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VGAs 2012: a new hope (despite the Newell gaffe)

Saturday, 8th December 2012 13:29 GMT By Catherine Cai

Two steps forward, one step back. Last night’s VGAs showed reason to hope for a respectable awards event in the years to come. They might want to leave Garry out of it next time, though. Catherine Cai reports from LA.

Despite the GameStop-endorsed goody codes and Jessica Alba’s wince-worthy, half-heartedly delivered monologue about her alleged addiction to Super Mario, this year’s VGAs gained some credibility by recognizing the existence of indie games.

The criticisms hurled at the VGAs for their commerciality and superficiality have long been established. From the Hollywood-loaned stars wandering the red carpet to the Mountain Dew endorsements, the VGAs are the video games industry’s attempt at a legitimate awards show to match the likes of the Grammys or the Oscars. Fittingly, the entire event is hosted at Sony’s extravagant production studio in LA, sandwiched between movie sets and Wheel of Fortune.

This year, the VGAs reached pre-pubescence by turning ten. In doing so, they decided to grow up a little.

In years past, the VGAs have attempted to juggle the glitz and glam of other mainstream awards shows with puerile humor, and failed dismally at both. This year was no different. Movie, TV and music stars were still paraded as red carpet attractions in an effort to bring in mainstream attention (since the industry doesn’t have any A-list celebrities of its own), and immature jokes were still thrown in for cheap laughs.

Yet, despite the GameStop-endorsed goody codes and Jessica Alba’s wince-worthy, half-heartedly delivered monologue about her alleged addiction to Super Mario, this year’s VGAs gained some credibility by recognizing the existence of indie games. Not one, but two – thatgamecompany’s Journey and Telltale’s The Walking Dead – won big at the ceremony. Two indie titles being nominated for the Game of the Year Award and one of them actually winning – over the likes of Assassin’s Creed 3, Dishonored, and Mass Effect 3, no less – is an enormous step up from last year’s show, where indie games were quietly recognized in a giant list of awards barely given ten seconds of air time.

If the endorsements of The Walking Dead and Journey are an indication of anything, it’s the mainstream culture recognition and acceptance of indie games, and, almost certainly, of video games in general.

But, though this year’s awards get a gold star for being the best in recent memory, it doesn’t mean that the show’s producers ought to clap themselves on the backs, congratulate each other for a job well done, and stick to the same formula. Improvement doesn’t necessarily mean a job well done.

Slapping on the gloss

For one, a breather from the in-your-face endorsements and borrowed celebrities would be nice. Understandably, generating the required hype and views to keep something like the VGAs going requires a touch of Tenacious D and a smattering of bad “Sam” Jackson jokes. But while there was no complete rehash of the tactic of quickly skipping through numerous awards in an effort to make more time for the entertainment from 2011, plenty of awards were still glossed over in favor of the acts. How many more awards could have actually gotten screen time had Snoop Lion not been given his excessive entrance to the stage? One of the major things that hold the VGAs back from being recognized as a respected awards show is that its emphasis has never been on the awards.

Yep. It happened.

It also might be high time to do without the immature jokes. Sure, this year didn’t feature the tea-bagging Call of Duty soldier or the pointless pseudo-Japanese game show, but the incessant Samuel Jackson jokes, though somewhat chuckle-worthy at first, became agitating and pointless. We get it. Samuel Jackson likes video games and is a badass who can therefore be bad at kicking ass in video games. We get it. That’s not to say that the VGAs ought to do adopt a serious tone, but the puerile humor doesn’t reflect well on the image of the industry. At the ripe age of ten, it’s time to put on the big boy pants and grow up.

Finding a side-screen host who’s confident in their authority on games might also be a good move. One of the biggest facepalm moments of the show was when Alison Haislip of Attack of the Show! fame called Gabe Newell ‘Garry‘ and didn’t bother to correct herself until hours later via Twitter (to an account that isn’t actually Gabe Newell.) Though on-screen slip ups are understandable and do happen, one probably does not call one of the most recognizable people in games by the wrong name. The side-screen featured the likes of Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo and IGN’s Casey Lynch: why not have someone of the same caliber step in and host the show?

VGA 2012 was a step forward. Not a hugely progressive one, but the show’s producers should be lauded for taking criticisms of last year’s show to heart. The VGAs of 2011 left me unsure of whether or not I wanted to revisit this year. Fortunately, the minor improvements that have been made leave me optimistic of better changes come 2013. In a few years, the VGAs could be the awards show the industry actually wants and respects. There’s still hope.

VGAs 2012 took place last night in Los Angeles. Get full news coverage here.

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26 Comments

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  1. Sal Romano

    Nicely written, Cat. Can’t say I disagree. In short, the show could do with more awards and less skits/celebrities. Remember, this is supposed to be a night for the developers who work so hard to create the games we play. I think we owe them a little more respect.

    I could also do without all the F-bombs. A games journalist hosting the show doesn’t sound like a bad idea, if they choose the right person.

