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2011 Spike VGA Awards: A Recap

The Spike VGA Awards are a yearly fixture in the gaming industry’s calendar, a celebration of the titles that have really set the gaming world alight and an opportunity for developers to tease and torment fans with footage of their upcoming releases.  This year’s awards, held at the Sony Pictures Studios in California last Friday, did not disappoint. A number of the superb games that have been released this year walked away with well-deserved awards, and a number of developers took the opportunity to build even more anticipation for their upcoming games.  Without further ado, here’s our (fairly brief) round-up of the Spike VGA Awards 2011.

The Winners
There weren’t too many surprises in this year’s selection of awards. Bethesda took home the ‘Game of the Year’ gong with Skyrim, which is understandable considering the sheer level of critical buzz that has surrounded the game since release (and our own 9/9.7/10 out of 10 reviews!) and they also claimed the ‘Studio of the Year’ award, beating out a number of other worthy contenders.  Skyrim also claimed the ‘Best RPG’ award.  Batman: Arkham City took home four awards: ‘Character of the Year’ (Mark Hamill’s Joker), ‘Best Xbox 360 Game’, ‘Best Action Adventure Game’ and ‘Best Adapted Video Game’.  Another multiple winner was Portal 2, which claimed the ‘Best PC Game’, ‘Best Multiplayer’, ‘Best DLC’ and both the ‘Best Performance’ awards, for both male and female performances.  Bastion also picked up a couple of awards for ‘Best Original Score’, ‘Best Downloadable Game’ and ‘Best Song in a Game’.
The Hype
Somewhat understandably considering how much money Bioware has put into marketing its first and most beloved child, Mass Effect 3 took home the ‘Most Anticipated Game’ award, and paired that achievement with a brand new trailer for the game, pieced together from chunks of gameplay footage and cutscenes.  It shows Shepard and his team trying to fight their way past a stampeding Reaper in order to claim some kind of artifact, before an unexpected (but familiar to fans of the series) guest shows up to offer some assistance...

Bioware was not the only company to try and harness the hype surrounding the VGA Awards, however.  The list of titles previewed at the awards is long and star-studded, and includes Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: PatriotsBioShock InfiniteAlan Wake's American NightmareMetal Gear Rising: RevengeanceThe Amazing Spider-Man, Command & Conquer: Generals 2 (from Bioware!) as well as Fortnite from Epic Games.  Check out a couple of the trailers below.

BioShock Infinite

The Amazing Spider-Man


The Analysis
Video games have, over the last half-decade or so, seemed determined to prove that they deserve a place at the ‘big boy’s table’ occupied by Hollywood and the film industry.  If you haven’t experienced the argument between whether games should look more like films or play more like games, then you haven’t been paying attention. With every cutscene-heavy AAA title the debate is re-opened, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be settled.  I can safely say, however, that the video game industry doesn’t yet have an awards ceremony that can match the prestige and timeless importance of the Oscars.

One comparison that I saw on the internet was the suggestion that the VGA Awards are the equivalent of the MTV Teen Choice awards: loud, brash and not exactly giving a very good picture of either the industry or the gaming public who support that industry.  It’s important that if developers and voice actors want to be treated with the same kind of respect that filmmakers and actors get, the industry needs a more dignified awards ceremony that also celebrates the truly ground-breaking and thought-provoking titles that have come out of many development studios, not just the big-budget and heavily-advertised ones.  It also most certainly does not need an awards ceremony which includes a section solely devoted to a man in military fatigues demonstrating how to “teabag” the head of Steamhammer games and which allows Charlie Sheen to present an award while cracking “jokes” about how he accepted the job because he thought there would be “chicks”.

In short, while it’s good that the video game industry has an awards ceremony devoted to celebrating the best games that it has produced, I personally don’t think that the current adolescent attitude and format of the show (where the winners are shuffled on and off stage quickly and usually without being permitted to say anything, to make way for the next trailer) is doing the industry any favors in the eyes of either its supporters or its detractors.  If I were to offer any pointers for next year’s awards ceremony, it would be to encourage the writers to think about the very purpose of an awards ceremony - to congratulate the people who have worked long and hard to provide us with top-class entertainment.  A greater degree of respect for both creators and fans is priority number one, not a cavalcade of flashy trailers which, while exciting, should not overshadow the main event: the awards.


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