this, too, in defense of the VGAs (and unlike, say, the Emmys, who impossibly never gave The Wire one stinkin' award): A good chunk of the awards handed out hold up to scrutiny. I mean, it's all subjective, of course, but no one is really going to deny that Red Dead Redemption is a credible choice for Game of the Year.

So the embarrassment and disgrace is not with the actual awards. It is with the show. If you've never heard of this event, it takes place on Spike TV. And if you've never heard of Spike TV, it is a television station whose website ("the premier online destination for men!"), at this very moment, has an article on its home page entitled "Denise Richards Discusses Her Boobs With Alex." So that pretty much gives you all the information you need. It's a TV station for guys, and for "guys" they pretty much mean the kind of neanderthal-like fratboy dudebro douchebag lunkhead who thinks a good use of his limited time here on Earth would be to click on an article in which Denise Richards discusses her boobs.

So, really, when you think about it, what else was there to expect? If you're on a TV station dedicated to pandering to every dumb guy's basest, most lowbrow taste, why would your awards show be any different! It's not like Spike TV is going to start showing reruns of "Upstairs, Downstairs" any time soon. One caters to one's own audience.

But here's the problem: The videogame community--those who make them, those who play them--encompasses a much larger, broader base than the Spike TV dudebro douchebag contingent. Really, saying the "videogame community" at this point is all but archaic, anyway. Because it seems that, with FaceBook and Angry Birds and Kinect and every other industry-broadening milestone, everyone is playing games now. There are people who love games, who care about games from all walks of life, both male and female. So when you aim your show at the station's primary demographic, rather than those who love gaming in general, you are alienating and insulting all the rest of us who would like to participate in and enjoy the event too.

I'll say this: It's been worse. And Neil Patrick Harris, slumming as he was, was still the best host I've seen in the times I've watched this. It doesn't hurt that he seems to be functionally incapable of not being completely cool and charming and funny no matter what situation he's in, but, on the other hand, you didn't need to be a psychic to see in his face, at times, embarrassment over some of the drivel he was presiding over, and he even made offhand comments to that extent over the course of the show. As for the rest of the presenters, probably the less said the better, though, as most of them looked like they either didn't want to be or know why they were there, except for Olivia Munn, who knew exactly why she was there, which is to show her boobs, which she did.

But, really, complaining about the lame presenters and even the tone of the show is me mostly missing the point of the entire affair, to those complicit in its making, which is the exclusive game trailers and announcements. Because really, that's what this is: One two-hour commercial for the big game publishers to plug their upcoming games. You can bet your ass that most of the behind-the scenes "editorial" work that goes into the making of this show is the wheeling-and-dealing with the EAs and Ubisofts and Bethesdas and the like to get those exclusive trailers on the show. And the game publishers, still dazzled like the little children they are in the bigger universe of the entertainment industry, get seduced by the idea of being on TV, of the "glamor" and "prestige" of it all. Think of the numbers! Never mind that it's a bottom-feeding station that most people over the age and/or IQ of 12 would never turn to in a million years! We're on TV, bro! Look at all those cameras and lights! We have a red carpet, just like at the Oscars! And, hey, look, over there--it's Nathan Fillion! We got him to show up! That makes us almost celebrities now too...right!? And of course the folks running the show need the trailers, too, because without them they've got about 15 minutes of content, tops, and content that in their hearts they have to know isn't that great or interesting. And by running announcements like Bethesda's new Elder Scrolls game (and, yep, I'm as excited as you guys are for it), they give themselves the veneer of importance simply be serving as the vehicle for a commercial. The publishers get their free ads, the awards show gets its exclusives: Everybody wins! Everybody, that is, except for the poor gamer, who may have naively turned on the show expecting to see something with a modicum of respect and sincerity for the industry it was supposedly saluting. I watched this show by myself and was still embarrassed, and was monitoring the remote control in case my wife or kid came down and saw me watching. And, yeah, I know exactly what that sounds like.

Fortunately, the gaming industry has other awards shows, like the Game Developers Choice Awards and http://www.bafta.org/awards/video-games/, that actually know how to salute the industry without relying entirely on Olivia Munn's boobs and marketing-department-produced TV commercials to do so. But it would be great if, in the coming year, the folks behind the Spike VGAs could look into their hearts, look around at the vast, multigenerational, multicultural, gaming landscape and come up with a show that truly celebrates all of gaming for all gamers, that treats videogames not as things to be laughed at or apologized for, but as the incredibly complex and sophisticated pieces of entertainment they are. Way more sophisticated, at the very least, than the sophomoric, tacky spectacle that you put on to "honor" us.

76 comments:

thenintendotheory said...

Honestly, the only really thing I can do after reading this blog is ask for a standing ovation. Excellent, excellent read, sir.

(Also, my little word verification thingie was "BIGUN," which is kinda funny, given the topic.)

Moses Monster said...

While I never did watch this year’s VGA's, the past few that I watched have been borderline atrocious, like a snot nosed kid trying to get his mother's attention. I never really understood the point of the VGAs as in most cases; it was a popularity contest with SOME, as you put it, credible awards going out to nominees that truly deserved it.

