The VGAs Can Be the Awards Show the Industry Deserves

NPH deals out videogame justice.

As the curtain pulled away, a white staircase filled with men dressed in dapper white suits and top-hats danced and sang their way onto the stage. After a good minute of jazz hands and choreographed moves, the group fancy-footed their way up the stairs as the host emerged from behind. After looking around perplexed and annoyed, Neil Patrick Harris exclaimed, "What the f*@# do you think this is? The Tonys?" While the dancing and singing can be ditched, it actually would be a good idea for the Spike Video Game Awards to be more like the Tonys, Emmys, and Oscars. Luckily, the VGAs are slowly but surely on their way to doing so, and it’s a good thing.

The 2009 Spike Video Game Awards were a joke on the videogame industry. For starters, the show went without a host. "Celebrities" included "stars" from Spike TV shows in a pseudo marketing blitz for the network in addition to the one group of people that are the total antithesis of gamers — the cast of Jersey Shore. The award itself looked like an artist took his least favorite paint and dumped it on a rejected sculpture. Some nominees had no right to be even considered for certain awards, let alone win (See: Best Voice, Best Cast, Best Performance by Human Male, Best Performance by Human Female).

The reason why televised awards shows for other types of entertainment are so successful is because of the self-respect they show for plays, television, and film. They don’t let network bias seep in, they don’t have celebrities from other kinds of entertainment take the spotlight, and they have people involved in the industry vote for their winners. While there are awards shows like this for video games, none of them get the exposure that the Spike VGAs do. Therefore, it falls upon Spike to provide the awards show that the industry deserves by combining its exposure with the self-respect that the Game Developer’s Choice Awards and others do.

The network has begun to do that in 2010, or at least it seems like it’s starting to. Spike found not just a host, but one who enjoys video games and actually acts in them in Neil Patrick Harris. More celebrities who are publicly known gamers and/or involve themselves in the industry were also on hand as presenters (Nathan Fillion, Olivia Munn, Dane Cook, Nick Swardson, Guillermo del Torro). They also did something that set the show apart and showed respect for the industry with the augmented reality feature.

Most important of all, Spike had the awards decided upon by votes from over 200 journalists that cover the videogame industry. It allowed for games to be judged based on what they were as opposed to how popular they are, which proved to be a godsend when the only award actually decided on by the voters went to secondary character Sgt. Woods instead of more deserving figures John Marston, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, and even Kratos. Pretty much every winner was very deserving of the award they received and there was almost no "what the hell" moments when they were announced.

But not everything about the VGAs were perfect in 2010. As mentioned, there were almost no "what the hell" moments, but there was one: Neil Patrick Harris winning Best Performance by a Human Male. While NPH is a big gamer and great actor, to be expected to believe that over 200 journalists believed that he did a better job in the subpar Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions over sensational performance from the likes of Martin Sheen in Mass Effect 2 and Rob Wiethoff in Red Dead Redemption is asking a bit much. Harris just happened to be hosting that year and won the award he was nominated for and outclassed in. If foul play was involved, this is exactly one of the big reasons why the VGAs didn’t go over so well in 2009 and will continue to flounder if it isn’t changed.

There were also some bizarre nominations and snuffs. Nathan Fillion was nominated for Best Performance by a Human Male when he was only in Halo: Reach for a grand total of approximately five minutes. The same head scratching can be done over Danica Patrick’s nomination in Best Performance by a Human Female. The poorly received Shaun White Skateboarding got nominated in Best Individual Sports Game while the far superior Skate 3 was not. The NHL franchise, coming off a VGA in 2009 and making several solid improvements with NHL 11 got rubbed out of a Best Team Sports Game nod.

Augmented reality was a nifty addition, though only the TV audience could see it.

There were also presenters that once again had no reason to be at the show; both Rachel Bilson and Denise Richards looked like deer caught in the headlights trying to read the teleprompters in front of them. Spike simply brought them in to give the show star power that it didn’t need, and to promote its shows, something they did last year. It’s an area they need to change if they hope to get more respect from the industry and fans in 2011.

The final gripe is that the entire show felt incredibly rushed. Several of the awards were never presented on stage in order to fit in all of the exclusive sneak peeks and trailers for upcoming games and to allow time for the two musical performances. It caused the show to lose any sense of prestige or relaxation.

The VGAs have definitely come a long way from 2009 and previous years, but it is obvious it still has a long way to go. There are a few things that Spike can do to fully right this ship and give the industry the awards show extravaganza that the other entertainment industries have.

First off, stop promoting yourself. Nobody cares about "Blue Mountain State." No one wants to hear about the latest DLC for the "Deadliest Warrior" game. It’s an underachieving downloadable fighting game meant to mooch off of your successful show. You have control over the commercials so do your advertising there. Keep your self-promotion and actors off the videogame stage where they clearly don’t belong.

Next up, expand the show. Two hours is not enough time to fit everything in and the whole point of an awards show is to, you know, give out awards. So make the VGAs three hours long and don’t add any more reveals on top of the amount you already have. That or keep it at two hours and stop whoring yourself out for a chance at increased viewership.

Third, give nominations to those who deserve it. Don’t try to nominate Megan Fox for her half-hearted roll in a terrible adaptation of a summer blockbuster so you can hopefully get a bunch of drooling fanboys to switch over for a chance to see Miss Fox on screen for a whole two minutes. Give them to the voice actors who actually put their soul into the characters they play because of their love for the job and the game.

The VGAs can also use more videogame fans and industry stars presenting the awards. Charismatic developers like Ken Levine, Cliff Blezisnki, and Tomonobu Itagaki would be a hit. So too would be presentations from the more subdued Peter Molynuex and Keiji Inafune. Don’t forget about people who are famous for being involved in the industry as well. Give some screen time to Nolan North, Felicia Day, Claudia Black, the crew at Rooster Teeth, and Tricia Helfner. If you’re going to grab A-List celebrities, go for more of the gamer types. Vin Diesel, Seth Rogen, Mila Kunis, Joss Wheedon, and Bruce Campbell would all be great choices. If you get people who want to be there and love the industry, the fans will enjoy the show that much more. And that’s who Spike is trying to appeal to, isn’t it?

A last suggestion would be to add some glamour to the show: Televise the red carpet pre-show. This sounds a bit lame and is already done online, but how many people do you think would watch a pre-show if it showed the top gaming figures and celebs as they arrived on the scene? Have some of them give interviews periodically to keep it interesting. Spike has GameTrailersTV, so who better to host the show than the Ryan Seacrest of the game industry Geoff Keighley while the rest of the reporters work the carpet itself? At the very least, it beats having a rehashed episode of UFC on before the big event.

So to sum it all up: No, the VGAs are not the Tonys. But if Spike wants to get ratings up and bring the games industry into the television limelight, they should start acting like them a bit more. Stop being selfish, fickle, and trying to impress the "cool kids". Just be yourself, embrace it, and go about the right way of bringing respect to video games. Do that, and the gaming industry will finally have a televised awards show that it deserves and can be proud of.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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