I've always found The Game Awards to be slightly depressing, because of their tendency to hype (both in reveals and in awards) identity-less competitive AAA games, but this year I felt that my frustrations with the show were more acute than that.
2020 wasn't a cheerful year for the video games industry. I don't mean COVID. This year, it came out that Ubisoft was a cesspit of abuse, we learned of crunch at multiple prominent studios (notably CDPR and Naughty Dog, correct me if I'm wrong), and most importantly, as it turns out,the three big companies that form the backbone of the entire console game industry have no qualms profiting from genocide and forced labor.
2020 should have been a year of reckoning for the industry.
Instead, we aggressively normalized everything. No change, no accountability, no protesting, not even meaningful controversy. Speaking collectively, """ethics in gaming journalism""" (/s) provoked a greater upset in the Western gaming community at large than widespread worker abuse; hell, even just thinking of the PS5, the lack of stock was the chief controversy about it this year. People were angry about not being able to give money to a company that profits off of forced labor.
The Game Awards encapsulates this kind of uncritical, self-obsessed celebration of the industry. There was not a single negative word uttered in the entire conference, no acknowledgement of what goes (or went) wrong in the industry, the only meaningful commentary in the entire show is perhaps the Innovation in Accessibility award. Besides that, TGA can still do some good- indie awards and showcases- but very little of that is because TGA as an institution, organization or show actually has a meaningful stance to take on anything.
TGA joyfully promotes anything and everything about gaming, with no heed to consequence.
As you might be aware, The Last Of Us Part 2 dominated the awards this year, breaking a record with 7 awards. Among those are Best Direction and Game of the Year. As was known since March, Naughty Dog subjects its employees to crunch. Last year, the same show (famously) hosted Keanu Reeves in a Cyberpunk 2077 promo, another game created through crunch. TGA promotes, endorses and legitimizes crunch.
TGA also promotes a bevy of games and companies that harm people in the industry. EA with its predatory monetization got ads, Ubisoft with its rampant sexual abuse got GOTY nominations (AC Valhalla), as well as a whole host of games (e.g. Rocket League) that profit off of microtransactions.
Awards are endorsements, for the games and for the companies that created them. The Game Awards does not acknowledge this responsibility, opting instead to legitimize the institutional ills of the industry.
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