Monday, December 12, 2011

An Open Letter to the Spike VGAs

By Jason Schreier

Dear Spike VGA Producers,
I get it. You’ve got obligations. You have to appeal to a broad audience. Your references can’t be too niche or obscure. You have to keep people watching. You have to appease advertisers and wrangle exclusive deals out of game publishers. I don’t envy your jobs.
But after watching the 2011 Spike TV Video Game Awards this Saturday night, I can’t help but wish you’d try a little bit harder not to embarrass the people you’re trying to entertain.

It’s not hard to find the root of the problem here: You think we’re dumb. You think your audience is so stupid that they’ll be amused by YouTube rants and health potion gags. You think we get our jollies out of watching girls bite cupcakes off conveyor belts. You think videogame references make a good substitute for humor.
Worst of all, you couldn’t care less about what you’re showing us. You don’t care about the games or the people who made them. As Joystiq’s Justin McElroy pointed out on Twitter, “If they don’t give a shit about the awards, why on EARTH should we?”
When you dedicate minute-long segments to the likes of and Kevin Jonas while breezing through 10+ award winners in a 20-second montage, it’s hard to believe you care about your videogame awards show. When you parade around more actors than game developers, it’s really hard to believe you care about your videogame awards show.
I can deal with the unfunny jokes. You want to make tired Alec Baldwin references or force host Zachary Levi to say things like “Your urine is magical,” OK. I don’t need to laugh.
But half of your show was dedicated to slapstick. When you weren’t showing game footage, you were shoving nonsensical gimmicks down our throats. You were putting the spotlight on D-list celebrities and YouTube stars. You were making fun of “social gamers” for being anti-social. You were keeping a cow backstage so you could reference FarmVille.
You had a grown man in a military outfit pretend to put his balls in a Call of Duty developer’s mouth because he took too long on stage.
So maybe you don’t care about quality. Maybe you want to stop by, show your exclusive trailers, earn some ad bucks, and then crawl out, leaving slime on the walls and bile in our throats. Maybe you just want to show five or six awards and spend the rest of the time filling space with as many cheap gags as possible.
Except you’ve proved that you can do things right. Your gorgeous, fluid Zelda montage was deftly presented and properly treated. Not only did you give us a lovely cameo by the venerable Shigeru Miyamoto, whose appearance can wrest a smile out of even the most jaded gamers, you showed him the respect that he deserves. You guys totally nailed it.
Then you had Charlie Sheen come out and ask where the chicks were.
Is this really how you see us? If you think gamers are tuning in to watch Charlie Sheen make lewd comments, you’re both completely naive about your audience and totally out-of-touch when it comes to celebrity relevance. The fact that Charlie Sheen was available to present at the Spike TV Video Game Awards should have probably tipped you off.
I am a male between the age of 18 and 30. I know many other males between the age of 18 and 30. We all fall into your key demographic. Trust me when I tell you that not a single one of us thinks it is funny or entertaining to watch Felicia Day slice fruit hurled by the cast of Workaholics. Not a single one.
Why can’t we see developers talk about the games they love? Why can’t we watch industry auteurs celebrate their craft? Why can’t we hear from people who are more interested in honoring videogames than resuscitating dead TV careers?
Here you were, Spike VGA producers, on national television, with the opportunity to show the world that the videogame industry is not solely composed of profane 16-year-olds and humorless manchildren. Here was your chance to demonstrate that videogames are culturally significant, artistically important, worthy of an awards show that lauds what gaming can do and what it can become.
Instead you just shoved your balls in our mouths.

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