Why the VGA’s Aren’t the Mecca of Gaming (or a brief expository on BET Syndrome)
The VGA’s make me uncomfortable. I turn my PlayStation 3 on and put work in at least once a day, and write about the merits of the artistry and sciences behind the industry for personal enjoyment – I qualify as a gamer unquestionably. But I can’t seem to sit through an entire broadcast of Spikes annual award show crafted to highlight this industry I cherish. It’s the only widely broadcasted show dedicated to rewarding developers with the respect they deserve, and I can’t bring myself to donate time towards it.
There are a couple of reason swimming around that I could attest this complete dismissal to. Firstly, I’d rather just play games. Most of my television experience comes to me via Netflix, and I couldn’t tell you when shows are supposed to be broadcasted in their daily slots. Also, like watching eSports, I have to ask myself an important question: Why would I watch games, when I could play them?
Secondly, everything I need to know about the event (the nominees, the winners, etc.) will be readily available to me via the internet as soon as they happen, because every game related news source will be covering it from all angles. The wonders of the web remove the wonders of show quickly and effectively.
But the biggest deterrent that keeps me away from the broadcast is what will make or break the validity of the show in years to come.
The VGA’s suffer from a little thing I like to call BET Syndrome.
Just stick with me, here.
As the little icon on the bottom of this page next to my name can attest to, I’m a black male. Being so, I get membership into a little demographic called “African-Americans.” BET has everything they need for the burgeoning African American television watcher-ship, according to them, including an award show that is a genre breaking collection of all things black people across music, movies, sports, and more.
But if you sit and watch the show, you see something very odd, and frankly indicative of the Robert Johnson’s network. There are more people dancing and singing on stage than awards being given out. It becomes a stage where BET gets to show black people how they should dress, who they should love, and what is worth awarding, as soon as they get back from commercial break, and after three performances.
There’s very little award show, and a whole lot of un-relateable propaganda.
The VGA’s are the same experience for me.
I like Sam Jackson, I really do. But I don’t need to see skits where his head is attached to Gears of War characters and other such nonsense. I’d also like to see more than six awards given out across the 2-hour show. Calling it anything but a really long commercial is calling it something it isn’t.
And I’d also like an explanation for the S&M orchestra, something put there obviously to make nerd boys pants’ less comfortable.
Why does a game-related video game award show have to be this way?
Why do I have to be reminded that I am gamer, by being showered with the outdated stereotypes that come with the title?
Why does a show that talks a big game about honoring game makers’ achievements this year spend most of its screen time hyping the future?
Why do celebrities with little or no attachment to this industry get the task of announcing these new debuts?
Alright, that last one is obvious; you could practically hear the sounds of khaki’s ripping under strain of awkward erections when Jessica Alba announced Dark Souls 2.
But the point is made, I think. When will we let these shows be about what they’re supposed to be about? It’s almost like as soon as TV is involved, it’s assumed that selling out will be next. When is Spike going to stop telling me what kind of bro nerd I should be? When is BET going to start having awards featuring black people I actually admire? When we stop watching these award shows as they are, of course. But when there aren’t any alternatives, people are pretty cool with accepting the good with the bad.
On the front of the actual awards given, the VGA’s don’t quite fall into my BET Syndrome idea as neatly, though that just might be in the context of the awards that are possible to be won.
Borderlands 2 winning best shooter isn’t exactly an out of the blue assumption, especially since there was a plethora of great shooters this year. BET Award winners have baffled me more times than not in categories where the competition is far less equal.
Example: Best Actor went to Kevin Hart, a funny comic actor of IRDIS ELBA, DON CHEDELE, and DENZEL WASHINGTON? That’s a joke funnier than anything Kevin Hart has written. Kevin Durant won a Sportsman of the year award in a pool where black men like Floyd Maywether, Jon Jones, and Anderson Silva weren’t even nominated. I guess the fine print mentioned that you need to be black in “black sports,” and only if you can sell jerseys.
The VGA’s statue winners don’t always make a lot of sense either, and easily fall prey to the same hype machines that all other awards do. Journey winning best Original Score makes sense; it was nominated for a Grammy, after all.
The Walking Dead game as Game of the Year, though, I might want to evaluate. A lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon of this particular award being a strike for the industry against the tyranny of mainstream. I mean, a downloadable, episodic, point and click adventure is the best game out of pool of AAA blockbusters? Go indies, right?
Or is it because the Walking Dead has been the talk of the town for the last two years, the AMC television show knocking ratings out of the park week by week, and Robert Kirkman’s IP is getting passed around like joints in a drum circle?
The games are good, at least, so the blatant pandering to the marketability of the franchise can be hidden behind the fact that the content is admirable. But overall, I can’t, in good conscience, fall to the idea that Spike TV is somehow on the indie developers side, when very few of them are represented in any capacity on their programming (the ones that aren’t TWD or Journey are relegated to a Best Independent award, that is one of the smallest nominee pools.)
The VGA’s aren’t all bad, but they are just enough bad to warrant speculation on whether they are even worth existing, where other outlets like Gamespot or IGN do smaller, yet arguably better jobs at making sure the games and game makers come first, and the pander and party second. Many web lists allow for larger pools of nominees, thanks in part to the fact that they don’t have to cut releases off early so they can produce a television extravaganza. They also do better jobs of having intelligent conversations about the nominees, usually with their own reviews to back up their claims.
The VGA’s have a mysterious judging council (who I assume are Sith Lords) that have these conversations in private.
And entering their 10th year in action, I expect their case of the BETs to only get worse.
It’s almost like the VGA’s don’t want gamers to watch it. The show is almost designed to keep people who aren’t hardcore about games watching, thoroughly isolating itself from its real demographic. It’s like a video tutorial straight out of Gamers for Dummies, letting the non-demographic populace in on what those dang kids are all talking about. If Spike just put the industry forward, the legitimacy of the show would be saved, and so would the ratings, I’d wager. I know that if BET stopped telling me how black I should be, I’d probably watch BET more. Sometimes integrity is real way to appeal to everyone.