There needs to be a committee for the VGAs for anyone to take it more seriously. It's more of a Bro Fragfest and less of an award show, putting the gaming industry in this light of infancy and showcasing that it shouldn't be a medium taken seriously. Something needs to change or the GDC Awards needs to be televised to give the gaming industry back its credibility it so rightfully deserves.

adamwan said...

I have to say that some of those presenters were clearly not gamers. Dane Cook was utterly embarrassing and what were they thinking when they asked My Chemical Romance to play? That live performance was one of the worst I've ever seen.

Capt. Carl said...

*slow clap*

Well said sir, well said indeed. GDCA to me is all that really counts to be honest. By developers, for developers.

SharpShotApollo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary A. Lucero said...

Yes, the VGAs suck. And yes, all awards shows do too.

We tolerate some of them because they occasionally put the people or things we like on them, but they are all big advertisements. And most TV shows are too, and quite a few movies, etc., etc., etc.

You think Disney has an amusement park to cure cancer? Pixar makes animated movies to end violence against women? No, of course not.

The bottom line is what you are saying everyone already knows. And to be honest, gaming was a much better hobby when it was just that, a hobby. But now it's a big business and big business sucks.

SharpShotApollo said...

Well said. Every year it gets worse and worse; I don't know why I put myself through it. This year takes the cake. It was quite the spectacle and an overall abortion. The VGAs need to stop for the sake of all gamers.

Stephanie G said...

The VGAs continue to be a major way for the industry to gain legitimacy as an art form. Sure, there's aspects about the show we would all like to fix, but at least they're making an effort to promote the medium to a larger audience. Meanwhile, Jeff, what contributions have you made to the industry other than quitting your magazine when the going gets tough and slinking away to a lowest common-denominator game company with your tail between your legs?

Brian said...

You said it very well, Greeny. I didn't even watch. Probably the only people who cared post at 1up.com or some other site where they have a "party" over it.

aeiowu said...

Stephanie,

Pissing match aside, how exactly do the VGAs help video games gain legitimacy? At best it raises them to the "high water mark" of B grade action blockbusters that get lauded at something like the VMAs.

Is that all the higher you'd like to aim?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think this whole "VGAs" thing is just a medium for Olivia Munn to show her tits and I'm ok with that.

In all seriousness (not really) the only redeeming sections of the show were Jose Gonzales' acoustic performance (which the VGAs did't fail at ruining with clips and soundbites from the RDR) and Olivia Munns tits.

Suriel Vazquez said...

As much as I agree, I don't have as big of a problem as some people do. They're horrible, yes, but I consider them the VMAs of our industry. They cater to a more mainstream crowd, and the more cultured enthusiast can more easily ignore them.

Of course, the difference is that gaming has the struggle -- for whatever reason -- of having to prove itself time and again. And to that point, yes, the VGAs are setting us back, and it does give us a bad face, but if that disastrous show turns someone away from gaming they didn't have a large enough interest to begin with.

Besides, between DICE, GDC, and the various awards of websites and magazines, we have a strong counterpoint for people who point to the VGAs as the symbol of our industry's cultural immaturity.

Jeff Green said...

Stephanie G:

LOL. If you think the VGA's contribute to the "legitimacy" of gaming and promote the medium to a "larger audience" than you missed the entire point of my blog post. Bravo.

As far as my contributions, they are well known over 15 years in this industry, and they include keeping up a dialog with gamers, like the one you're having with me now. Saying that I went "slinking away when the going gets tough" shows how little you know about what went down, and calling PopCap a "lowest common denominator" game company shows how little you know about the gaming industry. And my tail isn't between my legs: I love my job and am immensely proud to have it.

Other than all that, you were right on point. Keep up the great work.

VernaVenisa said...

Very good read, I wholeheartedly agree with all points made.
As a female gamer I was nothing short of offended by the VGAs and I highly doubt I'll tune in next year. Why would I want to watch something that is so blatantly sexist that I'm disgusted by the women that choose to be featured on it? Quite simply, it's appalling and I have no respect for anyone involved in it.

Anonymouse said...

A lot of people complain about the VGAs and cite specifically that they 'get' that it's aimed at the Spike TV demographic, but I question whether they truly understand what they are saying. The aim of the VGAs is wide and broad; it doesn't aim at the 17 million Farmville players, it aims at the 14 million Call of Duty players. As such, jokes are bawdy and the presenters are the 17-25 year old B-list actresses that filled the Top Ten Hot Lists of 5 years ago and a sprinkle of cult-favourite icons. Their aim is not respect, it's catch-all, youth-oriented entertainment, like the MTV Awards to the BAFTA's Oscars.

So why aren't the BAFTA's on TV? Well, that's because the audience that considers gaming artful enough to be black-tie and gold-statue worthy is much smaller than the gaming audience that wants to shoot things and see the game they've been playing with their friends for the last four months win. The WiiSports-only, iPhone gaming, Farmville playing, Bejeweled crowd doesn't consider the games they play to be awarded-on-TV worthy. They'd care as much watching an awards ceremony for the year's best refrigerator. The GAF crowd will turn up their nose and sneer at anything with outside recognition that isn't internally generated from their midst. The content is tailored for the audience.

