Conventional logic says I should ignore the Spike Video Game Awards instead of giving it undeserved attention. But there’s no rule saying assassinations need to be silent. I’d like to place a very vocal bullet in the brains of this two-hour-long advertisement.
“But the Academy Awards are a tribute to movies! Why can’t the game industry have their own ceremony!?” An industry is entitled to ceremony. They are not entitled to use ceremony as advertisement. Not without being called out for it. E3 cuts the crap: They are a gaming expo where the endgame is to steal the funny green paper from mommy’s purse. The Academy Awards conducts itself with some subtlety. Yeah, the dress was provided by a famous manufacturer and the “Best Picture” category will send people running to the rental store. But the Academy doesn’t peddle Michael Bay’s latest explodathon in-between announcements. And when Jack Black wins “Best Voice”, he doesn’t ask Arkham Asylum how his ass tastes, mock “Uncharted Poo”, and feign outrage as the “producers” yank him off-stage. As happened at last year’s Spike Video Game Awards.
This “event” is about “honoring” as many video games as possible and then promoting the sequel; where Uncharted 2 can win Game of the Year while losing out on Best Action-Adventure Game. It’s not about ceremony. It’s about visibility. And by the time I’m done punching this show in the groin, you’ll believe me.
(I would love to fill this space with video of the event. But Viacom has actively gone out of their way to remove all traces of this travesty from YouTube. The beginner cynic would claim the VGAs were so bad they simply don’t want anyone to see it. But come on. I’m more delusional than that. The expert cynic would recognize that a YouTube search for “video game awards” or “vga” currently yields all the “world-premiere trailers” from that television show. You know, the fancy computer graphics that make you want to buy the video games. Ain’t that funny?)
8:00 p.m. – Check me out everybody! I’m dancin’! I’m dancin!
8:01 – Our host is Neil Patrick Harris. Yeah, the dude who played Doogie Howser. It’s not a good thing when your most famous acting job is built on “You’re the guy who played that doctor with the really stupid name!” But Doogie speaks! “What, what was that? What, what the singing and the dancing? What the fuck do you think this is, the Tonys?” Doogie downs the dance troupe with his plastic, dual-wield AK47s. This is going to be a very long night.
8:02 – “Hi, I’m Neil. Welcome to Family Hour on Spike. Could we get this cleaned up? I’ve got a show to host!” Unfortunately, this isn’t Japanese wrestling. The audience is not being silent out of respect for the performers. This is television on Spike TV. This is what happens when a bunch of old white guys walk into a board room and discover young adults love to fuck women and drink beer. The next two hours will an emphatic explanation for why women don’t want to work in this industry.
8:02 – Voiceover: “With world premieres from…Arkham City.” Hah. I guess they forgot that Batman: Arkham City was revealed at last year’s event in an opening act that consumed half the show’s budget.
8:02 – Voiceover: “With appearances by…Tony Hawk. Michael Chiklis. The cast of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, Olivia Munn, Sam Trammell, Rutina Wesley, Dominic Monaghan, Chris Hemsworth, and more.” I won’t dissect the guest appearances that have nothing to do with video games. If it’s like last year’s event, most of those guests are here to shill the next Spike television event that will be canceled after six episodes. Alright. Tony Hawk. He’s the father figure of the extreme sports video game, face of a franchise that died with last month’s release of Tony Hawk: Shred. Way to stay relevant, Spike. And Olivia Munn? At least Morgan Webb plays video games. I doubt there is any woman who has achieved “gamer girl” status with less knowledge of the medium.
8:03 – Harris: “Tonight is for you, die-hard fans at home, and all you amazing programmers and storytellers here [author’s emphasis on “here”] who have crafted these incredible worlds”. So this is an industry event? Oh boy. This will not end well. You will understand why in a few short moments.
8:03 – Harris: “These games are becoming so lifelike it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. I mean, am I the real Neil Patrick Harris or just a computer simulation of Neil, a computer simulation of Neil, a computer simulation of N–of Neil of Neil of Neil, error 453.” And the crowd goes dead! News flash to the writing team: You started off the monologue well. You acknowledged your audience. You thanked them for their hard work. Then you launched a punchline that openly insulted them. As if they hadn’t heard that one before. Bonus to Doogie for cutting straight to the next joke. When the crowd doesn’t bite, you acknowledge the joke sucked. You don’t continue reading the script. This is what happens when you get a dramatic actor to perform your opening gag reel.
8:03 – Harris: “I’ve grown up playing video games. We all have.” Olivia Munn hasn’t!
