The Game (Commercial) Awards 2019 - ArticleLee Mehr , posted on 19 December 2019 / 3,153 Views
Awards shows can be a tough sell for some. The glitz and glamor don’t always distract from the argument that a “winner” from selective nominees may run contrary to what these creative mediums are about. This is only highlighted more by the insane commercialism and potential internal politics embedded into the proceedings. Let's be honest: does a nominee who’s paid for major ads within The Game Awards (TGA’s) NOT expect to win anything? While I don’t fault PepsiCo Pontiff Geoff Keighley for reviving this end-of-year celebration after Spike TV went bust, we’re several years away from those annoyances—even Schick Hydro Bot, for that matter; yet, it’s still a rotten core only looking to impress an audience with higher production values, announcements, and a few bands.
What’s always been a cornerstone in revealing the superficiality of this show is when they happen. Since it has an early December date in mind, nominees are typically announced a few weeks prior. This year the cut-off date for any potential nominees to submit a review copy was November 14, just a day before Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order released. Similar to Smash Bros. Ultimate last year, another prominent game that may have been an easy contender for various accolades has to wait another year. I’ll admit it’s a pet peeve of mine. Were it up to me, I’d pull the reins until Jan. 1st of next year. Then? Go full ham on nominees, awards, and more. “Funny, Lee. I seem to recall you writing for a site that’s starting up GotY discussions now.” I guess now’s the time to explain while the guns are pointed at me.
To reiterate (and save my skin): this is the approach I’ve liked. I guess I’m practiced with catching up on Oscar-bait movies - they’ll get a limited release in December whilst regular schmoes wait until January. It’s fine since The Oscars honoring the past year of movies doesn’t happen until February. By that token, VGChartz has a monk's temperance compared to TGA’s or Golden Joystick Awards. At least there’s enough patience to hold off on getting the nominees rolling after the last significant game of this year releases (Wattam in this case). But the greater reason to highlight Dorito Pope’s show comes down to what’s gamer-fueling it: profuse advertisements.
Between this stupid timeline and the healthy smattering of “world premieres,” publishers willing to pony up receive greater attention than the artists we’re meant to be celebrating. Rather than giving ample time for these creators, the show’s fixated on acting as an extended commercial to remind everyone these games are on sale during the holiday season. “We’d like to give more time to honoring Disco Elysium’s devs for the ‘Best Narrative’ win, but we’ve got a big slot to consider where Keighley and Mirage have some cringe-inducing banter before reminding gamers about Apex Legends’ holiday update and festive skins.” I can think of no greater example of peak Game Awards than when Reggie Fils-Aime gave such a heartfelt speech about independent developers... subsequently followed by the full title of said award: Fresh Indie Game presented by Subway.
Even the biggest winner of the night, indie RPG darling Disco Elysium, is tough to remember since half of its rewards were given off-screen. Because we have to get back to building up hype, TGA’s method of handing medals comes in four tiers: main-stage presentation with an acceptance speech by team, the host announcing the award on a secondary stage with victory speech, secondary stage winner announcement but with no speech, or some lady’s robotic voice bundling in other potential prizes while the team is walking up for a main-stage prize. It’s important to note that last one because Game of the Year technically wasn’t the final award handed to Sekiro; it was actually Best Action-Adventure Game. This genre win was bundled in while From Software was taking to the stage for GotY. I’m still at a loss as to how anyone wishing to honor games of 2019 would so often push aside games of 2019. Some of the most influential artists of this generation shared less time for reflection than a Star Wars-themed update for Fortnite.
All of these issues get more complicated when the potential favoritism for Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding is considered. From not only being a friend of Kojima’s but also selected for a cameo role in the game, anyone would be suspicious of Keighley’s position upon first glance—especially when considering the nominations across seven categories. “Not to worry,” one may say, “he’s not a part of the judges’ panel.” Well... so he says. But it’s fair to ask: when did that change? Because being a host didn’t previously stop him from inputting his choices when TGA’s precursor was running. When considering news that revealed a Famitsu editor appeared in a game they awarded a perfect 40/40 and some critics’ dreadful past in regards to receiving preferential treatment, is there justification to suspect impropriety when Kojima is handed the Best Game Direction award? Although not substantial on its own, the optics of it and the advisory role several companies—Kojima Productions included—maintain always struck me as shady.
Let’s strip these externalities away, then. No issues with nepotism, inconsistent time regimented for the games actually nominated, or the coincidental timing for spending sprees. How about the awards? I’d say they’re... fine, if somewhat lacking. For starters, I’m totally ignorant about any of the eSport categories and you’re likely in the same boat. Giving some context behind people like "Redeye,” “Machine,” “Sinatraa,” “Ulga,” “Lazer,” “N0$C0P3,” and the rest could go a long way. Those last three were not nominated and wholly made up by me. Or was it the last four? Moving on!
What’s the deal with grouping shooters in with action games too? There’s this weird split between that and action/adventure which suggests they need to go back to the drawing board. And if there’s ever a time to dish out more trophies towards indie & middle-market studios it would be for puzzle and platformer categories, or at least a synthesis of the two. Whether I’m thinking back to Manifold Garden or when I read Kevin McDonald’s enthusiastic piece on Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, I wonder how many more people could be sold on those just from a short clip shown on the big screen. It’s tough for it to feel like a seminal event akin to The Oscars when the list still feels incomplete.
Then, what is the central ideology to the charade anyways? Other end-of-year events like this are capable of maintaining a singular purpose reasonably well. Game Developer’s Conference and BAFTA are different entities that share an award setup honoring their rank and file. Even if a bit more limited in their scope, there’s a clear mission statement about what these awards represent, and they have more bite as a result. TGA’s feel like something alien by contrast: one has to marshal through the Dorito-themed ball pin to find the prizes hidden beneath the surface.
All of this said, I may have a scintilla of hope. Despite my framing in the first paragraph, I can get behind a game awards show attracting wide appeal. And I think somewhere buried behind the commercialism, the Friar of Frito-Lay does want to accomplish something like that. But it’ll take an arduous effort to reel back intrusive advertisements, the sense of impropriety between involved executives, and—at the very fucking least—waiting for the last notable game of that year to be a nominee candidate. Finally, it ought to craft a distinct foundation with its primary focus to reflect on gamers' collective appreciation of this year rather than collective consumption of the next.
Despite being one of newest writers on VGChartz, Lee has been a part of the community for over a decade. His gaming history goes back several console generations: having a N64 & old NES at home while also enjoying other console/PC titles elsewhere. Since then, he's always liked gaming across various systems--though real-life makes it burdensome at times. Lee's a General Contractor by trade, and has touched upon every critical aspect necessary to maintain a house: roofing, electrical, plumbing, and more. When not doing the daily grind, he can be found gaming (obviously!), writing about games (obviously again!), doing various recreational activities, or slowly grinding through the world's most-acclaimed books.