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Dear industry, grow up: Why the VGAs aren’t the problem

Monday, 19th December 2011 06:40 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Ragging on the VGAs is the in thing, but Nathan Grayson intends to call the critics out for their complicity in a wider-reaching problem.

I don’t think the VGAs should change in the slightest. And, quite frankly, they never will – not unless Spike TV suddenly transforms into the Monocoles and Competitive Crocheting network, anyway. But really, that’s not the issue. See, Spike’s show wouldn’t even exist – let alone possess this level of clout – without some of the biggest movers-and-shakers in the industry supporting it with all their might.

I watched a man get tea-bagged on national television a few Saturdays ago. Willingly.

Why, you ask? Well, because videogames, of course. For that very same reason, I also devoted precious eyeball fluid to Charlie Sheen’s least relevant shenanigans yet, attempted to gnaw off my own ears during a torrent of terrible “jokes” (most of them hurled in fear to stave off the encroaching threat that is “female”), and nearly face-palmed myself into a coma as countless clueless celebrities stumbled across the stage like lost sheep. Speaking of farm animals, there was also a cow for some reason.

Unlike our very own The Internet’s Johnny Cullen, however, I don’t think the VGAs should change in the slightest. And, quite frankly, they never will — not unless Spike TV suddenly transforms into the Monocoles and Competitive Crocheting network, anyway. But really, that’s not the issue. See, Spike’s show wouldn’t even exist – let alone possess this level of clout – without some of the biggest movers-and-shakers in the industry supporting it with all their might.

And why, pray tell, do they willingly put their ad money where Spike’s putrid, bile-spewing mouth is? Simple: you.

Occupy VGA street
“Spike should do it this way, Spike should do it that way,” you comment and tweet and shout. It happens every year, too – like clockwork. First, the pre-VGA hype hoopla sets in, and everyone noisily devours whatever morsels of info fall from Spike’s promotional table. Then they all gather around their TV sets, fingers crossed that – finally – this will be the year when everyone’s favorite network for Mountain-Dew-guzzling manchildren grows up. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. It never does.

But then you lose me. The show ends, the credits roll, and the Internet’s mightiest keyboard warriors rehash their favorite battle cry: “The VGAs need to change! Spike should use this as a chance to elevate games as a medium!”

I’m sorry, what? Are we talking about the same television network here? Spike has made a business – one that has stayed afloat throughout multiple “tough economic climates” – by appealing to a very specific audience. Is it smart, cultured, or even the least bit tasteful? Hell no. But it works. And — hideously depressing as it may be — it probably rakes in a whole hell of a lot more cash than thoughtful chin-stroking and less than three dick jokes per minute. So why should Spike fix what isn’t broken because we’ve suddenly decided – for one night, in between looking at “top ten gaming asses” lists and screaming at each other on forums about MW3 and BF3 – that games are high art?

It’s not Spike’s duty to give “core” gaming’s stereotypical image a makeover. That job belongs to, you know, the gaming industry.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not defending Spike TV. It is undoubtedly a cesspit, capable of spewing out nothing but shame, misery, and exciting new opportunities for “the producers of Jersey Shore.” But it’s not Spike’s duty to give “core” gaming’s stereotypical image a makeover. That job belongs to, you know, the gaming industry. The publishers. The marketers. Yet they continue to save their biggest guns for the year’s most juvenile award show. Why? Well, that’s the part that makes my skin crawl: Because – on some level – they believe this is the most effective way to reach core gamers.

That’s the real tragedy in this incredibly depressing state of affairs. Many of the folks deciding which games get the cash-hued greenlight and which ones go back to the drawing board because their main characters aren’t bald or white enough look at the VGAs and say, “Yeah, my audience enjoys that. They’ll pay attention to that. They’ll give me a cut of their hard-earned money for games that debuted during that.” So the industry shacks up with Spike TV year-in and year-out because it doesn’t think its consumers are any better. It’s trapped in an abusive, broken relationship.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t, that is what it means to me
So then, the big boogeyman of a question: Does the “core” portion of the gaming industry deserve respect? Of course it does. Many developers pour their hearts and souls into these games, and plenty of fans are mature, well-adjusted people.

