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.