I find it a little bit depressing that the video game industry is so obsessed with endlessly hyping games that haven’t come out, that even on the night of the only major video game award ceremony, the majority of air time is dedicated to trailers for upcoming titles instead of actually focusing on the awards.
While I have qualms with the Oscars, and think people put far to much cache in the Academy’s selections, it still feels like these sorts of ceremonies are good for meeting the bare minimum of introspection. Instead, each year the Game Awards is just an extension of publisher’s advertising campaigns.
While we have are generally a culture of hype over discussion, this feels particularly egregious with the world of gaming. In reality there are a lot of sites and writers out there tackling games from interesting perspectives, digging into themes, and even just talking about what makes certain mechanics work, but it takes some digging to find them, and they feel far outside of the cultural zeitgeist.
I get it, games are exceedingly expensive, many people view them as fun escapism instead of more “serious art”, and there isn’t really a well dilineated line between game journalism and publisher marketing, but it still feels a little ridiculous.
I never really thought I’d be defending the pomp and circumstance of award ceremonies, but the fact we don’t even have one that is fully dedicated to respecting the creators of these massive undertakings is disappointing. With all of the investigative journalism done into the world of game development, it has become exceedingly apparent that making games is often a nightmare, and the fact that the actual awards are pushed to the side here feels downright disrespectful.
Any thoughts on this?
(P.S. for game crit recommendations, I would personally point people towards Vice Gaming/ The Waypoint Podcast, Critical Distance(summarizes articles weekly), Unwinnable, Paste, Polygon, Kotaku sometimes, and Gamasutra. Film Critic Hulk primarily writes about film and tv but he covers games ocassionally as welll. Of course Jason Schreier for investigative journalism. There’s also plenty of great Youtubers like Super Bunny Hop, Joseph Anderson, and many more)
This got a lot more attention than I was expecting! Coming back to this after my post-TGA salt has subsided and after reading some comments I want to reframe some of my argument and point out some things.
First off, I think it’s fair that we can’t quite equivocate a lack of interest in an award show with a lack of interest in thinking and talking about games critically. As someone who actually hates award shows like the Oscars, and complains every year about how they fail to properly showcase foreign films, animation, and make the most boring picks imaginable, I want to clarify I don’t actually like these things all that much to begin with. I also want to reiterate that I do think there is good game crit, and that there are people out there covering games in interesting ways.
BUT, that doesn’t change the fact that TGA is a bit of a joke. It highlights the video game industries’ hype culture and our collective obsession over the next thing in a way that I find gauling. Personally I’m sick of sizzle reels, cinematic trailers, and the fact that I know probably hundred of games in the back of my mind that are coming out. Who cares! If the thing is good, I’ll see the reviews when it comes out and I can actually play it. I’m so sick of waiting in rapt anticipation literal years as my backlog swells into this unmanageable disaster.
I watch a lot of movies, but I find it so easy to just sort of ignore most of the hype around upcoming releases. Sure there’s trailers that I’ll see before a screening, but I don’t think film critics really obsess over the upcoming release the same way gaming media outlets do. I also think these game trailers are often misleading, leading to disastrous situations like the release of No Man’s Sky. Another big problem is that games are announced so damn early. I really wish I didn’t l know that Elden Ring exists because now it has become this weird source of angst for me. I will admit that I do end up seeking out all of these trailers via E3, etc and I’m part of the problem, but if you follow games it feels hard to avoid how much coverage is given to things that are not even close to release. I understand why this is is case to some extent. Games are expensive to make and time consuming to play, so it makes sense to get player bases riled up ahead of time. I’m also aware that sometimes trailers are shown so early to prevent these games from becoming vaporware. But, overall I just wish that at the very least games were announced far closer to their releases.
This is made more egregious in the case of the TGAs because these trailers are being shown on a night that is theoretically supposed to be honoring the devs who created them. I can tell from the comments that this isn’t really why most people watch award shows, but to me all the pageantry and pomp is justified by those emotional moments where some screen writer only film buffs have heard of gets to go up in front of millions of viewers and spill their heart out. It’s great! I think its kind of awesome that we live in a world where my parents know who Bong Joon Ho is because of these ceremonies.
Lastly I just want to point out that these more “prestigious” awards do exist. The BAFTAs has a seperate ceremony for games, DICE has awards, and there are others. But, like I mentioned one of my favorite aspects about the the film industries award shows is that large swaths of people who don’t know really think about how the sausage is made are exposed to the names of directors, screenwriters, and cinematographers. The existence of the Oscars is one of the things that helped me get into watching film in the first place. Yes, award ceremonies are terrible, always get it wrong, are a self-congratulatory pats on the back, and are always marketing. But I really believe they can be a gateway into thinking more about how these things are made, and getting past the point where you only recognize movies by the actors on the poster. But in the case of TGA, it’s so nakedly just about adding fuel to the endless hype machine. I’m sick of it.
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