8:03 – Harris: “These games have been part of our life and we celebrate the incredible advancements of gameplay. So think about it. Think about how far we’ve come from like…Atari to now. Now there’s friggin’ Kinect. Kinect!” Haha, oh man. This industry is fucked.
8:04 – Harris: “Pretty soon, we’ll see like…Kinect TSA Patdown.” He then explains what the objective of the game would be. He then demonstrates how it would work. I don’t know who this is more offensive to: Those in the audience who took a plane to this event, or the first-time Spike TV viewers who are wondering why this joke had to be explained to them.
8:05 – And it’s time to announce the first Game of the Year candidate. I hope it’s one of those tactical military first-person shooters!
8:06 – Harris: “More people bought this game in its first week of release than any form of entertainment ever…[a]nd the hundreds of millions who’ve experienced its heart-pounding action.” Yes, that’s not a typo. He said “hundreds of millions”. He did this without skipping a beat. The next time Doogie professes he is a serious gamer, you will call him out on his bullshit.
8:07 – Random hot chick Maria Menounos: “I will be your eyes and ears backstage in the VGA Green Room.” A quick Google search reveals she has no video game acumen of note. She voice acted in a James Bond game. That’s it. I expect this will be a recurring theme.
8:08 – And here’s your “world-premiere” of Arkham City. During the monologue, Doogie noted that the event would feature pre-rendered graphics visible only to the television audience. Know how football broadcasts feature a computer-generated first-down line? Yeah, same thing. Congratulations to the live audience, who has nothing but empty air and spotlights to feast their eyes upon.
8:11 – Studio of the Year
Nominees: Bioware, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie Studios, Rockstar: San Diego.
Winner: Bioware. Small problem with this. And this is where this show will fall apart. Each of these studios has only released one game during this calendar year. And this isn’t like last year, where Rocksteady came out of nowhere and delivered what is possibly the only good Batman game ever. Thus, you have stated that Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 is better than Starcraft II, Halo: Reach, and Red Dead Redemption. You will be held to this as the night moves on.
8:13 – Oh, it’s Dane Cook. Yeah, he sucks at comedy, but he gets paid to do it. He couldn’t deliver the opening monologue?
8:13 – Dane Cook: “So when someone says ‘Mario’, you think of an Italian plumber with a mustache who eats shrooms, jumps over barrels, and probably loved it when I had to blow in my cartridge for him to work properly.” Oh, okay. You suck at comedy, too. Those jokes weren’t funny when the internet adopted them in 2006.
8:13 – Cook: “Me, Q-Bert, and his brother Q-Dave used to get stoned while playing Goldeneye.” Derp.
8:14 – Yes. Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the lead protagonist in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, is accepting his nomination. In-character. Seriously.
8:20 – Sorry. “Druids and random chanting” is only cool when The Undertaker is about to come out. And that’s only because The Undertaker curb-stomps people because it his job.
8:20 – And this is to introduce Todd Howard? A video game designer? What the hell?
8:21 – It’s a promo for The Elder Scrolls V. So let me get this straight: Microsoft Flight Simulator is boring because you’re exploring vast nothingness but The Elder Scrolls is a Game of the Year candidate in any year the franchise is published. I understand.
8:22 – Harris, commenting on The Elder Scrolls trailer: “So uhm. That looks cool.” The funniest thing you say or do all night will be of the “unintentional comedy” variety. Congratulations.
8:22 – Harris: “Since the gaming industry is bigger than movies…” Please don’t lie to yourself.
8:22 – Harris: “It’s only a matter of time before the porn industry makes X-rated versions of the games we love.” This is why nobody is going to take your “passion for gaming” seriously. Your show implies gamers are so desperate for sex that they will fuck the holes they punched in their bedroom wall. By your own narrative, they would know adult video games. They know they’re out there. What, you think Tomb Raider sold because of quality platforming?
8:22 – Harris: “So I decided to come up with some titles of my own. For example, Halo: Reach-Around.” Yup. There are 414,000 Google results for “Halo: Reach-Around”.* The first result is dated from March of 2010. We can conclude Doogie is the first person to use this joke. And you are making this joke in front of an audience that works sixty-hour weeks to make sure people take their product seriously. But don’t worry. It gets worse.
8:22 – “World of Whorecraft.”
8:22 – “Call of Booty: Pre-Ops.”
8:22 – “Grand Theft Auto: Erotic Asphyxiation.” God dammit so much.
8:23 – Harris: “Here’s a special announcement from Mortal Kombat“. I didn’t know the name of a video game franchise could directly speak to an audience.
8:24 – And just to eliminate any suspicions that this show is not an advertisement, the audience is informed that they can pre-order this new Mortal Kombat title at GameStop.
