Rather than making a whole new article to make the same argument, I opted to take a page out of the game developer’s playbook and simply remaster this article with brand new graphics and examples!
For the original article, click here.
Since the game awards have existed, so has my criticism of it. They have continually been a representation of games becoming a more fervent force in our society while simultaneously showing what is so terrible about them. Each year we are faced with a new Game Awards that attempts to encapsulate gaming in easily one of the worst ways possible. Many games are ignored, choices are questionable, and the sponsorships are cringe-worthy. But each year we find ourselves in the same predicament and watching…another…Game Awards.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
The games that are nominated, and subsequently become the choices for the Game Awards have always been lackluster in nature. This is in part because the “best” games end up infecting every single category and winning many of them in the process. Take for example the 2018 Game Awards where God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 took home an award in every category they were nominated in:
- Game of the Year
- Best Game Direction
- Best Narrative
- Best Sound/Music
- Best Audio Design
- Best Action/Adventure Game
Every year there is a similar situation and 2018 was no different. With past year’s being The Witcher III and Overwatch, this year was only God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 in what resulted in the year’s best being the only winners. By consistently having the “best of’s” in every single category, it creates a situation where the “best of” becomes the best in everything when they are everything but. You expect the “best of” titles to be at least in a few categories that they excel in that—arguably—put them in the position they are in, but not three, four, or even six categories!
For me personally, the best example of this issue existed in 2015 with the best Score/Soundtrack category. The nominees were:
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – composed by Ludvig Forssell, Justin Burnett, and Daniel James
- Fallout 4 – composed by Inon Zur
- Halo 5: Guardians – composed by Kazuma Jinnouchi
- Ori and the Blind Forest – composed by Gareth Coker
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – composed by Marcin Przybyłowicz, Mikolai Stroinski, and Percival
2015 was also the year that a certain title—that while it received criticism for censorship claims—is entirely based in music both in its story and the soundtrack itself, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Here is a game that is thematically about JPop and features an entire soundtrack that is of that genre. I am certainly not claiming that this title should have won, but if a game that produced a whole soundtrack like this:
Isn’t even considered as a nominee, then there is an issue with the selection process.
Regardless of the award show, we are all going to argue about which title should have won or been nominated, but for the majority of the time even with those reservations, we should be able to see why a title made it into a specific category, even if we disagree. For titles like The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and Halo 5, I am left scratching my head. How did these entries make it into these categories when there is such a large pantheon of other choices that are far more deserving?
Well, they simply get forgotten because they are not popular, not because the other titles are actually better in their regard.
The Game Awards has a somewhat unique process when it comes to developing its list of nominees and winners for its games that creates this nomination issue. For those unfamiliar, here is how The Game Awards determines its nominees and winners per its FAQ:
Nominees for The Game Awards are chosen by an international jury of 69 global media and influencer outlets, selected for their history of critical evaluation of video games. The full list of outlets is available here.
Each outlet completes a confidential, unranked ballot based on the collective and diverse opinion of its entire editorial staff, listing out its top five choices in each category. These ballots are tabulated, and the five games that appear on the most ballots are put forth as nominees. In the event of a tie, six (or more) nominees will be announced in a category.
A separate esports jury, comprised of leading media outlets focused on esports coverage, determine the nominees in the esports-related categories.
In short, 69 news outlets and influencers send in their picks for each category. Once all of the picks are in, then a vote for the best is held.
The winners are determined by a blended vote between the voting jury (90%) and public fan votes (10%). Fans can vote for their favorite games on TheGameAwards.com and The Game Awards Discord server in all categories, and also via Twitter DM, Facebook Messenger, as well as using voice on Alexa and Google Assistant in select categories. Fan voting closes on Wednesday, December 5 at Midnight PT.
This year fans can also “boost” their vote on TheGameAwards.com by sharing their vote to social media. Boosted votes are given an extra 10% weighting within the total fan vote calculation, but the overall weighting of fan votes in the final tally remains 10%. Versus 90% for the voting jury.
What this does is—in effect—create a system that is forced to yield only popular results, and loud ones at that, rather than attempting to decide what title is the best in a given category. Let’s take Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE again as an example. It was a somewhat obscure game on the Wii U (a not so popular console) whose theme was pandering to a very niche market: those who were aware and interested in Japanese idol culture. If you were a website who reviews and covers games, you might have completely looked over this title. Even if you were a website that did cover this title, due to its niche nature, only a very few and a select amount of people would have any experience with the game. When it finally comes time to vote on which games would make it into which category, the few people who might have potentially picked Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE as an option would be quickly outvoted by more popular games that more staff at a particular outlet would have experienced.
Because of this system, we are continually stuck with only the most popular titles, even when they are less deserving, winning so many of the available categories. The issues sadly don’t end there, there is another problem that exists simply because of the sheer amount of quality games released each and every year, and that’s time.
