What the Video Game Awards Could Do Better Next Year

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Spike TV’s annual Video Game Awards are generally mocked by those familiar with the industry and largely ignored by anyone else. Yet for the fourth year in a row, I found myself watching every minute of the show last weekend. I know I wasn’t alone; most of my gaming friends were watching too, as well as following the coverage on the internet as it happened. There were a few highlights, I’ll admit, and it’s come a long way since body painting on bikini babes, but for the most part, the 2010 VGAs were still pretty embarrassing. There’s a ton of room for improvement, and if the gaming industry ever wants to be taken seriously by mainstream TV-watching audiences, it’s going to have to shape up.

To start, can we please try to remember that the VGAs are, first and foremost, an awards show, at least theoretically? With the exception of Game of the Year, most of the awards were glazed over as quickly as possible, which is a real shame. There were some games I didn’t even realize had won awards, and I watched the entire show! How about less time watching pretty but clueless girls in tiny dresses babble about nonsense, and more time celebrating the people who worked so hard and deserve this kind of recognition? I would love it if the awards weren't treated like afterthoughts next year, and I'm guessing that all of those who bothered to vote for the winners probably feel the same.

The award categories could use an overhaul, too. It was nice to see that nothing was “fueled by Dew” this year, but there are still some silly throwaway awards that don’t need to be in there. Most Anticipated Game is probably the dumbest of all, especially since some of the biggest games of 2011 weren’t even announced until after the nominees for the award were revealed. Also, unless the nominees are going to be system exclusives only, let's not waste time with Best 360, PS3, and Wii categories. Instead, Spike should allow more genres to be recognized, so that platformers don’t have to be shoved into the Action/Adventure category. One more nitpick: if you want to award voice-actors, that’s great, but how about giving recognition to voice actors that aren’t Hollywood celebrities? I love Nathan Fillion and all, but he was in Halo: Reach for about five minutes. Were there really no other noteworthy male performances this year?

Another suggestion should be painfully obvious, but apparently it’s not to the producers at Spike TV: how about getting some people from the video game industry up on stage? The brief amount of time actually dedicated to accepting awards just doesn’t cut it. The gaming industry has its own celebrities, and we don’t need to see TV or movie stars onstage—they get more than enough coverage in their own industries. As a lifelong gamer, I'm not tuning in to see that dude from Lost or My Chemical Romance. I can understand the need for some high profile faces to rope in a bigger TV audience, but let’s give the gaming industry some recognition, all right? After all, this is supposed to be their night. While we’re at it, let’s fill the audience with actual gamers next year. There was more cheering coming from my viewing party than the people at the show when Batman: Arkham City and Uncharted 3 were revealed, which is just sad.

Speaking of those big reveals, those moments were the highlights of the show, and they were few and far between. For many viewers, the teaser trailers and long-awaited announcements were the only reasons to watch the VGAs. Let’s have more of that! We need more big news, more trailers, and more excitement over what’s coming up in the industry. Just because "Most Anticipated Game" should be abolished as an awards category doesn't mean we can't continue to get excited about everything coming out in the foreseeable future. The show's December air date is the perfect time to capitalize on that anticipation, since it precedes every major gaming press event of the new year.

Finally, for the love of all things holy, Spike needs to get better writers. Whoever wrote this year’s horrible jokes should not only be fired, but banned from ever talking about the gaming industry again in any regard. When presenters are cringing and apologizing for what they’re reading off the teleprompters, there’s a big problem. I've seen jokes flop at the Oscars and Emmys, but never like they bombed at the VGAs on Saturday night. Again, how about getting a team of writers who actually work in the gaming industry? Then maybe the whole thing won’t be such an awkward mess.

While some gamers are suggesting that Spike TV do away with the Video Game Awards entirely, I believe that the show still can still be fixed, but only if the producers behind it admit that it’s broken. If you’re wondering why you should care, try to remember that this is the only mainstream coverage the gaming industry gets all year. This is how we’re represented to audiences unfamiliar with gaming, and we’re never going to eradicate the stereotype of gamers as immature man-children if we can’t put together a more respectable awards ceremony.

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Shirley Chase
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