8:25 – Hey, Kratos! What you up to? Oh. You’re having sex in Aphrodite’s love shack. Again. No, seriously. He’s assumed the position. It’s so not suitable for work.* What a place to accept your Character of the Year nomination: The lowest point of God of War 3 and one of the most shameful gaming moments of the last decade.
8:25 – 90210 actress AnnaLynne McCord: “Sometimes, the most powerful weapon can be found at the local Home Depot. I’m talking about a hammer.” A wink, nod, and hand on the hip follows. What are you waiting for, nerd? That hole in the wall isn’t fucking itself.
8:26 – McCord: “This is Thor: God of Thunder.” I like playing a game with release trailers: Guess the MetaCritic score. So what do we have? Movie-tie-in. Game based on a comic book property. Area-of-effect abilities used for cleaning the screen instead of crowd control. Quick-time events that require polished production values in order to have any impact. Graphics that are nothing home to write about. The over/under on MetaCritic is 64.5. I’m taking the under.
8:27 – Best Action-Adventure Game of the Year
Nominees: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, God of War III, Red Dead Redemption, Super Mario Galaxy 2.
This is an excellent time to mention that Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was released two days after the nominees for this show were announced. According to Destructoid writer Nick Chester, the actual voting occurred a month earlier. Nominations of the November releases were based on beta versions of the product.* I.e. unfinished video games.
8:28 – Winner: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. So continue to follow the logic: This awards ceremony has just stated that AssCreeBro is a better video game than Red Dead Redemption and God of War III.
8:29 – Voice-over: “But who is the strongest of all-time? You debated this question on Spike.com, and the strongest heroes are: Master Chief, Samus, and Marcus Fenix.” Oh. Well. That obviously settles it.
8:34 – Hey! Denise Richards! Didn’t your career topple head-over-feet after playing a nuclear scientist in that Bond movie? Or was it your terrible performance in Starship Troopers? Refresh me.
8:34 – Oh. I see the problem. You made your living as an actress and can’t convincingly read lines off a teleprompter.
8:35 – It’s My Chemical Romance. And they’re singing. I don’t know why they’re doing it here. This is a good time to mention that we are thirty-five minutes into the show and only announced winners for two of the thirty categories.
8:39 – Menounos: “Now, trash-talking is a huge part of gaming. So can you give me your best trash-talking?”
Comedian Nick Swardson: “It’s a huge part of gaming. I’ve had accounts banned on Xbox Live for Code of Conduct, so…”
Menounos, feigning the last response any sane woman would give: “Really?”
Swardson: “Yeah, so I’m very adept at talking smack.” No, getting banned means you suck at it. You’re doing one of two things: You’re either throwing the first punch (which is usually unnecessary) or being a general nuisance.
Swardson: “So my thing is just to say stuff that’s really disturbing…[a]nd I was playing Black Ops with a group of guys, and I told this guy that I was going to cut his mom’s head off on Christmas morning.” Oh wow, I’m good at predicting the future. This guy says things that have gotten numerous gamers thrown in jail.**
8:42 – Host (couldn’t make out the name): “Mass Effect fans had to wonder what Bioware would do next.”
8:43 – What could Bioware do next? Another Mass Effect game, of course! What a circle-jerk.
8:47 – It’s a trailer for Homefront. It’s an urban military shooter with a twist. It’s set three, maybe even four years in the future! And where can I pre-order the game? Thanks, GameStop! I was going to pre-order five copies of this game. But now that you’re throwing in an exclusive in-game shotgun, I’m getting six.
8:48 – Not that the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia belongs anywhere near a video game event, but damn. It’s no wonder the show is as sick and twisted as it is. These guys have some friggin’ chemistry. Nice work.
8:49 – Best Shooter
Nominees: Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Bioshock 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo: Reach.
Winner: Call of Duty: Black Ops. I’m shocked that the game with the largest user base won the award. So keep following the logic train: AssCreeBro beat out God of War 3 and Red Dead Redemption. Call of Duty: Black Ops just beat Halo: Reach. By that logic, the only two candidates for Game of the Year are AssCreeBro and Black Ops.
8:51 – Phony gamer girl Olivia Munn: “Hi everyone. If there’s anything I like more than acting in ‘How I Met Your Mother’, it’s playing video games.” This is why people shit on you, Olivia. The only thing I can buy is that you’re an attention whore. And guess what this particular “comedy segment” is about? Munn just locked Doogie out of his dressing room so that she could host this segment. Fitting.
8:51 – Olivia: “I was a video game reporter for five years.” Haha, oh wow. She’s really pushing it.
