What Is VGX Really For?

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When last year’s Spike TV Video Game Awards came around I didn’t watch them and just waited for the world premiere trailers to show up online. I was gonna do the same thing this year but after hearing GameTrailers’ pledge to make the new VGX something better I decided to check it out for the first time in I don’t even know how many years. I think the concept is going into some kind of existential crisis.

It’s trying to fill some apparent need for there to be a televised video game awards show. I guess it makes sense: movies, TV, and music each have several. G4 tried the same thing with… I don’t remember what it was called but it started out with a televised Jadakiss concert in 2003 and ended up as a segment on Xplay a few years later. I guess there’s not really an argument against the concept of televising a gaming awards show, but rather who’s doing it and how. Oh! It was called “G-Phoria.”

What I find strange about what the VGAs and VGX became is that eventually, in my experience the main appeal became the trailers and not the actual awards. It’s like they need the trailers to get people to even care enough to watch. When’s the last time the Golden Globe or Oscars had to do that? VGX this year was, effectively, a barrage of premiere game footage without the trade show to hold them up.

On the subject I’ll take a paragraph to say in the couple days since VGX I’ve watched that Witcher 3 trailer about 50 times, and No Man’s Sky looks like the most “next-gen” thing I’ve seen on today’s hardware despite coming from four guys. The latter has singlehandedly got me investigating past space simulation games (specifically the original Elite). This was also the first time I saw any footage of Dying Light which I think actually looks pretty good.

As for the awards, I think a fatal flaw might be that a single publication or show is trying to represent a large part of the industry in front of a public audience. Trying to throw in personalities and other things from outside the game industry is one thing, and everyone acknowledges that. The bigger issue though is that, when you look at movie awards for instance, they’re usually run by an academy or some other general body and not a single magazine or TV show. That’s why the Oscars are called the Academy Awards.

There is indeed an equivalent organization for video games — the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, which holds the DICE summit every February. Ironically, this summit seems to be on the low end in terms of awareness, so much so that only after several years did it claw its way up to being broadcast on IFC in 2009, and I don’t even know if they still do that. I feel like that and the Game Developers Conference awards are the only ones legitimately judged by people appreciating the artistry in video games from a fully informed position.

As for what Spike and GameTrailers should do, I think the underlying objective at this point is to create some kind of annual event to spike (no pun intended) viewership, and I’m not sure an awards show is the right thing for a single game publication to use to that end. It’s kind of smart when you think about it though. Covering E3 or GDC will get a viewership spike of course, but they’ve got to share that with IGN, Polygon, and everybody else who covers it. Creating its own event where a bunch of new trailers pop up gives GameTrailers that spike all to itself. I just think they should find something a little less shallow than an awards show, or something that won’t look so bad when it ends up being shallowly handled. I struggle to think of what that would be though.

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