What specifically did the VGAs do that was wrong? You watched it. GAF watched it. Everyone came to the same opinion that they did last year: "This is appalling and I refuse to watch again." So why did you watch? Was it to see the newly announced Bioware and Bethesda games? Then it worked as a marketing machine. Was it to see who won, just so that you could dismiss their awards if they didn't coincide with your own? Then it worked as a buzz generator and talking point. Was it to watch the train wreck out of pure schadenfreude? Then it worked as entertainment.

The most apparent thing that occurs to me in watching the internet fallout of the VGAs is the insecurity of the industry's followers; impotent cries of "This doesn't represent me! This is offensive!" You'd think that 'gamers' would be able to laugh at themselves when the stereotypes are played up for laughs. Griefing noobs and ganking loosers between bong hits with empty pizza boxes strewn about on a poop-socking weekend...I heard nothing milder on an average episode of GFW Radio stated earnestly. But when the jokes are read off of a teleprompter by someone who has never heard the phrase 'pwning' before in their life enters the airwaves, it's offensive. Does it feel like outsiders are judging you?

But hey, you worked in the press. You saw the click numbers, you know what the audience wants. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the audience that is willing to invest the time and interest into games is smarter, more critical, and more interested in the game designers than the game characters and therefore more willing to watch an award show that is more focused on the people than the pomp. Where is the audience: Gamasutra or an IGN Top Ten list?

GoatMaster said...

You would have thought Spike would want to at least broaden the audience scope, rather than pander to the meathead audience, but Spike is obviously run by those same kind of meatheads

A special fuck you goes out to Shame Satterfield, who said that this was about the games and developers, and was not a celebrity driven show

Chuck said...

Stephanie, I'm not sure which version of "art" and "legitimacy" you're hoping for: the version that thinks Spike TV has anything to do with "art;" the version that thinks games as well-designed as PopCap's are the "lowest common denominator;" or the version that doesn't recognize the hypocrisy of trying to take a dump on somebody's blog with a personal attack when talking about art.

In any case, it's not the kind of art that anybody with a lick of sense wants to see games get turned into. Keep enjoying the brain-numbing guns & tits on display at Spike TV and most of the major publishers, though. It's clearly done wonders for your sense of culture and decorum.

++Good said...

Stephanie,

If you love your illustrious VGA's, you can have them. They are a yearly kick in our industry's junk.

Also, if you think that going from a computer magazine to a position with a tenured developer that has brought gaming to an audience bigger than all three current gen consoles COMBINED, I'd love to see where you work. I imagine it is a McDonald's made of solid gold.

Jeff, that aside, your assessment is simply dead on and thank you for taking the time to write it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the longer more eloquent 'anon' post above. The best parts of the night were yes, the trailers. But I could easily see those on YouTube or some other site today, so throw those out.

So what were really the best parts? The notion of live action Angry Birds, Maria Menuous near crotch shot, the violin girl for Reach & Jose Gonzalez's Far Away.

But I say, "consider this"...how often is any form of honoring/celebrating or discussion of video games on nationwide TV...rarely, if at all (fuck G4, we don't need more COPS and Ninja Warrior reruns). NPH said it...BlOps sold a ton, and was it even mentioned on the CNN's and MSNBC's of the world...maybe, but I promise you some other BS, such as Lindsay Lohan, has been discussed more in depth on those networks. So even though it wasn't presented in the best of lights, we had video games on TV...and that's a good thing

Elise Fouasnon said...

ahh yes, thank you. I was about 14 when the VGAs first started and I was so disappointed. I felt as confused watching it as I did if/when i watched the VMAs or any other award show. I want to see the greatest and most innovative, not just the pop.

TonicBH said...

I've been boycotting the VGAs for years now. Still can't believe anybody gives that awards show any credibility. All the problems I've heard over the years could fill a blog of its own.

Great blog, Jeff.

GrrlGotGame said...

I firmly believe that "It's a TV station for guys, and for "guys" they pretty much mean the kind of neanderthal-like fratboy dudebro douchebag lunkhead who thinks a good use of his limited time here on Earth would be to click on an article in which Denise Richards discusses her boobs." may be the greatest sentence ever written. Or at least, it really cracked me up.

HS said...

I don't know how to feel about the show, really... Let the lowest common denominator have their commercials. It's almost like an 2 hour long E3 for the holidays, but viewed through beer goggles. Or some sort of twisted edition of what the Sears Catalog was to me around this time of year 20+ years ago... a way to compile a christmas list to give to my parents or grandma. Even so, I'll still probably watch every year (unless like I'm like totally getting laid instead, you know how it goes). But hey, I used to watch Starcade religiously as a kid while shoveling Pacman cereal down my throat.

I have hope that with time, gaming will no longer be stigmatized and regurgitated the way it is now with the help of the concepts, stories and experiences that are now, and will continue to, come to fruition... and we'll pull up old episodes of the VGA's in our virtual reality rooms and have a grand old laugh.

MailOrderClone said...

