The Game Awards Didn’t Feel Rewarding as We Hoped

Written by Allen

December 15, 2023

You know there’s a problem when what I remember from an awards show are all the trailers I saw and not really the moments. Well, there is the guy behind Baldur’s Gate 3 walking around in plate armor, that was great. Either way, The Game Awards didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Except maybe for their grand finale with Game of the Year, with the matching performance of the orchestra. The rest of the awards didn’t stick out much. How’d we get here?

 

Last year, the internet complained about speeches getting a little too long for comfort. And we ended with a meme about a boy walking onto the stage and robbing the moment from the deserving winners of the Game of the Year award. This year, there was more control around the stage, where we ended up with a lookalike of the same kid giving the honor of announcing the game of the year winner to the world. However, it certainly felt like there was an overcorrection from last year. Developers who received an award were given a short amount of time to say thanks and acknowledge those who made the achievement possible. Sponsor spots and ads had more time in the spotlight this time around, resulting in a program that had questionable priorities.

Now, I want to be fair to Geoff Keighley here. He certainly has put together a show where many gamers and enthusiasts of the craft of game development now have a stage to share that many witnesses around the world over. And being able to achieve that doesn’t come cheap. So it makes sense to get sponsors to be able to present on the show so that everyone gets to watch for free.

But the presence of celebrities and other big names was certainly given a bit more attention than the actual winners of the game awards themselves. And that’s kind of heartbreaking to realize. Many of the people who attend this ceremony for the chance of maybe winning an award for their thirty seconds of fame are easily given to other more established individuals that you know, may already have other ways of reaching a massive audience. Many of them are likely not even from California, let alone the USA. 

Watching Geoff just blitz through who won several awards like it was a list made me feel bad for the people who should have gotten a bit more recognition for their work. Making games so well to the point of getting nominated for an award is no small feat, after all. Most of these games have spent years in their development cycle. What’s a minute or two for them to be seen and heard as the people behind the world’s favorite games?

I understand that at this point, Geoff and his show may be in a constant battle to meet some demand from last year. But making apparent a new glaring problem on the current one. And this is just going to be a thing from here.

 

So rather than continuing dunking on Geoff Keighley’s show, which is not only easy but also kinda fun. I’d like to offer something more constructive.

First, let’s define what The Game Awards should be about. I think it’s okay to have world premieres on it and all. But it shouldn’t lose sight of what it should be about, the people who made the games we love. We have the Summer Games Fest as the torchbearer of the video game superbowl. I don’t think we need the same thing to happen twice a year, especially with how the bigger publishers can just host their live stream where they can fully control what sort of information they release out into the world.

Another thing that I’d like to bring up would be how The Game Awards attempts to emulate the same prestige that the Oscars or Emmy Awards carry. Sure, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. However, I’d like to point out that gaming didn’t get to where it is now by being like Hollywood. So I think trying to imitate the culmination of the industry in the same fashion is a bit silly. Surely, the promotions and spots that we’ve seen in The Game Awards already set it apart by some measure. So let’s not fall into the trap of focusing only on the popular celebrities of the industry or well, other industries to feature in a show that might not involve them that much in the first place.

 

So what about solutions? I would propose something similar to how the esports scene has decided to focus on the stories of their players rather than make weird promotional tableaus that make them look all badass. I won’t pretend to know how much of a logistical task it would be to figure out the stories and be able to tell them to the world. But instead of just advertising that the show is happening, it might be cool to have some short videos about the developers who got nominated for the awards leading up to the ceremony. You see, when you make games, most people only know about you on three occasions. One, when you release a great game, two, when you release an awful game, or three, when you somehow get involved in some internet drama. Effectively, developers are just seen on social media as some sort of commodity for your typical internet user’s entertainment.

Perhaps making use of the platform that TGAs already have to humanize such people would be a nice way of honoring their efforts. It also creates a story that allows more people to latch onto and be more invested as to who wins the award. Maybe Geoff can ask the nominated creators to send a message of thanks for the nomination and a quick word about the sort of work that went into what they made. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be at the ceremony itself, it can be posted for a month or two during the lead-up to the very ceremony itself.

It creates posts that would naturally generate engagement, provide a space for more sponsors to appear, a chance for deserving people to share their stories, and it doesn’t even eat into the stage time for The Game Awards.

It’d be much cooler if these moments could also be shown or be given a chance to naturally happen on the stage. Giving a minute to the winners, upon reaching the stage, or if they prefer, just have a message pre-recorded if being there physically is just too difficult.

 

For all my talking here, I think I only came up with two solutions. But another way that the audience can show how it’s properly done is perhaps checking out other awards shows that you believe are doing a better job than TGAs when it comes to appreciating the efforts of the developers. The Golden Joystick perhaps could be a fine example or maybe GDC’s Game Developers Choice Awards.

To wrap up, I think it’s great that something like The Game Awards exists, but I also think that we who love the medium as much as we do should share what we think would bring such an event a better success in the eyes of not only those with business interests but also the fans who should be one of the first in mind for such a show. It’s a show I want to be able to care about, as well as others who share a similar passion. So what I’ve written above is my attempt at steering it away from what I’m afraid could be irrelevancy should it keep going in this direction.

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