The end of last week marked the fourth ever Game Awards. Taking a cue from the Oscars and Grammys, Geoff Keighley created The Game Awards to provide industry-wide recognition for the best games of the year. This was the first time I tuned in, and I have to say that I was both very impressed and very disappointed.
Let's start with the positives. VR was front and center this year, being mentioned in the first few minutes and maintaining it’s prevence throughout the show both in terms of awards and in speeches. I remember when the gaming community as a whole doubted that VR/AR would ever be anything more than an over-hyped and short lived technology, fading out of popularity like 3D TVs. Now, with Ready Player One ready to shake up theaters, it's clear that both the gaming and non-gaming communities alike are starting to realize that VR is here to stay. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard took home the award for Best VR/AR Game.
Another high note was seeing Cuphead take home a number of awards, including Best Indie Game and Best Art Direction. If you haven't checked this game out, please do. If nothing else, it will give you a peek into the world of 1930's cartoons, full of fever dream landscapes and hypnotically disturbing characters. It was refreshing to see an indie title win these accolades, again affirming that you don't need to be a AAA developer to produce amazing games.
I was also very happy to see that Carol Shaw was honored. As the first female game designer to actually have her name put on a game box (though by no means the first woman to be involved in games- her history just wasn't erased), it was a refreshing moment for the somewhat bro-centric event.
As for the bad, overall it just felt like a somewhat amateurish production. There were some clever marketing tie-ins, such as game sales that only ran for the duration of the show, as well as some fun in-game bonuses for viewers watching on specific platforms. However, the presentation of these perks seemed overdone and forced. The after party was sponsored by McDonald's and attendees were literally handed cheeseburgers when they walked in.
There were also some moments where Geoff lost control of the show. Josef Fares, for example, stole the stage with a spirited rant, leaving Geoff flustered as he tried to wrestle the conversation back to the program a half-dozen or so times.
Some of the categories also left the audience scratching their heads. It's clear that, at least for the audience in the theater, there was very little interest in awards for best esports teams or newest Twitch sensation. I'm not sure how the audience was chosen, but it would have added some needed life to the show to have an excited audience cheering for the winners.
Overall, the show was a mixed bag. But with this being only the fourth time they've put it on (placing it squarely in its infancy when considering the size of the production), I have hope that it will be elevated in years to come. I would love to see different hosts, and the star-studded appearances show they already have a shortlist of potentials.
To see the full list of the winners, you can check them out here.