There was one exchange on the show that seems to encapsulate all of this into a single moment. Olivia Munn was up on stage with Neil Patrick Harris complaining that it should have been her hosting the show, commenting on her time spent on G4, running around in a bikini eating sausages for peoples' entertainment. And Neil simply responded "What does that have to do with video games?"

Wilson said...

The driving force behind these shows are the ad dollars as sad as it seems. Look at the shows direction and you'll find your answer about the seriousness of their message towards games and it's developers if there was any at all.

It's also concerning at the countless people who inject themselves to talk about games and really have no clue what they are designed for. I'm all for celebrities who want to appear on something related to video games to boost the presence, but could you please know something other than what you've heard about it? It makes sense, invite entertainers to lend support to a form of entertainment. The shame however is that they forgot that it was really about games and specifically game developers. The message was lost in the show because Spike wanted to show something that the average meathead could understand. Instead of designing the show around the industry, they designed it around pop culture which makes sense to an extent until you have NPH smirking at the ridiculous skits that clearly have no substance other than over the top goofiness.

I thought the 3D thing around the stage was interesting (although it was purely for home viewing and could've been a thematic style all around), a couple of deserving wins like the limbo team and of course the money shot ads.

This is what I guess I'll call the growing pains of the industry and perception of games as entertainment (although we've been growing for quite some time already). Maybe the dudebro thing will disappear and we can have a "higher form of discussion" with games and their developers on tv (not holding my breath). Until then, it's all podcasts and anticipation of human evolution for me!

Anonymous said...

You know how VH1 does those "101 Most Embarrassing Moments of the 90s" shows. That's what the VGA awards is -- that's its level of editorial ambition.

Spike is 100% Denise Richards Boobs 24/7.

So you're basically ranting against the raison d'etre of Spike.

To which I can only say, the IFC covers the AIAS awards, which are appropriately serious and boring and which usually have the exact same winners.

frags said...

I feel the show is moving more and more away from the audience that are into gaming. I mean what's the point of watching it when I can just load up gametrailers.com the next day and watch the exclusive trailers and avoid all the dumb and embarrassing moments in the award show?

I think the GDC awards are the real award show for the industry and I think developers know this.

DeschainVox said...

Anonymouse,

This is the first year I've watched the VGAs. I did so largely because of the trailers, so yes, in some ways I got what I wanted.

I understand that most of the time I play games where I run around killing hundreds of zombies. But sometimes there are games that come out that make me think. Sometimes games are able to evoke emotion and reflection.

I don't mind laughing at myself. But, somewhat out of context but applicable, I agree with C.S. Lewis. We must play, but it has to be the kind of play where we take each other seriously.

Maybe that is too much to expect from Spike TV. But wouldn't it have been great to have had some honest reflection about some of the great and unique things this industry offers?

Seekul said...

I believe the best proof that the VGAs are not for "real" gamers is in the sheer quantity of questions and forum threads asking "is there a livestream?"

Nobody asking that question actually wanted to fucking watch Spike, even if they do have cable. The liveblogs were more entertaining anyway. And since Spike is not in the business of streaming its live TV, the bootlegging websites made a killing.

Just because video games ALSO use a TV, doesn't mean TV is the right medium to honor the format. There is a huge missed opportunity with the cancellation of 1vs100. THAT is the format a video game awards show should take. Pre-recorded video with segments of interactivity and host interaction, and actually appearing on a console. Make it for a web browser, and entice the console makers to adopt the method for themselves too if their console browsers don't work.

Being on TV means they have to get TV celebrities to appeal to young male channel flippers. To honor the industry, we need industry stars and industry names. I don't know what the CEO of Telltale Games looks like, but get him up there introducing! I will clap! Let Cliffy do his bit mugging for the camera and shuffle him off stage for the next one. Maybe get some journalists, eh? They are kind of a big part of what we the public know. Dan Hsu ain't too shy to talk to a camera.

Ugh, there needs to be something else. Something... indie.

Raf said...

I've never watched the VGAs, and never will. I dismiss it because of everything you just said they are.

I applaud you Jeff for writing this post, but to you and everyone else who watched it and still complain about them, JUST STOP WATCHING IT.

Anonymous said...

I don't know when it happend, (I suspect it was right around the time Half-Life changed the industry) but gaming is as mainstream as it can be now. No longer are we all sitting around in our virtual treehouses speaking the lingo with others of the sacred tribe.

Time passed....and playing games is as universal as watching TV, jamming to music and checking out Olivia Munn's chest.

Thus- the suits took notice and gaming is rapidly being reduced to the lowest common denominator- kinda like sitcoms. There will be those of us- unwashed, unkempt keepers of the tribe's lingo, that exists on the fringes...and remember when our friend's Moms did not play Farmville and our friend's Dads did not want to join our WoW guild...

Duffyside said...

Jeff, I wish to defend the VGAs a bit, as I don't think you mentioned one positive.

To say that there was no respect to gamers or the industry I think is wrong. Specifically, I think the way the VGAs honored all their Game of the Year nominees was exceptionally good, especially the segment where Jose Gonzalez was left alone to play a song from Red Dead Redemption while clips from the game played on a large monitor behind him. Also, using the awesome set, the Halo: Reach segment was also great.

