The Grammys Have Games Now. So What?

The Grammys finally added a video game music category, and many are excited, but should we care about this?

By LCLupus, Posted 17 Nov 2022

There are award shows and competitions for so many different mediums, and each medium has so many awards for it, but when we think of awards for the arts, we tend to think of the big four. We think of the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys, and the Grammys. Having any of these brings some level or prestige to the work in a particular medium, and gaming has never been invited to any of them. Which is why it was rather interesting to see that the Grammys decided to start a category for video game music, but what does this mean for the medium?

To many, the big problem with the big four was that they could never have supported games, and the Grammys is pretty much the only one that could ever accommodate games. There are award categories in the other three big awards that could possibly accommodate games, but those categories would be for best adaptation into another medium, and gaming has a bit of a history with regards to bad film adaptations.

However, games can feature music just as gorgeous as any other medium. Music doesn’t exactly change between mediums. So, one could argue that it’s long overdue for games to get a seat at the Grammy table. Games are finally in the big four spotlights. They have finally been acknowledged by the popular kids, so that means they get to talk to the popular kids too.

Grammys, The Game Awards, BAFTA, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Aliens: Firestorm Elite, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Call of Duty Vanguard, Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy, Feature, Latest

You see, sure, there are video game award shows, the biggest ones being the BAFTAs and The Game Awards, but the former is unknown to most and the latter is essentially an advertising platform where they give awards in between the various trailers for new projects that are coming out. They’re not quite as tasteful as the other award ceremonies. Winning an award at The Game Awards is great, but winning an Oscar? That’s seen as a whole different story.

Many will believe that the admission of video game music into the hallowed halls of the Grammys means that games are finally being taken seriously by the more well-established art forms. The Grammys have lent their prestige to video games, and there will be those who believe that this means video games have become more elevated. However, is this necessarily the case?

Before getting stuck in the weeds here, it may be best to first talk about which games and composers actually got nominated for the first time on the Grammys. The list includes: Aliens: Firestorm Elite’s Austin Wintory, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök’s Stephanie Economou, Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Bear McCreary, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy’s Richard Jacques, and Old World’s Christopher Tin.

It’s great to see that these composers are being acknowledged for their work, and this will likely boost their professional reputations and it may even boost the sales of the games themselves. However, we need to ask a question about award ceremonies like this in general. Sure, The Game Awards is kind of a tacky affair with its advertising-heavy broadcasts and sponsorships with all manner of companies, but it does bring in a lot of viewers, so the winners get to have their games placed on pedestals.

However, even though we see something like the Grammys as being a more prestigious event, that’s only because we’ve decided to treat it as such. In the modern day, award ceremonies have become somewhat redundant. There’s an increasing number of people who disagree with critics, and this has led to things that have won, things that critics loved but audiences did not. Who decides what gets nominated?

Grammys, The Game Awards, BAFTA, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Aliens: Firestorm Elite, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Call of Duty Vanguard, Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy, Feature, Latest

The things that tend to get nominated at these award shows are products that have a big name attached to them. Look at the list of games selected for this year’s set of nominees. They’re all from big-name companies, and they’re all AAA releases. There is no room for indies, no room for the artsier, no room for the less elite at award ceremonies like this.

You want to win because you can put that on the poster and sell even more tickets, DVDs or albums, etc. Award ceremonies are an elaborate form of marketing tailored towards the artsier side of the commercial mainstream. Although, not with games. There are a handful of major AAA games that go for that artsier vibe but look at the nominees for game music here. Call of Duty? Aliens: Firestorm Elite? The new Assassin’s Creed?

These are not high-art games, these are big-budget games that can afford big-budget scores with big-budget composers. There’s no point in arguing about art. What is art? Which games qualify as art? It’s an argument that goes in circles, because you will always, ultimately, be able to argue that every single game is art. What you can argue is that these award shows are extremely elitist.

The Game Awards, because it’s not “an institution” like the Oscars or the Tonys, is far more accommodating of smaller things. There are categories for indies, and there have even been cases, like Disco Elysium’s numerous victories in 2019, where an indie won it big, but this does not and will not happen at those stuffier awards. The Grammys probably wouldn’t have nominated Undertale if they’d started this new category of theirs in 2015 because it was made by one guy using sounds that he found on the internet even though practically everyone agrees that the Undertale soundtrack is fantastic.  

Furthermore, these big four award shows are very westernized. There’s a category for foreign films at the Oscars, but there has only been one victory of a non-English film for the Best Picture award. These award ceremonies are for certain people, a certain class of people. Video games have always been a choppier medium made by nerds and are often stuck together with unwieldy code. It doesn’t have the prestige of some theatrical piece on Broadway.

Grammys, The Game Awards, BAFTA, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Aliens: Firestorm Elite, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Call of Duty Vanguard, Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy, Feature, Latest

So, while it’s great that some composers get to have a bit of an extra injection of reputation in their arms, this will never be for everyone, and it will never be for the games that we probably think deserve it. The Grammys will nominate the games that people have heard of, they’ll nominate the games made with expensive orchestras and never the industrious solo developer who had to learn chiptune music alongside writing, programming, and animation.

Those are not the kind of people deserving of such awards. They are far too low class for an affair as prestigious as the Grammys themselves. So, we really shouldn’t put much stock in this. The Grammys do not legitimize games, they do not make games better, or finally show the world that games deserve the big-boy awards. Games were already legitimized, they were already better, and they’ve always deserved awards. So many deserve awards that never receive them.

So, instead of hoping that the rich elite people will finally deign to look upon the art of games with less disdain, we should instead ignore those people and keep playing and celebrating the games that we love. Who cares if it did or didn’t win an award? So many amazing movies never won an Oscar, so many amazing musicians spent their entire lives without a Grammy, fantastic shows that never won an Emmy, and brilliant musicals that never gained any recognition from the Tonys.

These award ceremonies do not mean that something is good. In fact, there’s a history of having to lobby to win some of these awards, and if you have to market yourself and spend millions doing it, then it’s not really about who was the best. It’s about who has the most money. So, ignore the news about games being in the Grammys. It really doesn’t matter.

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

comments powered by Disqus


General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Activision
Developer(s): Sledgehammer Games
Genres: First Person Shooter
Themes: WW2, Action, Multiplayer
Release Date: 2021-11-05

View All

Popular Articles