But look at how some of us behave. My “top ten asses” and BF3 vs MW3 examples may have been extreme, but that also means that they’re the most visible. On top of that, our communities — while slowly improving — aren’t the most accepting of folks who aren’t straight white males between the ages of 18 and 34 (see: rampant sexism, racial slurs, etc on Xbox Live; the recent “Gaymer” controversy).

From the outside looking in, we’re not critical or thoughtful. We’re just loud, misogynistic, and easily distracted by bright lights and pretty colors. Is it any wonder that publishers and marketing types (and even some developers) think we’ll stick to the VGAs like flies to a steaming heap of dung?

If this industry doesn’t respect itself, no one else will. We can’t beg for “artistic legitimacy” or what have you and leave it at that. Actions speak far, far louder than words, and right now we’re all dropping the ball. There’s no single guilty party here — least of all Spike TV. Everyone’s to blame.

If this industry doesn’t respect itself, no one else will. The damning mainstream “news” reports and cringe-worthy ads marketed toward “gamers” won’t take a hike unless we boot them out the door. We can’t beg for “artistic legitimacy” or what have you and leave it at that. Actions speak far, far louder than words, and right now we’re all dropping the ball. “Core” gamers are acting like loud, entitled children, and publishers are essentially waggling shiny car keys in their faces and speaking in babytalk. There’s no single guilty party here — least of all Spike TV. Everyone’s to blame.

Core gaming’s made some incredible strides in the past few years. The era of bleeps, bloops, and pixelated-princess-rescuing is ancient history. Growing up, however, doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and the core gaming still has a lot to learn.

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21 Comments

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  1. Stardog

    Game reviewers need to grow up too. Shit blockbusters still consistently get 80+/100 scores, whereas movie blockbusters get less than 50/100.

    “easily distracted by bright lights and pretty colors” says it all.

    Even some of the most well-written games would be some of the worst hollywood b-movies.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. The_Red

    Great read but how can industry itself grow? A really big chunk of business comes from those sad racist, sexist manchilds that devour crap from Spike. Those that want to respect games as high art and praise likes of Okami or El Shaddai are a really small minority… hence the horrible sales of those games while the next FPS with bald marine and teabaggin sells hundreds of millions.

    @1, Truly agreed.
    I was checked a little game called Magicka. It was mindblowingly crazy with rather innovative spell making focus. It was honestly one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had but was destroyed by reviewers because the first version was buggy and YET, a game like Skyrim which is unplayable on PS3 and has millions of bugs on PC, gets all the perfect 10s on both of those platforms.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. back_up

    more than 5 mn witcher 2,4mn mafia 2,4 mn starcraft 2 and list goes on
    industry cannot grow unless they stop making PC games

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Samuel

    What’s with all this backlash-to-the-VGAs-backlash that I’m seeing everywhere now? Just because everyone hates the VGAs, suddenly now the cool position to take is that they shouldn’t be hated? No, the VGAs are horrible. The complaining is justified. Not saying Spike should suddenly turn it into the “Monocles and Crocheting” show either, I know that’s not what they do. But there’s no denying that what they are now is genuinely awful.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Mike

    The very definition of community means that EVERYONE shoulders some kind of responsibly. Spike, Keighley, Publishers, gamers, journalists. No-one is exempt. To pass the buck in terms of “who’s to blame” is missing the point.

    Which is basically what Nathan has said.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. The_Red

    @4 I don’t think Nathan is saying that VGAs shouldn’t be hated or even attacked. It’s that they are NOT the problem. The whole network is like that regardless of their one single video game show. Even if an Oscar / academy award worthy show for classy films made it into Spike, they would still find ways to inject teabagging and other crap.

    It’s like Jersey Shore. It’s one of the most horrible things in existence but the real problem is the people that enjoy it along with the culture that supports it.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Aimless

    @4 I suggest you read past the pull quotes. At no point does Nathan suggest the show isn’t to be reviled — quite the opposite, in fact — but its existence is symptomatic of a larger issue.

    The industry does an excellent job of killing credibility all by itself, Spike’s just an opportunistic scavenger.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @1: That has little to do with growing up, but everything to do with corruption.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Ireland Michael

    Sad thing Nathan is that’s you’re completely right.