Even the admittedly-dumb God of War bit was what it needed to be. Yes, it involved anger and half-clothed chicks and over-the-top violence. That's what God of War is! I'd actually be more upset if they played some vidoe of Greek statues while a lady played a harp and someone read from the Odyssey. It doesn't deserve that as it doesn't aim for it. Don't get me wrong, I like God of War quite a bit, but when Spike TV decides they need to represent this game with boobs and blood, I go "Yup. You sure do."

It sounds like you're also upset that Facebook games and iPhone games aren't talked in the same regard as Red Dead or Mass Effect. Dare I say: that's because they don't deserve to be?

I've played my share of Cut-the-Rope, and yeah, it's cute and kinda fun and good, fine. So is Spongebob. Spongebob, however, does not deserve to be in the same conversation as The Wire, does it? Or Arrested Development?

Spongebob appeals to another audience, and another part of the brain. And that's ok. I LOVE Spongebob. But I know it's sort-of-dumb, wind-down TV. It's important, but when the time comes to recognize the best in Television, Spongebob can eat one.

To be frank about it, I do not want to hear people compare Bejeweled to Uncharted as far as what the best game of any year is. Bejeweled is great and all, but it is not the best the medium has to offer. Sorry, Jeff. :-(

On the topic of Olivia Munn's boobs: great, aren't they? I have to ask though Jeff (as if you'll even read all this crap!): if it were the Emmys, and it were Katherine Heigl dressed all sexy, would you be embarrassed for television, or would you simply say " O_o " ? I wonder if your feelings about Ms. Munn stem from Anonymouse's assessment that gamers don't like it when outsiders seem to make any judgement about them. The way you wrote that part about Munn you'd think the conversation went "Olivia? Hey, wanna come to the VGAs? Great! Umm... make sure you're half-naked, k?" It's very possible - probable, even - that she was asked to come, and accepted because she likes games and exposure, and then dressed that way because she's hot and she's proud and comfortable with it.

Lastly, I wonder what you think the better options are for a video game award show. Yes, there are more respectful and legitimate awards, but let's be honest; they don't get the same attention as the VGAs, even from you, the man bitching about them.

Truthfully? Spike could do what they did for 100 years and I'd be fine with it knowing the other alternative would be IGN or Gamespot running some shitty stream, where their dimwit editors, after complaining about how bad the VGA writing is for years, make even worse jokes. And dress in ratty fucking t-shirts and don't comb their hair. I mean really, let's give the VGAs at least that. There's something to be said about not dressing like a goober.

Personally, I'd like to see the Penny-Arcade guys give an award show the PAX-touch. Maybe even in partnership with Spike? And hosted by Jeff Green (seriously, I think you'd do a great job).

I'd also like to see more developers presenting and less celebrities who like (or at least aren't repulsed by) games. However, Guillermo Del Toro's presentation was yet ANOTHER highlight of the show, and I was glad he came.

Anyway, if you actually read this: thanks! If not, you smell and Zynga rules.

zee said...

This was a great post/rant, Jeff. I know nearly all gamers wholeheartedly agree, not the least of all myself. That's not to imply I'm any kind of disappointed with the show, of course, because not since the first event have I had any expectations whatsoever. I do enjoy watching the new game "ads" which serve to fill my appetite for televised game reveals, between E3 events. I doubt that any gamer really takes this award show seriously at all; the only thing that concerns me (despite being on Spike TV, which is a bit of a joke in itself) is that it's probably the most prominent exposure to gaming culture -- such as Spike claims to present it -- that the mainstream audience gets all year long. It's a rather unfortunate predicament for us. In that sense, there was a certain merit to G4's formerly televised and publicized awards, which have since been downscaled. It still had the inherent problems of an awards show such as the VGAs, but at least it was insular. The gamers among us who watched it were able to take it with a pinch of salt and just appreciate the reveals and whatnot. Spike teeters on that precipice between G4, the station that in many ways fails to properly represent gamers but stays restricted to that audience, and the mainstream stations. It's a dangerous fence to sit upon, each occurrence of the VGAs bringing our hands closer still to the barbs.

Jon Lynch said...

Your post gets us into the unbroken territory of just exactly who big game publishers and developers want to design and market games for.

Spike's VGAs cast an unflattering fluorescent light on the lowest common denominator that most game publishers strive to appease: brodude douchebags and their frat friends, as you've identified them.

Still, I'd like to think that this has more to do with the industry trying to feel out its identity among the other mediums. Or in other words, the games industry is an upstart young punk feeling out what exactly it should be. Raunchy, masculine brodude or bespectacled, ninety-eight pound weakling?

I have faith it'll find a comfortable middle-ground eventually, and the VGAs will be looked back on as the necessary growing pains.

Mike said...

ROCK ON JEFF i watched the first eh hour or so just to kill time before UFC124 streamed prelims dear god that was horrible. I love the games industry this made me feel bad to be a gamer to a degree. Its good people are getting the recognition they deserve but the platform was wrong.

I watch Spike for UFC events and those events only

bluemanrule said...

