Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blog Post: Spike TV amazes with another cringe-inducing Video Game Awards show

Well, tonight was the night, the annual Spike TV Video Game Awards. Ah, the video game awards, the biggest non-event of the year where Spike TV gets to humiliate itself in front of millions of....actually, does this show really attract millions of viewers? I'd honestly be amazed.

It's tough to figure out exactly who this terribly weak awards show is meant to entertain. The "big game reveals" are almost all leaked beforehand, they’re announced with short FMV trailers that show no gameplay to speak of, the jokes are so awful that one of the presenters even blamed the teleprompter, and those who present the awards seem to have nothing to do with video games as they stand up there awkwardly with their feeble jokes in front of the merciless crowd….wow.

Seriously, who dresses up and heads out to the annual Video Game Awards? I just can’t even imagine who exactly is sitting in this crowd, but it had to be the most lifeless audience I think I’ve ever seen at any televised event. My Chemical Romance, who for some reason performed (their song appears in the Gran Turismo 5 commercial, so I guess that has something to do with it) might as well have been doing a show in an empty hall. There wasn’t a single cut to the audience during their entire performance, the show’s directors clearly not even bothering to fake the crowd’s excitement.
But let’s head back to the games for a minute. It amazes me that the video game industry continues to legitimize this 3rd rate award show by giving it these “BIG EXCLUSIVE REVEALS!” I assume these are meant to get gamers to watch the show (despite the fact that I’m sure the trailers will be up online in no time) but the trailers themselves are so brief, contain almost no gameplay, and come and go with no sort of context or explanation. One of the more bizarre moments of the show for me was the announcement of a new SSX game. Remember SSX? It was a pretty awesome snowboarding series of the PS2/Gamecube/Xbox era, where you’d play as characters with giant orange afros who do The Worm on their snowboards.

Well apparently it’s getting a “deadly” sequel about racing down “dark, dangerous” terrain with realistic-looking characters and not a joke in sight. Really? It's pretty much the equivalent of giving Spongebob Squarepants an uzi for his next movie and turning it into a serious R-rated drama about him rescuing Patrick from underwater, bomb-wielding terrorists and killing everyone in his path.
This SSX trailer is absolutely begging for some context, but instead, we get a quick look at what appears to be a  “dark, serious snowboarding game” called SSX and then that's it. We don't get to understand how exactly this is an SSX game or even what systems it’s on, making its reveal almost entirely useless. At E3, for example, when a game's revealed, usually a developer takes to the stage after the trailer to explain what we've just seen, but not here. Here they're apparently too eager to get to the next unfunny skit.
The one game reveal that seemed to have been given a somewhat decent trailer (as in, we actually got to see some gameplay) was Uncharted 3, but everything else, if you happened to be watching for the new video game reveals, was terribly lacking. And if anyone not into video games is watching this....I can't even imagine how any of this could be interesting to them. The show simply fails to communicate what's so amazing about many of the fantastic video games being showcased, and why video games are played and loved by so many people all throughout the world. Though of course they have time for a skit where a celebrity explains which male video game character she'd have sex with. Classy.
Neil Patrick Harris, despite belting out jokes as bad as everyone else’s, actually manages to escape with some dignity, mainly because he comes across as someone who actually did some preparation for this. His sarcastic tone and a constant look of amusement on his face that just screams “doing it for the paycheck, BABY!” actually elevates the show slightly, if only because it lets the viewer know that at least someone up on the stage knows how ridiculously stupid this all is.  During one of the (many) cringe-inducing skits throughout the show’s two hours, the sound effects on the gun he was using came too late, giving him the opportunity to improvise a one-liner.  During another skit where he proceeds to place a live chicken into a slingshot (I wish I were kidding) before the show’s director “lets him know that PETA disapproves and he has to stop the stunt,” he says in a voice fully loaded with sarcasm that the Oscars would have let him do it. He ends the show very appropriately by commenting that this is probably “the end of his hosting career.”
Though to be honest, the only one who has to worry about that is Dane Cook, who makes several jaw-droppingly unfunny appearances to introduce the nominees for “Year’s Best Character,” and while I know Dane Cook isn’t exactly George Carlin, this was bad even by his standards. Nick Swardson makes an equally unfunny appearance to promote his new TV show, a decision I’m sure he’s now totally regretting.
It’s sad because there are some really solid things about this show. The clips used as the nominees are introduced are well-cut, and the awards in general don’t seem to be *too* rigged. Except, of course, for Neil Patrick Harris winning Best Male Voice Actor (he remarks sarcastically, "well, that was a surprise,") against John Cleese, Daniel Craig, Gary Oldman, and Martin Sheen...yeah, okay. There was a great NBA Live 2011 joke, and a pretty fantastic live performance by José González of his song from Red Dead Redemption, a performance which thankfully wasn’t butchered by the echoing caused by a bad mic job.

Otherwise, it’s frustrating that an industry that’s reaching for universal acceptance and is begging to be taken more seriously among the general public is stuck with this awards show that makes video gaming look so tacky. This collection of disinterested presenters, groan-inducing skits, and what feels like a majority of the awards being given off screen, seems to do nothing but set the image of the games industry back. It’s seen improvements over the years, but at this point it feels like it’s content to be “that 3rd rate awards show” that seems like nothing more than an excuse for the game publishers (and Burger King) to advertise themselves. But ugh….why does it have to be so embarrassing?


  1. ShadowLegend: Powered by Burger King.

    I caught part of the show on a live stream lol. It was funny. It was full of UK people who don't have access to the channel. They were whining about US advertising and how bad it is. They were whining about the horrible jokes too.

    I don't think SPIKE cares how bad the show is. They just want their advertising money. I remember last year "Best Independent game powered by the Dew"

  2. lol no idea if this is true or not, but my friend told me that the guy whose game was nominated for "Best indie game of the year powered by Mountain Dew" was on a podcast right before those awards. The people doing the podcast asked what he thought of that, he said "can I give my nomination back?"