Saturday, December 10th (coincidentally, both my birthday and the day of the Nobel Prize ceremony), was the Spike TV Video Game Awards. The event is considered one of the premium gaming events of the year, handing out awards and nominations to the best games, developers and people involved in gaming in this nearly finished year. The event sported Zachary Levi ( a.k.a. Chuck from the NBC show “Chuck”) as the host and it is reasonable to expect that respect and ceremony would be shown to an event drawing a huge audience and handing out awards to the best of the year in gaming, right? Wrong!
The show, featuring large ads, generally casual attire, a cupcake eating contest, Charlie Sheen and yes, even that timeless hallmark of classless gaming: teabaggings. Not just teabaggings, but live, prolonged and in-your-face, up-close-and-personal, as a threat against going over the time-limit for acceptance speeches. The question we should all be asking ourselves is: should we as gamers really support and pay attention to an event that is representing the industry, and is showing a complete void of ceremony, respect and class?
How can we take ourselves seriously as gamers, as connoisseurs of an art-form, and the people who create them as artists with a semi-vulgar and over-the-top foolishness being major parts of the biggest awards ceremony of the year? How can we truthfully maintain that video games are an art-form, that is protected under the US constitution as free speech and still have events that capitalize on the most ridiculous and over-played stereo-types of the medium. For example, The Vancouver Sun in a recent article dropped this wonderful little pearl in an article about “manly wines”: “And California’s Treasury Wine Estates operates a brand dubbed Sledgehammer, advertised as pairing best with women, video games, football and bar closings.” (found at http://www.canada.com/life/Wines+appeal+using+sports+video+games/5846597/story.html). Upon reading this brief statement about the marketing for the “man wine”, the impression I get of the wine maker’s image of a gamer is a light beer-loving, football fanatic, whose primary interests are getting wasted on weekends, watching every single televised football game with all of his buddies (all the while releasing bodily gasses into the room) then sitting down to an obscenity-filled play session of Call of Duty, consistently insulting, griefing, and trolling other players while insulting their female family members and occasionally throwing in a racial slur without fully realizing the connotations of the word or words. Now, if that sounds like a bad stereotype to you, we may have some hope yet.
As always, there were a few horror stories (as there normally are with any big event), but what has come forward to be one of the biggest transgressions committed by the organizers of the event was essentially a cold shoulder to two of the biggest names in geekdom, but especially in voice-acting. The story begins with the casting for the voices used in Batman: Arkham City, most notably Mark Hamil (notable for his portrayals of Luke Skywalker, The Joker, Fire Lord Ozai, and others) and Tara Strong (notable for playing Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner, Ben 10 at age 10, and many other charaters) were both nominated for the category of best male and female voice actors. Knowing this, they went to the event together, expecting to be put near the front since they were both nominees for awards. When they arrived, to their surprise, they weren’t put near the front, in fact, they weren’t even given a table on the main floor, but were put in the “bleachers” section of the venue and that wasn’t even the worst of it. It turns out that the announcement for the awards they had come to see handed out, whether to them or to someone else, wasn’t even made live and on camera and it wasn’t until the end that they realized that they had lost to Ellen McLain and Stephen Merchant for their roles of GLaDOS and Wheatly respectively in Portal 2. Both of them were disappointed, less for not winning, but to not be shown any deference or respect throughout the event. Shame on you Spike, shame on you.
So, “what should I be watching instead to know which games were the best this past year if the Spike TV VGAs were and are so bad?” is what you’re probably asking. I asked the same of Reddit, and a few interesting responses and suggestions were sent back to me. One was to watch the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Game Awards, where the people and the medium is takes seriously, and the other was the Game Developers Choice Awards, and would be much better alternatives to the intellectual swill that we have now.
Thanks to Reddit User Knightmare_X for the award alternatives.