The Game Awards as Stolen Valor

December 8th, 2023

It's no secret that I hate The Game Awards. It's the same twitter rant from me every year. Some years are lucky and I mostly manage to ignore it, but a lot of twitter discourse got me thinking...

Now, I'm generally pretty anti-Award Shows in general. Not because I think Awards are bad (I especially love small community awards!), or industries celebrating their own is dumb but because most of them either fall to capitalism or have been cynical cash grabs from the start. Even events that seem like they were rooted in more positive attempts to celebrate accomplishments often fall short.

"I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them ... If I got them cups and awards, they'd kill themselves to produce what I wanted. That's why the Academy Award was created"

- Louis B. Mayer, founder of AMPAS

I found this quote on wikipedia while reading about the Academy Awards. Even from the get-go, even when the awards were just a private party, the goal was money and control. They could dress it up and disguise it better, but while it doesn't compare to the naked commercialism of The Game Awards, it still sucks. But even sucking it can at least somewhat serve the "purpose" (like okay the purpose is money, but the purpose we pretend they have) of these types of events. Giving people their flowers, hearing from people we don't usually hear from, to elevate, to put faces to the people who make the art we enjoy.

The Game Awards can't even do that. Now, this has been a bad year for The Game Awards in general, between layoffs not being acknowledges, or the Future Class trying to get The Game Awards to acknowledge the Gaza Crisis. Those issues, while important, will change year from year. What likely won't change drastically is the trend. More commercials, more trailers, less time for awards. The Game Awards's DNA being a weird mix of the Spike VGAs (already a money grab shit show) and a new E3 really shines through when it comes to priorities. Companies with thousands of employees must give their thanks in 30 seconds, all so they can run the next trailer. They are not getting their flowers. They are not being celebrated. They are being used as an excuse to run an event. The awards are a formality.

For awhile I felt bad trashing on the awards. I have friends who have won awards and who should be proud of it! In fact, I generally don't take much issue with the winners, but in a weird way that's kind of the point. The Game Awards are telling you what you already know. Bashing the awards doesn't discredit the games who have won because those games don't need the credit. They credit the award. I know Armored Core 6 is the best action game of 2023.

Because the awards are never brave, they can never elevate. Now, an award doesn't have to be brave to be good. Sometimes respecting the obvious good work of others is enough. But with awards being an after thought they're not giving respect, and with the award's prestige never being used to elevate, all that The Game Awards become is a youtube clickbait top 10 list. A blind cash grab, fancied up with money. That if they spend enough money on a set, if people wear suits, if the award is Art Deco enough, their glorified content gruel will have legitimacy. Unfortunately, they're right.

The companies are fine with this farce. It lets them do their own advertising. Most people show up to see the new trailer for the game they already know exists rather than wanting to see the face and hear the voice of the person who composed their favorite soundtrack. Even when faces are shown, it's the most corporately presentable faces. Accepting an award is still marketing. An in-industry friend of mine made a great tweet reply to me basically pointing out that none of this even about people. It's about Brands. The Brands win awards and a face is shown to represent the brand. Only marketable people like Kojima are given much time, because he, in himself, is the commercial. Kojima is a Brand. We don't acknowledge the protests outside, layoffs during record profits, because protesters don't fit the Message we want associated with out Brand.

This isn't about celebrating or appreciating people, this is about making money. We can barely even afford the illusion of caring about people, we can't offer even the slightest sympathy to those we layed off because we only exist if we're useful to the big publishers. Why would they show their trailers in a show that talked about their bad business practices? What would even be the point of having an Award Show then!

The Game Awards blindly benefits from the hard work and passion of the people who make the art we love, stealing the credit to alchemize it into value for companies instead. Humanity and Art are sacrificed for Content, a trade that gamers historically accept readily.

I’m Tired but Will Never Stop Screaming

I saw so many people on twitter saying "I feel like I wasted 3 hours of my life" and to them I ask... why did you watch? Genuinely. Did you feel like you had to? That you'd be missing out? That you have a responsibility as a game enjoyer? You don't. And you don't have to. Even if you care about the news, it'll be on social media in minutes, sometimes even seconds. Is it being connected to the zeitgeist? You gotta ask yourself if that superficial feeling is worth it. It doesn't represent anything real. The fact I saw the Elphelt trailer 45 seconds later than everyone else didn't mean I was unable to participate. You're a free person. You can simply choose not to engage with the cynical bullshit you're told to care about. You will feel FOMO exactly once and then, the next day, realize that it didn't matter.

Maybe you watched it and enjoyed it with your friends. Maybe you had fun hate watching, I don't know, I can't stomach that crap but you do you. I'm not going to be like "You have to boycott The Game Awards!!!" because... it doesn't matter. Even if you could kill it, it'd be replaced by something worse. I can't even convince you all to stop letting yourselves get spoonfed by Nintendo Directs. Like I said, you're a free person. I'll tease you about waking up at early to watch commercials but it's not the end of the world. I'd just like you to genuinely ask yourself why you care? Why you can't just wait? Why you can't just pick out what you want to see when you get to it?

... And if you've been nominated for something, or even won an award... I'm genuinely happy for it. You deserve it. You and your team deserve better. Milk any credibility this gives you as much as you can, but know you deserve more.