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 will.I.am 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.