    Oh, and just a correction: “One of the biggest facepalm moments of the show was when Alison Haislip of Attack of the Show! fame called Gabe Newell ‘Garry‘ and didn’t bother to correct herself until hours later via Twitter.”

    She actually corrected herself like a minute later. See here – http://www.spike.com/netstorage/events/video-game-awards/live/ – around 2:53:30.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Razor

    loooooooooooooool, Garry.

    Still glad I went to bed, though. Tho tbh I think I’m getting a little bit old to be staying awake all night just to watch some game awards.

    Oh, to be 18 again.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. KAP

    vg247 is complaining that Jessica Alba qoute on being a fan of Super Mario wasn’t convincing enough…?!

    smfh guys.

    Jessica Alba, where ever you are, thank you for turning up and making 99.9% of the women there look ugly (and they all knew it too) compared to you luv’

    Dudes, really! I found this years show a great surprise from previous years, shown new trailers and well deserved awards and have a generally laugh out loud moments that didn’t take it self too seriously.

    And Sam Jackson’s a legend.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. scott_wright

    so the British Academy Video Games Awards isnt a thing then? oh wait..it is. And its very much like the Oscars…or the BAFTAs.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Keivz

    I agree with KAP. Plenty of lol moments. And it was nice to see Jessica Alba again. Having said that, I think a more serious tone with more time dedicated to well produced/cinematic moments of games from the past year would go along way. And maybe through in a developer’s corner where backstories are provided on some of the development teams.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. RPRezo

    >>VGAs are the video games industry’s attempt at a legitimate awards show to match the likes of the Grammys or the Oscars.

    No it’s not. And the faster you guys will understand this, the faster this yearly nonsence-reviews will stop.

    VGA is MTV Movie Awards of Video Games. Both in style AND in substance. For example, awards in both are decided by viewers, not by some group of professionals (something you seem to miss completely). So no, VGAs didn’t “recognize the existence of indie games” – we did.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Erthazus

    Gary Newell… Okay.

    Maybe she thought about Garry’s mod? LOL Stupid bitch.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. roadkill

    What a bad joke! I can’t believe that some of you support this kind of events.

    edit: Then again most of you buy Call of Duty games so it kind of makes sense.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. PEYJ

    They’re somehow still trying to immitate the movie industry when they bring in film actors like Jack Black and Samuel Jackson and more, and it’s really not doing anything progressive for the industry. Instead it should find it’s own commercial voice so to speak and let gaming talent present the shows. Like if Nolan North and Jenniffer Hale hosted the show for instance. It seems as if they desperately want’s to look like the movie industrys cool (read: self indulgent) younger cousin.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. SlayerGT

    I voted for Borderlands in every possible category because I was bribed…by Shift Codes ;) Thanks Randy! Seriously though is that morally legit? I don’t feel dirty. Journey and BL2 were the only games I liked at the show anyhow. Aww who cares! You should see this E-tech Tediore I got! Its badass!

    #10 2 years ago
  11. catherinecai

    @1: You’re 100% right! I missed it the bustle! My bad!

    #11 2 years ago
  12. DSB

    When I look at something like the VGAs, I see people trying to sell me stuff, not people taking pride in, or celebrating anything.

    Instead of doing something to capture the imagination, they show you trailers for stuff that someone wants you to buy. It’s sad, and I really don’t see how that’s taking anything anywhere.

    Then again I guess it is a pretty decent reflection of the industry.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. GwynbleiddiuM

    ^ /respect

    #13 2 years ago
  14. SplatteredHouse

    I enjoyed the attempts to tie memorable video game soundtrack themes, with the live orchestra, into proceedings. The medley to acknowledge the GOTY nominees was impressive, and I liked the treatment (albeit in the pre-show) of the showing of the winning animation about the “life” of a Sentry turret in TF2. DO find and watch that.

    I thought the TWD “I’m Sam Jackson” skit was funny…After that, the ancillary stuff (and the rest of the pieces he starred in) fell back too much, and the show settled into a lull of ratio in too many breaks, to awards presented. That the show didn’t end with “and one more thing…!” instead another TD performance sort of left it lacking. I have no clue what Snoop was doing. My mind zoned out during his bit…Reggae or something, and he likes TTT.

    Most awkward-looking appearance by a celebrity award went to the cast of AMC’s TWD…Good grief! Again, the interview kept to the pre-show, but “Glenn” (Stephen Yeun) especially had a rabbit in the headlights look about him. Celeb appearance of the evening, goes to Marlon Wayans. He was featured a few times, and I found him entertaining, and acting as if he understood his audience when he spoke.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. The_Red

    @14
    Agreed about the music pieces. I specially enjoyed two of them (GOTY noms and Last of Us).