8:52 – Olivia: “And also, I was on live television, in a bikini, choking down hot dogs to give gamer dudes around the world boners.” The audience applauds. The American video game industry is Japanese anime fan service in its human form. Pathetic.
8:54 – I’d like to remind everybody that we are fifty-five minutes into a commercial for the best of video gaming in 2011 and have seen zero video games that were based on an original property.
9:01 – Come on, Swardson! You’ve established Internet Tough Guy status. Show us what you’ve got!
9:02 – Swardson: “While you were sitting at home, stoned, playing the game, like ‘Hey Kyle, we’re out of weed man! No I didn’t take it! No you did! I don’t smoke weed, oh wait I have a problem! Maybe it was an elf.’ In that stoner haze you were actually learning something about Ancient Greece.” Not all gamers smoke weed. God damn.
9:05 – Look, I haven’t played a Call of Duty game since the original Modern Warfare. What could a fictional character in a Call of Duty game do to deserve getting a Character of the Year nomination?
9:06 – Best Performance by a Human Male. As opposed to what, a non-human male?
Nominees: Gary Oldman, Sgt. Reznov, Call of Duty: Black Ops
John Cleese, Jasper, Fable III
Martin Sheen, Illusive Man, Mass Effect 2
Nathan Fillion, Sgt. Edward Buck, Halo: Reach
Neil Patrick Harris, Spider Man, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Rob Wiethoff, John Marston, Red Dead Redemption
Sam Worthington, Alex Mason, Call of Duty: Black Ops. It’s worth noting that only one of the four Characters of the Year are nominated on this list.
Winner: Neil Patrick Harris. A.k.a. “You come host the show and we’ll give you an award. That work for you?”
9:09 – You know how Conan O’Brien did those segments where he would “talk to a celebrity”, clearly someone’s mouth imposed on top of a picture? Yeah, Doogie is arguing with Spider-Man. He is arguing with the character he voiced. Doogie totally didn’t know he was winning this award.
9:10 – Voice-over: “New level unlocked for Tony Hawk.” In what? How far his career as a video game spokesperson can fall?
9:10 – Prototype 2 promo. Number of sequels announced: 73. New games: 0.
9:18 – Doogie explains the instructions for “Angry Birds Live”. Don’t know what Angry Birds is? It’s a dumbed-down version of Worms. In the mobile gaming community, that’s good enough for twelve million downloads. Well, Doogie’s gonna play it “live”. They painted a bunch of pigs green for this segment. Doogie is “preparing to launch” a live chicken at them. The audience is horrified. As they should be. This show is making me feel sympathy for PETA.
9:18 – Director voice-over: “Listen, PETA called, we gotta shut this down.” Yeah, acknowledging the insanity of this segment does not allow you to save face. You still painted pigs green. You still paraded a live chicken in front of a live audience. And none of it was funny. It’s like writing a comedy sketch mocking cancer patients and claiming it’s okay because the main character got AIDS.
9:18 – Menounos: “[Olivia], who would rather date: John Marston or Ezio, quick!”
Munn: “Marston because he smells like horses and cowboys are sexy!” Good to see the ladies are asking and answering the questions that gamers want to know about.
9:19 – Guillermo del Toro: “[t]he stubbornness of an industry, the movie industry, that doesn’t allow to conceive a video game as anything other than ancilliary product.” You’d be happy to learn that the Chief Financial Officer of gaming’s largest third-party publisher got his start in Proctor and Gamble, a company designed to sell you consumable products year-after-year. And Call of Duty is now the most popular commercial gaming experience on the planet, a franchise that gets a new product every single year. Incredible stuff.
9:20 – “A new terror from Gullermo del Toro.” Oh, this is wonderful. Read any trade site dedicated to the video game industry. Your Gamasutra, your GamesIndustry.biz. The developers and programmers who carouse those sites will firmly state that if you don’t have a game programming pedigree, you need to shut the fuck up. It’s eerily similar to athletes who won’t listen to your opinion unless you played the game at a very high level. But I guess this rule doesn’t apply when they can attach a high-profile movie director to their product. Where Steven Spielberg can give creative advice for Boom Blox, when del Toro can create his own vision. It’s no surprise that the game attached to a famous movie director is the first reveal of the show that can be considered an original release.
9:20 – Best Independent Game
Nominees: “The nominees are: Joe Danger, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom.” No, seriously. Del Toro announced them all in succession. No montage. No trailers. We obviously can’t let these games get in the way of the God of War fuck-train.
Winner: Limbo. Eh, didn’t play. It’s an indie game. Why bother? It can never match the creative genius of Bobby Kotick’s Activision.
