How to Fix Video Game Award Shows

How to Fix Video Game Award Shows

Whenever we play a video game we enjoy, we also experience an impulse to check around and see if others enjoyed it as well. Hence message board discussions–and arguments, the thorough study of reviews, and so on.

And then there are award shows: The ultimate pedestal for a game and our egos. Sure, we’re secure about our fine taste in games, but there’s a deep down satisfaction in watching a game we love receive an award. It’s as if we’re indirectly being rewarded for our good choices in games.

Which is part of the reason video game award shows like the Spike TV VGAs garner such a large viewing year after year, despite the criticism that flies around blogs, message boards and Twitter. People scorn the show while keeping one eye on which games are receiving accolades. Then they cheer or boo accordingly.

So the VGAs have no trouble gathering an audience, but that doesn’t necessarily equal legitimacy. GamePro recently published an article, Why We Hate the VGAs, that addresses the biggest issues video game award shows need to address before they can even be mentioned in the same breath as the Grammys or Emmys or Academy Awards.

To be fair, the award shows for television, music and movies aren’t without controversy and accusations of rigging and shamming. But neither do they feel like the glitzy two-hour commercial that the VGAs come off as.

“The real reason everyone hates [the VGAs] is that it’s a show,” writes GamePro‘s AJ Glasser. “It’s a two-hour block of television designed to entertain audiences and display commercials. Even if Spike hired Pulitzer-winning writers to pen the script and brought Johnny Carson back from the dead to host, most of you would probably still hate it. Because all the things that make the VGAs a show put another wall between you and what you really care about: the games.”

Indeed, it does the industry no favors if its biggest awards show comes off as plastic and false. Among other things, Glasser suggests that exclusive trailer reveals should be held off until the end of the show, as the Academy Awards do with new trailers for upcoming films. There’s also the issue of dialogue and the very network hosting the VGAs: If “Spike TV” isn’t indicative of a show that knows nothing about the diverse audience it’s supposed to cater to, then the weak jokes from clueless celebrities who go to the producers with their palm turned upwards as soon as their bit is over certainly is.

“It’s not that Spike TV sucks,” writes Glasser, “it’s just that it’s a limited audience and by now, most of the world knows the average gamer isn’t a socially inept 19-year-old male. We owe it to games and we owe it to ourselves to see the VGAs on MTV or VH1 — where more people can enjoy them and where a bigger budget might pay for better writers.”

What’s especially jarring about the VGAs is the homogeneity of its awards–and even its nominations. Only a tiny percentage of the games featured in any way on the show are of Japanese origin. The vast majority come from western studios. That would be acceptable if the show existed exclusively to dole out awards to western studios, but the vague mentions of Nintendo and Final Fantasy are sad reminders that the VGAs are supposed to recognize the achievements of the industry as a whole. The Japanese industry is troubled, but far from dead. Any video games awards show that doesn’t call on the many contributions of Japanese developers is a farce. And should licensed music really even qualify for nominations in the category of “Best Game Soundtrack?”

A less commercial, more thought-out video game award show would benefit the industry in general. Not just the overlooked Japanese side of development, but also the western developers who won their awards. Games like Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect 2 do in fact deserve recognition, but not from a show that makes people second-guess what went into the award selection process.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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