I can't help but shed a tear over how poignant this rant is. I felt embarrassed watching 7 minutes of this show w/my 12 y/o son. Awards shows put the best foot forward of every medium and if that was gaming's attempt, it wasn't a very good foot.

I commend your rant good sir.

Dan Robinson said...

I'm not interested in the awards so much as I am interested in the announcements/advertisements for upcoming titles. Although having Stevie Wonder present an award a couple of years ago was inspired.

G4 is going in the right direction in broadcasting industry events with a developer focus like DICE 2010.

Based on your own opinion of Spike did you really expect more? That's like Zagat giving McDonalds a top ranking.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jeff!

Anonymous said...

Many people have an extremely naive view of what these awards do. Any sort of publicity for gaming pushed toward the mainstream in our terrible economy is a good thing. Sure, people may bitch that its not like the oscars and id agree with you...i thought mcr sucked ass and denise richards was the biggest disgrace on the entire show, i mean did she even know what she was supposed to say? Overall though, the VGAs are a good thing for the industry. All award shows start somewhere so once people accept video games as a true art form, as they should, maybe the VGAs will be brought to a higher standard. Until then grow up and realize that at least we have an award show

theanorak said...

There have been a couple of lengthy rebuttals which made good points in the comments; I'd just like to add that part of the problem is the absence of a well-known-but-"serious" equivalent.

To use film as an easy example, film has Cannes, and Sundance, and a bunch more awards/events focused on not-Michael Bay explosions. It also has the Oscars, and the MTV movie awards. So there's the WooBrofist awards, and there are the chinstroking awards, and points inbetween, and all are pretty well-known.

Things like the GDC awards and even the Bafta Video game awards (I'd be willing to bet that many people INSIDE the UK don't know there are Bafta awards for VGs, let alone further afield) aren't *public* -- we, as as group of people who care about games, can't point to them and say "this one's important, see..." because they have no profile.

Jeff Green said...

Some great rebuttals/replies here! I appreciate the alternate points of view. Thanks all (except for Stephanie G, now sitting in the dunce corner) for keeping it civil and avoiding personal attacks. I'll keep the comments open and unmoderated as long as this keeps up.

@ Most recent anonymous, you said: "Until then grow up and realize that at least we have an award show"

No, see, that's what I'm asking the VGAs to do.

Anonymous said...

"This show and most gaming PR in general only appears"

Appeals. I meant appeals. I made a bunch of other typos too and I'm srorry about them too.

MSUSteve said...

I watched the VGAs on my DVR and reduced the two hour show to no more than a half an hour to 45 minutes. I watched solely for the game announcements and reveals, and for that the show was fine. It's the same reason I continue to subscribe to Game Informer. I also thought that the production itself was pretty impressive. The virtual stage bits were particularly cool. Finally, NPH did the best he could with what he had, and as Jeff said, remained charming and engaging.

All that said, the show was pretty awful. Of course awards shows are always, at least in part, glorified ads, but the VGAs really take the cake in this regard. We all know that Treyarch didn't just slap that acceptance speech together in a few minutes, which forces one to wonder how far in advance their award was even decided upon. Hopefully not before the actual release of the game. Either way, that, and many other examples, were so transparently the result of ad dollars changing hands, that the whole thing came off as distasteful.

What really killed me about the VGAs this year is the short shrift given to most of the award recipients. About 3/4 of the way through the show the robot voice lady simply read a list of about a half dozen award winners. These weren't the best Hungarian documentary type of awards either. They included Best RPG winner Mass Effect 2, for example. If the VGAs are ostensibly an award show, shouldn't the awards be more prominently featured? It's like the VGA organizers themselves realize how little anyone cared about the awards or even that the awards have no inherent legitimacy. I mean, who even votes on those?

If anyone needs proof that the whole award aspect of the show lacks even a modicum of legitimacy, see Neil Patrick Harris' award for best performance by a human for Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions. I will never be convinced that that award was the result of any fan or industry vote. That the VGA organizers either didn't recognize or care about what that award said about the entire show really says a lot.

Anonymous said...

My real comment went missing (I think because of the typos), but it's easy to distill it

"Many people have an extremely naive view of what these awards do. Any sort of publicity for gaming pushed toward the mainstream in our terrible economy is a good thing."

This isn't the right way to think. The show can't cater to only gamers and expect new people to be impressed and play something. More people, especially ones who don't play games, are going to watch that in reruns and get turned off by all the testosterone-pandering than will be impressed and buy some games. It didn't have to be something where everyone wears suits and talks in sterile sentences, but if all the effort's going in to putting on a show, they could try a little to make it encompass more of a demographic than stupid young people.

It is on Spike though so I feel like that's the answer.

Guy Movie Blogger said...

I couldn't agree more. The show was an utter embarrassment. It does a huge disservice to the gaming community. In reality though, what else could we expect from Spike?

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of idiocy which makes people think that there is only one type of gamer, and that you can treat the market like they're idiots and they'll lap up whatever's thrown at them. And sadly, it's so prevalent in gaming.

To the guys defending this: they're insulting you, too.

(A random shoutout the the ABC (in Australia) for giving us Good Gamer, which manages to have an attractive female host, but which doesn't alienate or infantilise its audience.)

