Just as quickly as they were announced, The Game Awards 2014 have come and gone. Its ceremony was a long string of romanticized speeches, awards and spotlights for tons of games and plugs beneath more plugs.
It took several hours to reel in all its points, but it did so in a mostly smooth fashion. At the least, it’s no longer the industry-wide embarrassment that we had to endure each year with Spike’s VGX Awards.
There were no more gimmicks or ill-fitting stereotypes to showcase games and their people. The Game Awards 2014 were, if nothing else, a straight shooter of laureates and reveals. It may not be perfect yet, far from it, but it’s definitely exhibiting symptoms of its good intentions.
So, what exactly went right and where does the event still need some tweaks? We’ll break it down in a rundown of both good and bad points below:
The Good Game Awards 2014
One of the better parts in any awards show are the segments where viewers are presented with new reveals and more exclusive information on some great titles. Past the convention summer chock-full of game announcements, The Game Awards 2014 were still able to bring some pertinent info of their own.
One of the larger clips showed Metal Gear Solid V looking better than ever. Those who pick up The Phantom Pain will also get access to a fully renewed Metal Gear Online that looks more action-oriented than ever.
Snake mows down enemies, cloaks away and even latches on to a mech. There’s going to be some ravaging to be done in this multiplayer mode.
New games were revealed as well, such as the next project from The Fullbright Company, the developer of Gone Home fame. Their next adventure will take place in a sci-fi setting.
Throughout the show, the audience was greeted with novelties. There’s a campy Godzilla game on the way, Robert Bowling displayed multiplayer game Human Element and Battlefield Hardline wants to mimic a TV show, for some reason.
There was enough material for fans of most genres to get excited about, whether for new or existing content.
Room For Big And Small
The Game Awards 2014 weren’t the standard spectacle of blockbuster hits, where smaller titles were just a sample when presenting a general indie award. Everyone was given an equal spot, which we should commend and encourage other shows to follow.
Dragon Age: Inquisition could be spread lavishly across the screen, but something like Adr1ft from Adam “deal with it” Orth was able to show up front and center as well. Throughout the show, known franchises switched places with interesting newcomers.
What’s great about this isn’t just that there was room for every sort of game, but also that they were treated as an equal to their high-production peers, because they are. A game’s budget doesn’t necessarily determine its quality.
For instance, Before from Facepunch Studios was able to display its survival game in full detail, even going into the backstory for it. This shows an intimate, human level that’s otherwise less present in the star-studded reels of other shows.
This method works! Just looks at all the headlines that stated Before was “revealed” that day, despite us talking about it in September. Games were able to draw attention from eyes that otherwise have no time for anything but the top tier.
Awards For All The Gaming World
We all know about Game of the Year awards, best action games and so on. There is more than just your standard rundown, however, which is something The Game Awards 2014 tried to cater to as well.
One of the most contested laureates of the night, for example, was Youtube personality John Bain, known as TotalBiscuit. Bain was commended as a Trending Gamer, having grown in popularity sizably over the last few months in the current movement looking into professionalism in the game industry.
There was also room for eSports players, since this professional branch is ostensibly the biggest growing market right now. Call of Duty’s NaDeSHoT received a Player of the Year award, while Counter-Strike’s Ninjas in Pyjamas brought home the spot of best team.
Developers were rewarded for their hard work, but also just games that tried something new were able to compete in the Games for Change award. There are fewer blind spots and a lot more inclusion in this new event, which is always better than a restrictive model.
Even something as simple as a fan creation, Twitch Plays Pokémon, got an award. Who knows, you, the reader, might end up on a Las Vegas stage!
Continuing the point that this event was centered on both blockbusters, but also other people, there was no better moment than when Roberta and Ken Williams were rewarded as industry icons. Together, the couple is responsible for Sierra Entertainment, a real contributing factor to how games are done today.
Instead of a quick, sappy highlight reel of their career, the two were given a huge time slot to point out exactly why they deserve this sort of attention. After that, Ken and Roberta Williams were brought on stage, where they could personally share their story.
This was followed up with an announcement for a new King’s Quest, which ties in perfectly with the legacy the Sierra era is ushering in. It’s not often that a centerpiece can get people excited for a classic adventure.
More than just heartwarming, this piece was perfect to center viewers, after a lot of high-profile trailers and flashy cuts. It brings the crowd back to Earth and shows us that this gaming industry is made up of people who work hard to provide us with the things we love.
This also shows that women have been an integral part of games since the beginning, day one.
Nothing spells instant legitimacy as bagging the elusive Nintendo to show up at your event. This is a company that even skips out on some major conventions, so not only having its people there, but have them come promote their games is a big leg up for The Game Awards 2014.
Reggie Fils-Aime took some time to do the usual, charismatic acte de presence. That even came with some more promotion for Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., a strategy game in the style of XCOM.
Later that night, however, we saw one of the biggest draws for the event: Zelda gameplay that no other player in the circuit was yet able to show during its main feature. That’s one historic way to close out your new awards project, Geoff.
