On The Audience Of The Game Awards

For the fifth year running, The Game Awards has transpired to celebrate the year that was. And like years past, it was yet another forgettable show that seemingly felt worse than in years past. There were highs for sure, but they were brought crashing down by some painful lows. Though the question I ask myself every time The Game Awards happens is just who exactly is this show for?

The Game Awards isn’t the sole awards ceremony for the video game industry, but it’s by far the biggest and most well known. It’s been described as “The Oscars of Gaming” by the New York Times, and it’s probably the closest comparison to what The Game Awards are like in terms of its voting process and its presentation.

Where it differs from the Academy Awards is that The Game Awards don’t focus exclusively on a domestic audience, they’re a worldwide event, with creators and works from all over the world celebrated. It makes for a much more interesting ceremony, especially considering the #OscarsSoWhite movement from a few years ago. It should be something celebrated by the games industry as being a genuine improvement over the film industry that it often looks to emulate. Yet that’s never where creator Geoff Keighley ever wants to go.

Keighley’s goal has always been to create a much more entertaining and interactive show than something like the Oscars. You can vote and interact with the show as it happens! It has musical performances from bands you know! The Muppets are involved! It certainly creates a much less dry show, but it becomes a different sort of boring. Enough that one of the nominated developers brought golf balls in an attempt to have their own fun.

These attempts represent some of the worst aspects of the industry trying to cater to everyone and pleasing nobody. Who in their right mind thinks that having a far too long “conversation” between Geoff Keighley and one of the Apex Legends characters would be anything but cringeworthy? Who thought that a genuinely funny skit involving the Muppets and Untitled Goose Game would be a good lead-in for the “Games for Impact” award, an award for games that tackle some pretty serious issues?

What kills it for me is arguably one of the biggest reasons one would tune into The Game Awards — new game announcements. While there’s already far too much in the way of advertisements on the show, it’s understandable given Keighley mostly funds the show out of his own pocket, and isn’t being broadcast on TV. Yet as much as I was screaming at my screen everytime Carl Weathers appeared to sell Magic: The Gathering, it’s the new game announcements that gave me the most pause and removed any form of actual credibility of The Game Awards being a serious celebration of the industry in my mind.

I don’t doubt it’s a massive draw for Keighley and the prospective audience, and it certainly builds a reputation for The Game Awards as being a must-see event. Yet it feels kinda wrong to do this. It takes away from awarding the hard-working people who bring you these games and disregards them for the new crop of stuff that will inevitably get nominated in The Game Awards in the years to come.

Imagine if any other awards show stopped to show you a trailer or a commercial for something upcoming? Not just during a commercial break, but integrated into the actual awards show itself. How annoyed would you be right before the announcement of the Academy Award for Best Picture, we were treated to a trailer for an upcoming film? That’s exactly what happened at The Game Awards this year, and it was incredibly disheartening to see.

So who is The Game Awards for in the end? I’m still struggling to see who would appreciate it. The awards are never taken seriously. The spectacle and the skits are cringeworthy at best. The constant advertising is understandably, but a turnoff. The new game announcements could genuinely be announced anywhere else and still get the same amount of attention.

While Geoff Keighley should be commended for creating an awards show at this scale and turning it into an event ostensibly celebrated by the industry, Keighley needs to realize his vision is scattered, and in attempting to cater absolutely everyone, he’s not pleasing an audience who would be keen for any aspect of the show. And it’s a real shame, because he’s got the right heart, resources and connections to make something incredible. Yet he’s not been able to do so, and I doubt he’ll ever be able to ever do so.