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The VGAs Got It Right

The VGAs Got It Right

The 2011 Spike Videogame Awards took place last Saturday night, and by and large the event was terrible. Not only were the awards themselves a shambles, but the event itself was seemingly choreographed by an immensely wealthy 14 year old: stuffed with celebrities taking the piss out of the crowd and CGI trailers that show precisely dick-all of the games in question and puerile actions like ball-punching and tea-bagging.

Naturally the videogames press is in uproar over the whole thing. Naturally, a lot of these complaints are misplaced, again, bemoaning the event for being nothing more than a puffy, MTV-style piece of excess that must be stomped out lest the gloriously noble world – yeah, right – of videogames have its reputation besmirched forever.

This attitude, while admirable, is absolutely ridiculous. This is the Spike video game awards. Would you take the Bravo, or Men and Motors awards seriously? No. Just because they’ve got the budget to get Mark Hamill or Miyamoto there doesn’t mean it’s suddenly going to turn into a sombre recognition of videogame talent past and present. It’s just another bit of programming aimed at satisfying the needs of Spike’s audience: Lynx wearing young men who buy Call of Duty and Madden and that’s about it.

The problem, however, is deeper than that. Those out there baying for the blood of all involved seem to forget that they’re covering a mass-market videogame event. Don’t get this wrong: there are plenty of thoughtful, adult and mature gaming experiences that deserve to have their praises sung.

Sadly, that very same media that is moaning that the VGAs peddles little more than titillation, spectacle and juvenility seem to forget that this is an industry whose biggest hitters are all predicated around the same sort of thing, and they in turn profit from this. In fact, in the race to get hits they form part of a cyclical relationship with the show: they hate it, but have to cover it for those precious eyeballs to come to their site, which in part persuades the organisers to do it again and then more developers to create those ‘trailers’ that show about as much gameplay as a flip-book sketch of the Hamburglar.

And the reason these trailers exist is because there’s a tonne of people out there – both in and out of the industry – each ready to say that, based on nothing more than a concept video, ‘it looks really good.’ What looks really good? The game? What game? Say what you like about Metal Gear: Revengeance (amazing) but at least it showed some gameplay.

But there’s the rub: people moaning on the one hand that the show is not serious enough, it’s too puerile, etc, but constantly hyping it up and getting massively excited about the trailers at the show. Is the problem the awards, or are they not just a reflection of the audience and the biggest, most popular games the industry has to offer?

Teabagging, low-rent celebrities, big noise, big money, big prizes (I love it): this is the state of contemporary, big-selling videogames. Saints Row, anyone? How many people lost their minds at the (admittedly excellent) sense of depraved anarchy it offered, and how many of them then tuned in to a shamelessly 18-30 focused TV channel to moan about how it covered an event they had hyped to the nines, featuring games that celebrate these core tenets? It’s a giant advertorial. Deal with it or stop hyping it up and then moaning about it.

The VGAs didn’t get it wrong, they got it exactly right. We’re getting it wrong.

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