Last night’s Spike TV Video Game Awards went off, well, not exactly without a hitch, but Jack Black managed at very least to not cause any major havoc with his flamethrower. In general, the awards themselves brought a keen list of winners (something I say with the caveat that I was one of several judges) from Media Molecule’s well-deserved studio of the year to Left 4 Dead‘s best multiplayer and World of Goo‘s audience-awarded best indie game.
Will Wright’s ‘little god in a virtual world’ acceptance speech, too, was nice to see broadcast nationally, even if corned up (to Wright’s awkward, “oh!”) with a silver-painted bikini-clad girl in angel wings descending on a wire-swing to deliver the statue itself.
That about summed up the rest of the awards ceremony itself, and brings me nicely to the point…Spike seems so nervously and unwaveringly focused on such a laser-targeted demographic, that even I as a thirty-something white male felt a bit alienated, which seems like Spike’s biggest missed opportunity. It’s an extremely obvious point (and there likely weren’t many expecting otherwise), but bears repeating anyway, as encouragement to right the course in the future: they may have honed their network demographic, but obviously not gaming’s.
Your choice of IGN’s recent “55% of gamers polled were married, 48% have kids, and new gamers – those who have started playing videogames in the past two years – are 32 years old on average” or Pew’s recent “fifty percent of women and 55 percent of men play” shows that the audience could clearly be there for something a little, say, broader. Though edited down by the network, G4′s broadcast of this year’s far-less titillating (and musclebound) IGF Awards shows that the situation is improving and could reach critical mass soon.
But otherwise, highlights included the unlikely but long overdue coronation of Tim Schafer, brought in by chariot (pulled, of course, by another slate of bikini-clad models) to Jack Black/the hall’s chants of “Tim Freaking Schafer,” and the long-awaited unveiling of his new Brutal Legend trailer (above), and the introduction of the premiere teaser for EA’s new Dante’s Inferno game with a fantastically understated “it’s based on a book. *giggle*” by another of Spike’s choice of models.
Lowlights? Neil Patrick Harris’s oh-wait-he’s-not-hamming-he-actually-doesn’t-know-what’s-going-on de-announcement that World of Goo had won, and subsequent lack of any identifier other than programmer Ron Carmel’s name, who was able to save the day with a cardboard cutout mask of designer Kyle Gabler’s face, and the quick-speed through a half dozen or so awards which saw even Hideo Kojima snubbed from stage-time for 50 Cent and Mike Tyson (not to mention Debi Mae West [voice of MGS4's Meryl], who I nominated as much for her performance as the hope that someone from Joe Frank’s brilliant radio series might take to the stage at a games event).
But in the spirit of candle-lighting rather than darkness-cursing, it was, all in all, a better balanced show than last year’s, and here’s hoping the upward trend continues. Games themselves are sexier, smarter, more entertaining and more beautiful than they’ve been given credit for, and — presented correctly — every bit as deserving of screen time as the Hollywood-handsomes.
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