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of idiocy which makes people think that there is only one type of gamer, and that you can treat the market like they're idiots and they'll lap up whatever's thrown at them. And sadly, it's so prevalent in gaming.

To the guys defending this: they're insulting you, too.

(A random shoutout the the ABC (in Australia) for giving us Good Gamer, which manages to have an attractive female host, but which doesn't alienate or infantilise its audience.)

Anonymous said...

Well, all I can say is, thanks for giving me another reason not to miss not having cable/dtv and letting me know Elder Scrolls V has been announced!

Tristessa said...

I usually only tune in to see the trailers. This year I switched my channel - but before it even started I decided to watch the trailers online after the show was done.

So I played games instead. And the trailers were great, especially Elder Scrolls V getting a release date!

Great rant Capt. Green! I salute at you!

zman0404 said...

I'm incredibly confused by your rant. I felt the VGA's were extremely entertaining this year much like the games that I play. I would be bored to tears if the VGA's simply copy and pasted the method's used by the Oscars/Grammy's. I play video games because I enjoy being entertained there for a light-hearted award show feels right. I agree at times the show seemed a little immature but so what, It is a celebration after all. Olivia Munn barely had an appearance on the show so the show hardly revolved around her chest. It seems as though anytime something new is introduced in the gaming community the "hardcore" get up in arms over it. Lets relax and have a good time enjoying the medium we love.

So what if they show game trailers. Isn't that what most "hardcore" gamers want to see anyways? and its not like they spent the entire time showing off mediocre games, 100% of the trailers leaned towards the core players.

Your worried that your family will catch you watching the VGA's when you spend your evenings playing video games COMMON really?

Anonymous said...

You hear that Mr. Green......that's the sound of me humping your leg after this excellent, beautiful rant. This.is.everything! that I have felt was wrong with the "VGA"s( i use that term loosely) written into a nice easy to follow explosion of awesome! You pracitcally have read my mind and quite a number of other gamers I'm sure. If this were youtube I'd subscribe to you, then unsubscribe just so I could subscribe all over again! I have placed your page on my favorites. Bravo and thank you!

Spencer C. said...

Jeff,

Thank you for posting this and for being a respectable and aware gamer/representative of the industry.

It is events like this that turn any conversation where I'm trying to legitimize gaming as an art form, or even as a viable and meaningful means of entertainment, into a dead end.

It is events like this that kill conversations about video games being, or at least becoming, respectful to women.

So thank you for being a gender aware and decent human being, as well; there are more issues present here than just making games look bad.

Thank you, Jeff Green

Spencer

Sully said...

After watching the VGAs, it makes me think that the Oscars should start injecting trailers for much-anticipated movies in between awards. Or do they do that already during the commercial breaks?

Anonymous said...

I've never watched this awards show before - but you say that the humor is sophomoric?

So when they were doing the show did one of them suddenly decide to fart into the microphone?

The Goose

Jeff said...

I've never sat down and watched the VGAs because it's too embarrassing. The content itself is a joke, and the actual "gamers" they have on the show look like they're trying really hard to be hip. The whole thing is just weird.

I feel like the industry will eventually get to where it should be, but I wish we didn't have to go through this adolescent phase to get there.

Shobo said...

I feel a bit stupid given the fact it was your offhand comment about Nathan Fillion that drove me to post in mild irritation. I do agree entirely with you on the subject of the VGA's though, it really is an embarrassing situation.

John said...

"As for the rest of the presenters, probably the less said the better, though, as most of them looked like they either didn't want to be or know why they were there, except for Olivia Munn, who knew exactly why she was there, which is to show her boobs, which she did."

+1

Xrosstalk said...

Well I couldn't have said it any better myself Jeff...You have been and always will be my favorite gaming writer. (Especially your run on CGW Greekspeak column then when you were editor in chief there for a bit.)

Kudos to you brother and keep on doing what you love!

PS: Pulled out my old Descendents albums and Milo Goes to College is still awesome!

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Anonymous said...

"I've never watched this awards show before - but you say that the humor is sophomoric?

So when they were doing the show did one of them suddenly decide to fart into the microphone?"

Yeah, but let's be fair here: They knew farting in the microphone was dumb. It was the butt of a lot of jokes later on and they kept doing that kind of stuff. But they were always aware of how embarrassing and stupid those kinds of things are. I really don't think Spike's VGAs had that sense of humility.

Anonymous said...

totally agree with you on everything. this video might interest you because it seems like olivia munn tried to make a joke about xbox 360 and mgs4 but made it sound like mgs4 is on the xbox 360 and she played it herself: http://thesnakesoup.org/?section=features&content=vga2010 nph's reaction is priceless

Anonymous said...

Nathan Fillion was a voice actor in two Halo games. He was a nominee for best performance by a human male. Bungie brought him to the VGAs, not the other way.

Fred said...

I find it extremely silly that anyone thinks a corporate awards show is being put on for any other reason than to make money, or advertise shit. If the "industry" were really serious about the whole artistic side of games, they'd eschew this whole awards thing and let the fucking games speak for themselves. Instead what we have is a bunch of industry backscratching...

