We can all agree that The Game Awards serve some level of importance, when it comes to legitimizing accomplishments in the games industry, right? As far as ceremonies go, this one is the closest we currently are to “the real thing,” whatever that is in traditional societal equivalent; Oscars and that business. We’ll never have our Oscars, so. Video games and real people stuff usually don’t coincide that much and when they try, there’s usually some cringe-worthy material involved. Think of pretty much every celebrity we’ve seen baited on an E3 stage by a fat paycheck. Hopefully, Drake sold a ton of FIFA copies.
The Game Awards are cool. They do their thing. We see you. You go, Glenn Coco.
Cool, we’re all on the same page now. So I can also safely say that I’m sick of having Geoff Keighley’s stench all over the event, which sounds particularly harsh, since Keighley is the whole point why the show exists. I can’t, however, find another way of saying this. Every time I look at The Game Awards, I see an ad. Every aspect of its organization is skewed towards marketing. Someone is tricking me to watch a really long advertisement, ironically littered with even more ads within. Worse yet, the promo content is only one layer. Like I said, everything in the show is pushed to be a public relations (PR) move. Everything is fabricated to give Geoff Keighley and co their kudos, to the point it’s hard to see any legitimacy in an award at all. That probably requires some explanation, so let’s step back and take in some context.
Geoff Keighley rose to well-known meme status in 2012, when their name became synonymous with product placement. Sandwiched between Doritos and Mountain Dew ads, the Dorito Pope was born. Henceforth, the dead-faced, hand-shaking business man in Keighley opened ever more doors and agreed with ever more companies, to yield ever more incentives. What a convenient attitude. So, a few years later, when Spike TV was done with embarrassing itself by trying to hand accolades to a barely connected audience, the natural transition was for Geoff Keighley to continue the momentum the best way they saw possible: by selling out as hard as possible. The Game Awards were born.
In normal ceremonies, the awards and people connected to it are the main focus of the show. With The Game Awards, however, the attention is clearly shifted to different items. At its best, the show boasts with exclusive newly bartered trailers, advertising a new blockbuster, from one of the major event sponsors. More explicitly, direct advertisements will periodically cut through the night’s progression, forcing everyone to wait and watch an ad, like an annoying mobile game. The latter happens multiple times a night. At some halfway point, a game character narrates the ad reel show by saying: “I feel like I already got my money’s worth.” Subtlety wasn’t on the menu that night.
At the other side of the coin, some awards are passed off to the side. Keighley would announce a category and quickly fill their role with the winner, up in the bleachers. Meanwhile, the main stage remained barren, ready to blast another ad on the giant screen. There was no time to put a laureate in the spotlight, not when a sponsor wants one more stab at a viewing audience. If that shameless consumerism wasn’t clear enough, other awards have even been known to just be mentioned in passing, lumped together with other categories. Anything is cleared to save time for the real purpose of the show. “Oh yeah, Nintendo also won another thing. Now here’s an ad.” To this day, I don’t know what a GO90 is; all I know is that I never want to see it again. I didn’t even need six reminders to know that, while some poor eSports sap needs to collect their prize at checkout. It’s like being grateful for leftovers.
It should be pretty clear that Keighley would do anything to please their corporate overlords. So, last year, when the audience was addressed for a second that Hideo Kojima wouldn’t be able to pick up a token, it’d be hard to believe this was a sudden act of rebellion. More so, Keighley used the current stream of hatred against publisher Konami to put the event in good graces with easily influenced crowds, frothing at the mouth to shout “Fuck Konami” just one more time. There is no way in hell The Game Awards would question awful crunch time periods at studios like Electronic Arts, because the payoff wouldn’t be worth the risk. Publisher Bethesda is not handing out early review copies for games and simultaneously releasing games that are full of issues, but that won’t be addressed on stage. Slighting the reputation of a company that is exiting the game industry anyway and heralding a fan favorite is a safer move. It’s free publicity, baby!
This loops us back to The Game Award 2016 and the reason why this post exists. Hideo Kojima is receiving an industry icon award, which I’d find questionable enough in itself, but by Gaben’s glorious beard if that isn’t the perfectly predictable follow-up to last year’s setup. Get that Konami catchphrase ready again! Personally, I consider this cheap PR move to be nothing more than social engineering. Appearing to be that in tune with a gamer audience is just transparent manipulation, pandering to lowest common denominator, no different than the Dorito Pope days. Nothing of that should sound appealing.
Looking past that perfect timing, Geoff Keighley wouldn’t be a successful business man if they didn’t look at other hooks; emphasis on hooks. Thus, this year we welcome some long-anticipated titles in the Best Fan Creation category. Gee, how convenient, it just so happens two of those titles have received majorly spread coverage this year, with even more fervent audience engagement. What did I say about pandering again? Both Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R) and Pokémon Uranium were widely praised as tremendous projects, only to be struck down by publisher Nintendo over property concerns. People didn’t like that very much. Don’t worry; The Game Awards is on your side, random gamer citizen! Here’s an award, because The Game Awards care about stuff!
Yeah, about that. It’s already kind of iffy to use such shaky news to one’s own advantage, but at the same time it is important to recognize hard-working fans. The Game Awards can sort of still get a pass for that one. That is, were it not that Keighley sort of miscalculated where their limp hand would hit, to get their easy PR. Nintendo likely had some choice words about featuring two projects that used the company’s materials. Oh, and here’s an excerpt from the event’s site:
Suddenly, both AM2R and Pokémon Uranium have vanished from the Best Fan Creation, leaving it gutted with only two entries. Now, that section is a formality. See, but here’s the deal: The Game Awards isn’t necessarily tied to Nintendo; that’s a conscious choice. People are blaming Nintendo for the removal, but there’s nothing stopping the show from featuring the games. The two parties are independent entities and just handing an award to something isn’t the same as becoming an accomplice to its dealing. I applaud people who go through tons of effort to digitally archive an ever-evolving game industry, but that doesn’t mean I’d condone piracy.
All the blame for this farce is meant for Geoff Keighley. Nintendo is just not letting itself get publicly pissed in its mouth. Yeah, no shit, they don’t want people being rewarded for mistreating their property. The Game Awards, however, could choose to draw its line in the sand and nominate the products regardless. Dubious nature or not, both removed games are worthy of praise. Doing so, however, could mean that Nintendo pulls out of the show and that’s the real problem for Keighley. Say “bye” to money and incentives. That problem is getting solved the same way, in favor of any company, every single time. What did you expect? Not having a spine has its disadvantages. As we have learned, memes don’t necessarily stand for values. One is easier to uphold than the other. And I can’t stand it anymore.
I’d want The Game Awards to be the unilaterally great thing it wants to be, but the crux of the matter is that the show is torn between two completely different ideas for that to ever happen. Geoff Keighley isn’t interested in having an organically growing event that builds on its waves; something that makes some money. Geoff Keighley is compelled to find legitimacy by emulating other grandiose ceremonies, using that hand-shaking talent and making all the money. That’s how all major game companies think. That’s the inspiration for this giant advertisement that pretends to be an awards ceremony. Don’t just make some of the money, make all of the money or don’t do it at all. There’s a stark contrast between the two ideas. In this reality, whatever applause the audience thinks it’s handing out of its own volition is something that was already carefully planned by Keighley and co. It’s free publicity, baby!
Have some Doritos, take a big gulp of Mountain Dew and slow that roll, Geoff. Goddamn.