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What's Really Wrong with the VGAs

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Posted by: Tate Steinlage

Leading up to Saturday night, I was anxiously awaiting the Video Game Awards (VGAs). You may wonder why, especially since past shows have proved to be nothing more than mediocre. But, with the Nerd Machine's Zachary Levi hosting and a fantastic lineup of games to celebrate, I expected the 2011 VGAs to make a statement that's been wished for several years. So there I was, laying in my hotel room with the tube set to SpikeTV, waiting to be impressed. Two hours later, I was simply disgusted; not only had the VGAs disappointed, they had somewhat slapped the gaming community in the face. 

Before I begin, let's start off with a disclaimer: There were several parts of the show in which I thoroughly enjoyed (which will be highlighted in the article). Nonetheless, this peice is simply detailing the glaring issues with the show, and what can be done to improve future ceremonies. Okay, with out of the way, let's begin. 

First off, the 2011 VGAs did not know its own identity. It's understood that the show is used to promote future games through trailers and announcements, but shouldn't the real reason of the VGAs be to celebrate the year in gaming? With titles like Skyrim, Modern Warfare 3, and Gears of War 3 having released, shouldn't the core focus of the show be to honor those games and their developers? I love action-packed, thrilling trailers as much as the next guy, but I also enjoy honoring titles that have already given me hours of exciting gameplay, which is what an awards ceremony is all about. Instead of hearing how developers created these massive, immersive games, we were treated with pointless skits and long, tiresome trailers--basically marketing us upcoming titles.

After reading past VGAs artcles, the main question raised was what made award shows like the Oscars and Grammys more of a spectacle than a video game awards show? The 2011 VGAs answered that question with one word: professionalism. Would you ever see an Oscar's host get tea bagged after handing out an award? No. That embarassing moment, which was directly after a genuine salute to the real soldiers of America, was not only unnecessary, but added to the stigmas of gamers: immature, childish, and just 40-year-olds who live in their parents' basements. Again, the VGAs should be used to highlight the year in gaming, not for entertainers like Charlie Sheen to talk about sex and drugs. 

VGA 2011 Zachary Levi Tea bagged

                                          These are your VGAs, folks 

Despite these unforgiveable flaws, this year's show had a few shining spots. Zachary Levi was unarguably the best host the VGAs have seen. Not only is the man a notoriously known celebrity, he is a hardcore, intellectual gamer. His hosting didn't seem awkward or scripted like past years, but genuine and filled with excitement. In addition, the show did an excellent job honoring the idols of the industry. Looking back at a series like Zelda was heartwarming, and surely had a younger generation of gamers looking at what their current games evolved from. The live music was once again stellar and probably had the crowd more enthused than any other moment of the night. 

The VGAs have improved drastically the past few years, but I can't help but think they took a direct step backwards after Saturday's showing. The show was less than an awards ceremony and more of a marketing gimmick. The VGAs cannot be taken seriously when the show doesn't see itself seriously. That forumla works in Saints Row: The Third,  but not in an awards show with milllions of viewers wanting to praise the sights and sounds of gaming. My hope is that these flaws can be addressed, even if it means completely redesigning the show. Frankly, the industry and community deserves better. 

You can follow Tate Steinlage on Twitter - @SteinlageT

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