    Let’s be honest, the gamers are just as much as to blame as the media and industry itself. Companies *would* produce more thoughtful, original games IF PEOPLE ACTUALLY BOTHERED TO BUY THEM!

    This is why movie studios create their own indie studios, and many music companies own a series of smaller music labels.

    Because they know two things – 1) While people are busy buying Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber albums, there’s still money to be made out of independent ideas, and 2) An industry needs creativity to survive, or else its stagnates. Believe it or not, there was a time when setting a first person shooter in a modern wartime setting was a… gasp… unheard of idea! This is how “the next big thing”s are discovered.

    As much as people like to tote around the figures that there are just as many female gamers as there are male, and that the average age of gamers is late 20s, early 30s, this industry is still showered by adolescent, juvenile children who can’t construct a single decent argument and bitch about the stupidest, most pointless thing, like format preference and graphics.

    Do you see people in the movie and music culture swamping metacritic sites and blasting out low scores like a venomous army because one or two people highlighted a problem with a game on a popular website? No you do not.

    Do you see fans in other media’s hoarding together to create meaningless Internet petitions because of utterly insignificant things, only to be perusing that very product six months later? No you do not.

    Like Nathan so succinctly put it… grow up.

    It doesn’t help in the slightest that idiots like Jim Sterling and Yahtzee as some of the most prominent faces of our medium. They do nothing but create a horrible, childish image for all of us. Nobody is going to ever take gaming seriously if we’re not willing to take it seriously ourselves.

    Where is this medium’s Roger Ebert? Why are reviewers identities hidden behind magazine’s names? Why is our entire media financially supported by the industry we’re supposed to be analysing and judging?

    It’s an absolute fucking mess. There’s so many fucking problems, and nobody is trying to fix any of them.

    Why? Because money.

    And because children. Our hobby is utterly swamped with obnoxious, violent, verbally abusive children. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.

    #9 3 years ago
  10. AHA-Lambda

    “So why should Spike fix what isn’t broken because we’ve suddenly decided – for one night, in between looking at “top ten gaming asses” lists and screaming at each other on forums about MW3 and BF3 – that games are high art?”

    citizenkaneclap.gif

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Freek

    Blockbuster movie does not automaticly equal bad movie, and neither does blockbuster game equal bad game.
    Some are bad some are good, but judge it on it’s own merrits and not wether or not it is popular.

    Not everything must be thought provoking and super deep. A nice action movie or shooting game has as much right to exists as Hugo and Shadow of the Collussus. Both types of movies/games provide quality entertainment just in different ways.
    And the indy game scene is alive and kicking in games aswell.

    Ofcourse Spike TV will not acuratly represent that range of entertainment and neither does it need to.

    What people want is what the movie industrie has. You have the simpel entertainment of the MTV Movie Awards but you also the more respectfull Oscars. Yes, also commercial, but not so crass and simpel.

    Spike TV can go ahead and keep hosting the VGA’s we just need some other more respecfull awards show to share the attention.

    @9 And yes, you do see idiotic fans in every media obbsess just as badely as the extreme fans in games. You only have to look at Harry Potter and Twilight for that.
    You have weird fans everywhere, they are not the problem.
    And perhaps you should follow your own advice because with all the swearing you sound like the silly man children you seem to hate so much.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. sb319

    I have to say, these little VG247 soapbox articles are bloody tedious. I assume they are designed to be contentious and attract more traffic, but they are awful. Stick with what you’re good at.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. Psychotext

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s another 50 years before gaming grows up… if it manages it at all.

    #13 3 years ago
  14. ManuOtaku

    I dont know, but how it is possible to mature this industry when is based on the fun factor?, i mean we can have very profound games, intellectually and story wise, but the main core is to have fun, i dont know how we can mature something related with have fun?, and something that needs kids, teneegers, etc in order to keep growing, that is a very difficult thing to do, besides all the good points made in this topic, i think it will be really hard to achive.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. minxamo

    The people arguing over their Top Ten Asses and BF3 vs MW3 are as bad as the VGA twats, they’re not ‘core gamers’, they’re fucking IGN visitors.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. Psychotext

    “i mean we can have very profound games, intellectually and story wise, but the main core is to have fun, i dont know how we can mature something related with have fun?”