Even during this new gameplay, Nintendo wasn’t done with regaling the audience with stories. Aside from facts on the Wii U Zelda project, we also learned that the mysterious Starfox game in production will release prior to this adventure.
If The Game Awards 2014 is already able to have that much pull with a company like Nintendo, its following years can be nothing else but promising. Next year, we expect a Metroid reveal!
The Bad Game Awards 2014
Whoever Geoff Keighley knows for the technical direction of these sorts of spectacles, it’s time to start making new industry connections. For years, the Spike VGX Awards were plagued with amateur segues, technical issues and awkward silences. This curse is now following the host to The Game Awards 2014.
It’s not nearly as bad as the VGX times, but that’s hardly a reference either. The whip has to come down in following editions, because an event of this magnitude, viewed all across the world, needs to be tighter on all fronts.
Consistently throughout the evening, hosts and award presenters had to reiterate their first few lines, likely due to the back-end crew not properly signaling they were on. In a sad reality, this has happened to Keighley so often that the MC of the night was able to rehash lines so naturally that it was less noticeable.
Similar sentiments go out to camera angles that took away the focus of interviews to display black space. Angles showed presenters clearly reading off prompters, instead of centering people to prevent this hollow stare.
Many more faults occurred. Details matter and when so many are off, the whole parade just becomes a mess.
Your awards show is a giant advert block already. I don’t need to know that you were able to partner with Valve to promote Steam sales every two minutes. I’m on Steam plenty, thanks.
Seriously, the forced-in ads at all turns are just uncomfortable to watch and they’re in poor taste as well. It’s understandable that a new event has to attract sponsors to find a way to set up a budget, but this can’t be the only way it has to go.
Other exhibitions don’t even need to go through such lengths to showcase ads, so either the scope of The Game Awards 2014 was a bit too large for its first edition or someone just didn’t know when to stop raking in money. Neither are good choices.
Moreover, it befuddles the awards themselves. Did Dragon Age: Inquisition win Game of the Year because it is the awesome experience it seems to be or is it because BioWare had a giant stake in the event?
That’s really a question you want to avoid, because it can be damning to your entire project. Toning down on straight up ads is surely something that can be achieved in later editions.
Let’s go a bit further than just advertisements. Yes, those literal representations were annoying, but the corporate undertones throughout the show were likely even worse.
First off, camouflaging corporate interests into a speech is just insidious; it has no value to the viewer other than promoting even more advertisements. Think of it like watching a brand deal on Youtube that isn’t properly announced. There’s no way to determine its legitimacy.
When Keighley fawns over the industry and what a magical place that is, it serves no other person than the host. It’s the sort of flattery that’s done to gain that promotion at the workplace or to justify sponsor money going into project.
Just stop it.
Marketing was so shoehorned in. There was a segment where even a cartoon character speaks in a business-placating tongue.
“I feel like I already got my money’s worth,” the concocted character says. It was created to link a sense of childlike wonder to a commercial model.
Cartoons are historically created to sell product. Please don’t use that as a way to justify such sleazy behavior. It fully clashes with the parade’s human touches.
“Best Remaster” isn’t a category. People don’t watch awards to condone capitalist ideals.
Geoff Keighley deserves a round of applause for stomping something as big as The Game Awards 2014 out of the nothing it was before. That’s a tremendous effort for someone to try on their own responsibility and finances.
As great as the event was, however, the organizer may want to consider stepping down. As previous points have now made clear, Keighley has grown to become a business man first and foremost, devoid of any spark.
Sadly, any time that Geoff puts on that faked grin to speak neutrally droning nothings into a microphone, the audience falls asleep. Geoff Keighley is the equivalent of white noise on a screen; nothing of value is there as long as they’re present.
It’s understandable why the organizer also acts as a presenter; it’s the public face of any exhibition that stays the most relevant. As long as that particular face is tied to primetime reveals, it stays in business.
Still, maybe there have been enough bad examples tied to the manager to let an actual human being do the talking instead. If anything, we’d move away from the Doritos and Mountain Dew jokes.
This time though, get a video game person, not Joel McHale.
A lot of the negatives in The Game Awards 2014 are foibles that can be justified to some degree or even just seen as a matter of taste. It has fewer repercussions to just be annoyed by camera angles or PR drivel.
There’s one thing we need to talk about though: Side awards. Who decided that would be a good idea? Yes, it moves along the lengthy theater, but that doesn’t rationalize this foul act.
It’s a clear sign that some people are worth a spotlight, while others are merely a sideshow. It’s not flattering at all to be considered a sideshow.
Awards like the eSports categories are a nice inclusion, but calling over a pro player like a lapdog during another segment really isn’t deserving of their dedication to their cause. If anything, eSports are huge; you’ll attract a lot more people by acknowledging its legitimacy.
Even TotalBiscuit, one of the people given spotlight time, spoke against this practice:
The “awards on the side” bits werent too great either. The Valiant Hearts devs deserve the stage time for more than my dumb face
— TotalBiscuit (@Totalbiscuit) December 6, 2014
This needs change. Except for Destiny winning Best Online Experience; you totally want to hide that awful fact.