On Saturday night myself, Blair and Craig tuned into VGX to see what new games would be announced, as well as what kind of new information would be offered about existing games. I had some excitement prior to the event because I wanted to see new things, but instead of an interesting spectacle, we sat through an ordeal that appeared to mock the games industry and misunderstand the target audience.
When it comes to the presentation of a major event about a specialist industry, it makes sense for someone with knowledge of the industry to be presenting. It’s done for movie awards, music awards, and it should have been done for VGX, apparently the biggest awards (if just the most watched) in the industry. Geoff Keighley did as much as he could with what he was given, but Joel McHale brought proceedings down.
I know the kind of comedian and actor that Joel is, and I’ve enjoyed his work in Community, but the night was filled with misjudged jokes about adult diapers, which he kept trying to push even though the premise wasn’t funny the first time, and a strange joke about how the female orgasm is a myth.
After each game announcement VGX tried something new by then interviewing the developers, and this really had the potential to be informative as well as humorous. However, while Geoff asked questions that were looking for information, Joel was trying to be funny with his questions but seemed to show that he didn’t get what the event was truly about. On one occasion he also appeared to be a bit disrespectful.
The moment I’m referencing is when industry veteran Tim Schafer, the mind behind games such as Monkey Island and Psychonauts, was showing Broken Age gameplay for the first time. During this moment you could almost feel the tension rise as Joel asked unfunny questions, including whether or not Tim was high. Professionally, Tim kept his composure and brushed the question off but the moment appeared quite uncomfortable.
Joel’s humour was just the tip of a VGX that appeared to be trying too hard to be funny. There were little segments done by different groups, major influencers on the gaming audience, that ranged from rehashing “Half Life 3 confirmed” jokes, to trying to poke fun at the “bro” demographic of Call Of Duty and sports games. In my opinion none of these were funny or interesting, brought out to extend the length of a show that could have been wrapped up in an hour.
VGX seemed to aim at a cynical stereotype of what makes a gamer, with examples being reinforced by Loiter Group, who hosted the Music From GTA V segment, playing to these stereotypes and not using the opportunity to present something that could have been brilliant. The group didn’t really talk about the music at all, instead feigning the inability to read a script off paper, saying things like they enjoyed sitting on the toilet backwards and other statements that held no context to the event at all.
It also felt like the show was only aimed at guys of a certain age, despite gamers coming from all generations and genders. From Joel McHale’s female orgasm joke to the Music From GTA V being predominantly rap with derogatory references to women, like Tyler The Creator’s Garbage. GTA has such a wide selection of music that it’s a shame this was billed as one of the big performances.
VGX just seemed to reinforce the stance that only guys play games. Considering that, as recently as this year, it was confirmed half the gaming audience are women, this was an approach that was incredibly outdated and, in my opinion, should have been scrapped at the planning stage.
The stereotypes of what a gamer is does the entire industry a disservice, and ignores the way in which gaming has become a normal part of many peoples’ lives. The fact that the “biggest awards in gaming” still hung on to such an image just shows how far the industry needs to go when facing the public. In fact, if this is the best that can be done to celebrate the industry, then VGX may as well have not bothered airing.
VGX stands out as the worst live event I’ve covered while writing for TSA, though that isn’t to say the games that were presented to us were bad. The main topic after an event airs shouldn’t be how bad a viewing experience it was, but instead what was shown and how excited people are for new things.
The saving graces of the night for me were the reveal of Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, the surprise of a Telltale Borderlands game, the confirmation that Telltale were also tackling Game Of Thrones, and the trailers for The Witcher 3 and The Division. Each reveal was as surprising and awe inspiring as it could be, and I feel if the interviews were handled better and ran longer, replacing the comedy segments, we’d be talking about how great VGX was.
The games industry is now, in terms of capital raised, bigger than the movie industry, and it’s time that was properly acknowledged. Instead of a show that panders to a stereotype, the industry deserves a huge, positive spectacle that includes everyone involved and doesn’t shut the majority of the audience out.
Those three hours could have been spent more on the world premieres, more in depth and interesting interviews, and a celebration of games. Instead, by the end I was thankful for the ordeal being over, and that is the worst reaction any show can bring out of an audience. I also know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, judging by reactions on Twitter and online forums after the show.
The consensus is that VGX was terrible, and if the games industry wants a proper awards show then it needs to approach such an event in a much more serious way. VGX pandered to a stereotype of gamers that was insulting, but hopefully there is now an opportunity for someone to enter and create something better.