Acclaiming the Acclaimed: Do We Need Award Shows?
There are a large number of video game awards shows, the VGX’s, previously known as the Spike Video Game Awards, the Independent Games Festival (IGF) awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Games Awards, the Game Developers Choice Awards and finally, the D.I.C.E awards, which took place last week in Las Vegas. D.I.C.E’s organizing body is the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), a 20,000 member strong organization comprised of developers and other industry professionals that was the first to organize an awards show for the video game industry which took place all the way back in 1994, and even had the most 90’s name that you could dream of: Cybermania ’94. The show has grown exponentially since then and has become one of the most prominent in the industry.
At this year’s awards, Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us was awarded the title of being Game of the Year, and also won awards for: Outstanding Achievement in Story, Outstanding Innovation in Gaming, Adventure Game of the Year, and Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction. I loved the game from start to finish and felt that it offered a truly novel take on a tired genre and even more worn out antagonists, a post apocalyptic adventure sprinkled with a dose of zombies for good measure. But this was one of just a dozen accolades that it had earned since it landed on shelves in June. While the Last of Us won the lions share of the awards GTA V and Bioshock Infinite were also notable winners, the former won an award for Outstanding Achievement in Gameplay Engineering and the latter was Action Game of the Year. The fact that Rockstar managed to squeeze in micro level details as the flip-flopping of flip-flops into the paltry 512 mb of RAM of the PS3 and Xbox 360 along with the macro level majesty of Los Santos is incredible and should be commended. Bioshock Infinite had some thrilling sky hook action and kinetic gunplay, but I still think it was a better adventure game than an action game, but lets not argue that point right now. My point is, all three of these titles raked in millions of sales and in GTA V’s case, more than a billion dollars in revenue, do they need one more notch on their belt? Furthermore, does the gaming industry need award shows, especially when the majority of them (even the IGF) seem like they are looking more and more self-congratulatory to games and developers we know to be good?
D.I.C.E stands for Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain and next to the Game Developers Conference is considered to be the most important event of the year for game developers and industry executives. The most interesting part of the four-day event, next to the poker tournaments and go carting are the pantheon of gaming luminaries providing their insights into the philosophical ideas informing their next project or commenting on a general trend they see developing that require further consideration.
The 2014 D.I.C.E keynote given by Mark Cerny and Mark Turmell, moderated by Eugene Jarvis
The D.I.C.E. Awards serves as the grand finale of the conference, a moment when all of the members of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) cast their votes for the games and studios that they believe deserve to be recognized as excelling in that year. Sound familiar? This is exactly the same format that the Academy Awards follow, even down to the title and membership structure of the organization sponsoring it: the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. This is what has caught my attention and is motivating the writing of this article. The Academy Awards have long been viewed as being immensely political and corrupt in their selection and awarding of the coveted Oscar. With the gaming industry now larger than the movie industry as far as annual revenue is concerned we need to view the DICE Awards in the same way we view the Oscars, and try our utmost to not let them wrest control of a medium that is much more audience oriented due to its interactivity than the passive creations of the film industry. NeoGaf, Reddit, Giant Bomb are all forums where individuals are given the same critical weight as professional journalists and developers, the same can’t be said for film criticism, it is our greatest strength as a community and by masquerading as peer reviews these award shows are taking agency away from us in deciding the trends that will define our hobby in the years to come.
Long have games been pigeonholed by the non-gamers among us because Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario and an extremely pissed off Cardinal have stood as it’s sole ambassadors to the general public. Awards shows like D.I.C.E and the VGX’s and events like E3 and PAX are one way to put a spotlight on the gaming community that non-gamers can look to and say, well, maybe these are not just juvenile playthings, but mature creative works that can stand on equal footing to film and literature. But that debate, and those that seek to define whether video games are an art form will continue for many years to come, but neither are nearly as important as wanting the developers of the games that we love to aspire to greater things than heaping praise on one another just for the sake of capping off the PR cycle.