Okay, I confess, I didn't watch anything but the few trailers, and even them I couldn't sit through (seriously guys, if you're gonna make a trailer, atleast give us some gameplay, y'all aint makin' movies). Olivia munn and Denise richards DOES sound appealing, though to be honest I'd rather hear their opinions on iraq and shit, rather than announcing the names of some dudes who worked on a videogame (actually, I think I'd rather just see their boobs, but that's if I were being honest).

Why are we so proud of this industry anyway? An industry that promotes a workplace culture of "voluntary overtime" and shit? I'm all for quality games and all that, but sometimes I wonder if these guys ever go home. There oughta be an award for highest quality of life at a developer (yeah, I know some of these guys got it pretty good, atleast according to the BBB, but alot of these guys toil for little money, and even less acknowledgement, and we're only too happy to criticize them for things we feel we "deserve". Gamers sense of indignation is, at times, disgusting)

And what the fuck is wrong with bros and douchebags anyways? Way I see it, a whole lot of y'all fall under that category anyway. Calling gaming a medium may make you sound smart, but it won't stop you from blowin' some poor afghani away in medal of honour or whatever. Unless its for one of those annoyingly intellectual "why are games so violent" academic pieces where you go on and on about the mechanics of death in videogames and how its unhealthy, and developers should do this and that to change the way that we think about games..or something. Frankly sometimes I think people just like reading their own thoughts, like they'll just keep typing and typing for no other reason than to hope that someone will read their huge wall of inane ramblings....oh wait..

Anonymous said...

Hey Fred,

"I find it extremely silly that anyone thinks a corporate awards show is being put on for any other reason than to make money, or advertise shit."

That's what people are complaining about; we don't want a "Corporate awards show", we want a Video Game Awards show.

"Why are we so proud of this industry anyway?"

Nobody's praising the industry, because it's as twisted and backwards as any of them. Not that there aren't good people.

"And what the fuck is wrong with bros and douchebags anyways? Way I see it, a whole lot of y'all fall under that category anyway"

There's nothing wrong with them. Well, maybe the dumbness, but no really big objections. They're not biker gangsters. Gamers as a whole would just like to be seen as at least a little smarter and less 14-year-old-ie though, that's why I'm not so hot on the VGA's.

"Calling gaming a medium may make you sound smart, but it won't stop you from blowin' some poor afghani away in medal of honour or whatever."

Calling gaming a medium would also make you sound right. It's a means to show an idea, even if that idea is a lot of times "Shoot those guys dead." And recognizing games as a form of art doesn't mean you stop having fun shooting guys. It would take lots of crying for that not to be fun.

"Unless its for one of those annoyingly intellectual "why are games so violent" academic pieces where you go on and on about the mechanics of death in videogames and how its unhealthy, and developers should do this and that to change the way that we think about games..or something."

Huh?

justin said...

Jeff your such a stunning boy toy. Thank you for owning stephanie brah.
Love always your closest meatloaf
Justin

halojones-fan said...

Fred: You're not Hunter Thompson. You aren't even Frank Miller. Stop trying.

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Anonymous said...

It is good to find you again my friend. I had missed your wit and banter. Insightful and poignant, an oaken flavor with just a hint of curmudgeon. Remember your audience(NC-17), you are the higher voice of reason. 250 words on my desk by Monday, please. Weekend, what weekend, you do this because we need you to. You are compelled to comment on the absurd, and you help us make sense of our all way's on, drive-through, batteries not included existence. Respectfully, a fellow gamer - ronranger

Indian T.v Serials said...

I agree. I really only tune in for the “World-exclusive” previews, but I think it’s a pretty cool event. If Spike didn’t do the awards then some other company would have, and odds are it would have been almost exactly the same.

Asian Tv said...

I don't care about this absurd show either. It's wrong that GTA IV won GotY in that show instead of MGS4. 2008 was that game's year and these people turn out with such a result. And having celebrities to host their show? Stupid, even more stupid with celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

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SerialsUp said...

I don't care about this absurd show either. It's wrong that GTA IV won GotY in that show instead of MGS4. 2008 was that game's year and these people turn out with such a result. And having celebrities to host their show? Stupid, even more stupid with celebrities like Kim Kardashian.

all hit serials said...

There needs to be a committee for the VGAs for anyone to take it more seriously. It's more of a Bro Fragfest and less of an award show, putting the gaming industry in this light of infancy and showcasing that it shouldn't

Daily Talk Shows said...

I don't care about this absurd show either. It's wrong that GTA IV won GotY in that show instead of MGS4. 2008 was that game's year and these people turn out with such a result. and like your post.

Anonymous said...

That's an opinionated and glib review of the show, without much discussion of the show itself. Yeah, the presenters weren't all authentic gamers, and it's on a shit network, but that's 90% of award shows. For me (a long-time gamer), there was some good comedy in the show, that didn't disparage gamers or appeal strictly to the lowest-common denominator, like the TMZ bit, Live Angry Birds, the In Memoriam part, and that was comedy legend Robert Smigel doing Spider-man. You may know a lot about the gaming industry, but you know jackshit about television.

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