It surprised no one that “Red Dead Redemption” won Game of the Year during the Spike Video Game Awards on Saturday night. Sadly, it also surprised no one that the show was one long wince-inducing moment. Host Neil Patrick Harris coasted through a weak monologue and several unfunny bits, while D-list celebrities like Dane Cook sleepwalked through shout-outs to the characters and games that were up for accolades.
Reactions from game designers, critics and fans about the VGAs run the gamut, but there’s a growing strain of exasperation from people who want the industry’s most visible moment to a less bro-tastic affair. The games medium’s still fighting for a measure of the respect–legally and culturally speaking–that books, film and music enjoy. So, to have two hours of limp juvenile comedy be the platform where a thoughtful title like “Limbo” gets recognized feels a little incongruous, to say the least.
Chris Hecker, he of the SpyParty, was more ambiguous than most, tweeting “I think the game industry gets the awards shows it deserves, for the most part. If we make better games, we’ll get better awards shows.” Others like Electronic Games Monthly senior editor Patrick Klepek offered the tweet “VGAs feel like a press conference more than anything else.” That’s because the most must-see component of the VGAs has become the trailer reveals that big publishers like EA, Bethesda and Warner Bros. roll out during the show. Shiny, new clips for “Batman: Arkham City,” “Mass Effect 3” and “Uncharted 3” lure in viewers who are anxious to see just what games they’re be lusting over next year.
It might be the rant by Jeff Green–the Director of Editorial and Social Media at casual game juggernaut PopCap–that best condenses the collective anger of many into a caustic solvent:
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.