Consistently through each and every Game Awards, there is a notable shift in titles that get nominated towards games released most recently. Titles released at the start of the year or at the end of the previous year (which can be included in the next Game Awards) are more often than not passed over in favor of more recent games of similar quality in their given field. For example, in the 2018 nominees, does anyone truly believe that Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey should be considered for its art direction in comparison to titles like Dragonball Fighter Z and Fe? Would not a title like Dragonball Fighter Z and Fe fit more appropriately there? Or was it simply forgotten due to releasing in January/February 2018? Of course, we will never know the true reason, but looking back year after year it seems apparent that more recently released games (in reference to the Game Awards) are simply nominated more often.
While these problems exist due to the process on which they are voted, the next set of problems the Game Awards faces is derived from the category selection for nominees that is only further exacerbated from by the voting process.
The categories that are voted on in the Game Awards have always been set up in such a way that creates the issue outlined above regarding many of the same games getting multiple awards. On top of this, many of the awards themselves can be impossible to “judge,” raising a lot of questions as to why they are included.
Best Score/Music and Best Audio design are two such examples that show how easily some can overlap. The Best Score/Music is described as “For outstanding music, inclusive of score, original song and/or licensed soundtrack.” On the other hand, Best Audio is described as “Recognizing the best in-game audio and sound design.” To me, Best Score/Music is related to a game’s soundtrack while Best Audio is in reference to the various sound effects and components within a game not related to the soundtrack. However, it seems this distinction is only held loosely where many times games that only belong in one, end up in another. Looking at this year’s title, God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Spider-Man have managed to be nominated for both categories when in all cases their strength truly lies in their Audio design. That is the various sound effects and components outside of the soundtrack itself should be the portion to have been nominated, not their soundtracks. Another set of overlapping categories is the Game of The Year and Best Game Direction with one being the overall best and the other “Awarded to a game studio for outstanding creative vision and innovation in game direction and design.” Obviously, a game that would be considered for Best Game Direction could very easily fall into the Best Game of the Year due to the broadness of the Game Direction’s award.
Once again, this isn’t the only issue when it comes to categories. We are also left with categories that simply cannot be judged in any meaningful way; the eSports categories. Best eSports players, Team, and Trending Gamer are all categories that do not have any real meaningful way of judging them against each other. What makes one team from another game better than another team for another game? What sets one eSports player apart from another when judging them? It would be the same as attempting to judge on the best sports player in all sports. It’s largely impossible as the one metric that that would be used to pick a winner is all within the same sport itself, not across them. This effectively turns them into a popularity contest, to which I ask, why even bother? If the winner of each category is just a popularity contest, then what is the purpose of the award if the supposed role of the Game Awards is to judge objective winners? It contradicts the supposed goal and only creates further issues with an already problematic award show.
Unfortunately, there is still one more set of problems that must be discussed and that’s the show itself.
The Show Itself
The final set of issues and complaints that the Game Awards have all lie with the show itself and how it’s conducted. The first of these problems is the inclusion of game announcements themselves. During each year of the Game Awards there are several game announcements made during the actual show itself as part of the presentations. In an award show whose goal is to hopefully at some point become the Grammys or the Emmys, to include game announcements within it diminishes the value of it being an award show that is based on judging other games. Of course, I am not ignorant to the reasons for its existence, money is needed to fund the awards and this is one way to do it, but that doesn’t detract from it still having a negative impact on the overall show’s
Another negative impact caused by the show’s structure is the surprising choice to not have all awards actually broadcasted. In many of the past Game Awards, viewers were treated to the pure wonderment of the Schick Hydro Bot or some other stranger advertisement while awards were still being announced. After a short break and an in-show advertisement later, a short message would appear quickly announcing what game won what awards.
Its counter intuitive to take what is an award show and not show awards, that is the entire point of the show after all…isn’t it? Thankfully during 2018’s Game Awards, we were not graced with presence of the Schick Hydro Bot, however this just made another issue more apparent, giving awards without explanation. It wasn’t bad enough that many awards were simply glossed over, but some were not even properly explained or introduced when they needed to be. The Best eSports Moment is suppose to award one of the greatest moments in eSports for the year, but its simply impossible to follow or expect someone interested enough to be aware of all those moments. It is for this reason that award shows provide backstory and information, so those not in the know can still enjoy the show. When its missing it gives those watching nothing to grasp, making the award seem like a second thought.
But out of all these things, there is but one left that trumps all of them; Geoff himself. Let’s make no mistake, this isn’t a dig at him personally nor at him creating and setting up the Game Awards. This is a criticism of his involvement. Every year, we must suffer through Geoff’s unpersonable nature in front of the camera giving speeches and introducing the next announcement or award and its just…painful. I can understand a want to be the host after creating such an event, but it’ss a role best left to professionals. Allow someone onstage who can properly do a show and whoo the crowd to the best of their ability rather than taking the stage yourself.
While the Game Awards have come a long way since 2013, there is still a myriad of issues that are still present. With the 2018 Game Awards gone and past, many of the issues since its inceptions are still present, but perhaps there is some hope. Perhaps out of all these issues mentioned, one or two might be fixed. But right now, there is little sign of change on the horizon, and until then—the Game Awards Are, And Have Always Been, Terrible.