    Overall, the show was better than usual. There were some cringe worthy parts (Jessica Alba’s speech was horrible… Poor Dark Souls 2) but it was ages better than previous shows.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. An Aside

    If we’re talking indie games, you’ve forgotten Sound Shapes winning both best handheld title (which was interesting in itself, considering it’s also on the PS3) and best song in a game for “Cities.”

    Apart from that, I just really want to know if dear old Sam has played half of the games he was put in skits for.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. kupocake

    @6 That’s definitely true, and it serves its purpose… the real problem is, there is currently no alternative that holds the position of the Academy Awards or the Grammys to counter it (there are decent awards shows, but none of them have made the inroads into the public consciousness that prestigious awards shows in other media have, or the VGAs very nearly have).

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Ireland Michael

    In fairness to Alison Haislip, its safe to say she’s a genuine gamer and the name thing was obviously just a slip up.

    God knows it was a step up for everything they’ve ever done before, but it still has a long way to go. Here’s hoping next year with keep the quality going upwards, instead of downwards.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Shuklar

    Who the fuck expects quality and class from a SpikeTV production? They’re nothing but rednecks, just like their viewers. It’s ironic that they’re attempting to provide awards for quality when they have none of their own.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Ireland Michael

    @19 Tarring everyone with the same brush while claiming an imposed sense of superiority…

    …is that you, Da Man?

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Shuklar

    @20 just pointing out how ridiculous it is to care about this. It’s like the City of Detroit attempting to hand out awards for literacy.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. mathare92

    @6 – VGA is MTV Movie Awards of Video Games.

    This. I’m quite sure there’ll never be a point where we actually compare this loud sideshow to things like the Grammys or Oscars.

    For people interested in actually legitimate, grown-up games awards shows, my first suggestions would be the GDC Choice Awards or the BAFTAs.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. roadkill

    @19 +1

    #23 2 years ago
  24. The Auracle

    Catherine, you make some valid points and I wish I could share your optimism where the VGAs are concerned. Sadly though, I can’t. Here’s why:

    Exhibit A: The celebrity obsession. There are plenty of actors, musicians, and otherwise popular figures that deserve to champion video games and gamers. Jessica Alba and [as much as I'm a fan of him] Samuel L. Jackson are not those people. Why not bring in some actors and musicians that have actually worked on a game and/or play themselves? Alba may love Mario but what does she have on Felicia Day? Jackson may be a bad ass but what has he got on Jack Black?

    Exhibit B: The VGAs have always had this incredibly patronising tone to their presentation. The way they focus on the glitz and glamour and parade it around in the face of gamers is revolting. It’s as if they play on the whole stereotype of gamers being socially inept and devoid of talent away from the keyboard & mouse/console-specific controller. This year was no different in that sense and I’m quite sick of being treated like that. Contrary to popular belief, most gamers are adults; not teenagers with raging hormones.

    Exhibit C: There are better award ceremonies. For me, the British Academy Video Game Awards will forever supercede anything that the VGAs honour. They pay attention to the craft of the developers and treat all involved with respect. They nominate the crème de la crème of the year’s gaming offerings and they let the games speak for themselves, rather than leaving it down to a pack of rabid fanboys fapping over the game they love the most. That’s the fundamental difference between the VGAs and everything else: it’s not some MTV/Teen Choice Awards-esque popularity contest.

    Spike TV are also notoriously sexist in their portrayal of female gamers and give little to no recognition to the females actually working within the industry itself. As someone above me said, most of the producers for that network still think it’s 1955 and would rather see tits and ass before they see a woman pwn someone in a couple of rounds of Mortal Kombat. It’s exhausting.

    Anyway… I’m out.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. ruckus

    Looks like people will be sycophantic cunts to the end I guess. Oh! Award ceremonies or something. Zz_zz

    #25 2 years ago
  26. EsmeraldaIP

    While I agree the VGAs this year were a step forward in terms of awards and entertainment, I wouldn’t exactly call The Walking Dead or Journey indie considering their publishers. Yes, TellTale is not as big as Sony, but they still have enough history behind them to classify both publishers, therefore games, above indie. But it’s great they got recognition, rightly deserved.

    That said, the VGAs doesn’t really need to “grow up.” This article is asking the VGAs to be something it’s not. It’s on Spike, it’s catering to the same demographic their entire show lineup caters to, it just happens to be giving out awards and is on TV, so more people know about it. Would I love it to be different and more respectable, with less marketing and celebrities who don’t care about our industry showing up (Sam cares, Jessica Alba does not)? Sure. But you have to accept the Spike VGAs for what it is, and realize we need to give more focus to award shows like the Interactive Achievement Award at DICE and the Game Developers Choice Awards at GDC.

    Extra Credits, a show now on Penny Arcade (formerly on Escapist), says it best, “Spike is not trying to be our Oscars.”

    Also, this may seem bias, but I also think we at Machinima did a good job with our awards show (Inside Gaming Awards) in terms of award categories, pandering, and hosts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UABxQM-IWI It’s no Oscars, but I’m happy we’re not VGA quality.

    #26 2 years ago