    Leaving games aside, fun to a teenager is very different to what I’d personally define as fun (in my 30s). A mature gaming industry should be able to handle pretty much all age ranges (instead of pretty much only targeting 10 – 35 until very recently).

    I will say that the DS and Wii have done a hell of a lot to open up gaming to a much wider demographic though.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. Ireland Michael

    @11 Not everything must be thought provoking and super deep. A nice action movie or shooting game has as much right to exists as Hugo and Shadow of the Collussus. Both types of movies/games provide quality entertainment just in different ways.”

    This is completely true, but it’s an issue of moderation that the’s problem. I would say it isn’t a far exaggeration to say that a good 90% of the games released right now appeal almost exclusively to young male power fantasies, and nothing more.

    “And perhaps you should follow your own advice because with all the swearing you sound like the silly man children you seem to hate so much.”

    I will let the wonderfully amiable Stephen Fry respond to this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_osQvkeNRM

    @12 These were done because people wanted them. If you don’t like ‘em, don’t read ‘em.

    #17 3 years ago
  18. DSB

    I loved that article so much I felt like throwing my fist in the air and uttering some kind of loud token of agreement.

    I think the missed aspect is perhaps that a lot of games are sold to minors. There’s no way around it, and there’s nothing truly wrong with it. It’s been that way since the dawn of videogames, but the difference now is that every marketing executive worth half a fuck knows that tweens hold way more money than the average whiny pseudo-intellectual, and what really significes a tween more than loving humor they percieve as being too mature for them to be exposed to? In a tweens mind that means everything their mom hates, from sexual references to bad language.

    It’s not a “bad” show in terms of the people it’s intended for, it’s just intended for people 10 years younger than most who are capable of writing proper english on a site like this.

    The growing up debate is one of the sadder idiosyncracies of gaming. I don’t remember ever hearing of it until we reached the 00′s and people became so obsessed with seeing themselves on the internet that the flow of their consciousness suddenly became a cause in itself, and peculiar gripes like that became something to rally around, if only so you could keep perpetuating it.

    I straddle the fence myself. I love to see games like The Witcher 2 or especially Portal 2 challenge the more “established” mediums on writing, pacing and fundamentally good storytelling. It’s great to see gaming finally making advances towards that, but at the same time gaming for me is still as much cartoons as it is art film.

    I don’t remember anyone talking about growing up when they were playing Mario or Bubble Bobble or fricken BraveStarr on the CMD64. Ultimately I’m still entertained, and while I enjoy seeing games evolve in all sorts of directions, that’s really all I need from the medium.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. ManuOtaku

    #18 “gaming for me is still as much cartoons as it is art film”.

    Exactly, I know iam not everybody, and maybe the things i do like apply to others or dont, but since my childhood i love videgoames because they are like interactive cartoons, with great artistic graphics that made me travel to those worlds, and now is the same thing, iam afraid of real graphics in games, i mean seeing real people in games like they are walking on my everyday life streets, i will prefer well done cartoonish look games like we have today, for instance uncharted, it has characters with a great lifelike animation, but in the end in my eyes they keep the cartoonish look, and i like it, therefore this indicates that although iam an older person, my inner child still likes this, and also i like anime, cartoons like the simpsons and reading comics and manga, therefore my old me still likes this kind of things like if i was a kid, therefore i have my old me and my inner kid intwertine, which maybe also happens to a lot of gamers.

    Which also lead me to the question i have with this, if the industry aims at the inner kids of older gamers (not OG) 8D; as well as kid gamers, and that is also based at its core on the fun factor, how can the industry mature? i think that will be really hard to achive, because is the way this industry is IMHO.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. Aimless

    @14 I don’t think “fun” is the right word. Games need to be engaging, but that doesn’t require what you’re doing to be pleasant or enjoyable in the typical sense; survival horror games are the obvious example.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. GwynbleiddiuM

    Kudos, I watched VGAs and I felt embarrassed by it, but I told myself it happened because the industry doesn’t take itself seriously and respect itself as much as I hope to.

    #21 3 years ago