9:22 – “Most Anticipated Game” as voted by the Spike voters? How the fuck is this even an award? A couple years back, I did a fake review of “Halo 4”. One of the “positives” was “Advertising campaign got us really hyped to play the game.” It was supposed to be a joke.
9:24 – A tribute to those who have died throughout history in video games. Yeah, it’s confusing, I know. One of the deceased is Beatrice. Yes, from that Dante’s Inferno video game. The video game that transformed one of the most famous pieces of Western literature into a God of War rip-off. Her obituary states “Wife, Who cares she’s naked”. It’s times like this I wish I worked in the video game industry. So I could have made a scene and walked out of this travesty. And I would be a hero.
9:26 – It’s now time to take a break from the failed ambitions of unfunny comedy writers. Let’s announce some of the winners! Don’t worry, it’s nothing important. It only includes Best Role-Playing Game (Mass Effect 2). Nothing you’d be interested in.
9:32 – “[Red Dead Redemption] has already garnered two VGA awards, Best Original Score and Best Original Game.” Brainfart? Doubt it. This industry spent the last two months trying to convince me the re-re-rerelease of Dragon’s Lair was new and exciting. It’s very possible they expected us to completely forget that Red Dead Redemption is based off of 2004’s Red Dead Revolver.
9:35 – Menounos: “You play Jim Powell on No Ordinary Family, you can jump over buildings, you’re fire-retardant, and you are uber strong. But can you bench-press a Menounos?”
9:35 – THE PANTY SHOT DETECTION ROBOT HAS DETECTED A PANTY SHOT. Sadly, I can guarantee you that this was planned. Hole. Wall. Fuck it.
9:36 – Dominic Monaghan: “I wanted to do a kick-ass cast-on for you to tonight, tires screeching, pedal-to-the-floor, gears-out kinda cast-on. But then I remembered I drive a hybrid.” Silence. “‘Cause I’m green.” Silence. “Chicks dig it.” Silence. “I’m reading this, not sure–” Anyone remember that episode of The Simpsons where Krusty was getting his ass kicked in the ratings by Gabbo the Dummy? So Krusty gets his own dummy and proceeds to further horrify the audience with every subsequent action, eventually throwing the half-melted, half-an-eyeball plastic horror show into an audience full of children? That’s what this show feels like. I almost feel bad for those involved. Except for the writers. And Olivia Munn. She completely deserves this.
9:43 – They’re now spoofing TMZ’s daily round-up. I shit you not. “Kratos, the God of War, eatin’ at The Ivy…it looks like a Greek Salad.” This is reassuring. World Wrestling Entertainment isn’t the only place where failed sitcom writers go to die.
9:48 – It’s absolutely depressing that a promo for the sixth SSX snowboarding game is one of the night’s most refreshing trailers.
9:55 – Character of the Year
Nominees: Ezio Auditore da Firenze, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Kratos, God of War 3
John Marston, Red Dead Redemption
Sgt. Frank Woods, Call of Duty: Black Ops. I’d just like to point out that all four nominees for Character of the Year are bearded males. And with the exception of Kratos, all of the characters have brown hair. Isn’t focus testing wonderful?
Winner: Frank Woods. Yeah. User voting. Most popular game. Fanboys. Rinse. Repeat.
9:59 – Game of the Year
Nominees: Call of Duty: Black Ops, God of War III, Halo: Reach, Mass Effect 2, Red Dead Redemption.
Winner: Red Dead Redemption. “But Michael, shuldn’t Black Cops haev won!?” Nope. You’re now beginning to understand how the Spike Video Game Awards work. This event is designed to show that everyone in the video game industry has made an awesome and incredible game that you simply can’t miss out on. Ubisoft published Assassin’s Creed. Electronic Arts published Mass Effect 2. Microsoft published Halo: Reach. Sony published God of War III. Rockstar Games published Red Dead Redemption. And would you look at that? Those five publishers combined to win a bevy of awards! What, you think this is about integrity? This shit ain’t about integrity. It’s about blowjobs. It’s about what looks good in a press release. These are the actual results of this show:
– Red Dead Redemption lost to Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood for Best Action-Adventure Game.
– Red Dead Redemption lost to God of War III for Best Playstation 3 Game.
– Red Dead Redemption defeated AssCreeBro and God of War III to become Game of the Year.
– Mass Effect II earned a nomination for Game of the Year over Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.
– Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty defeated Mass Effect 2 to become PC Game of the Year.
– Call of Duty: Black Ops defeated Halo: Reach to become Best Shooter.
– Halo: Reach defeated Call of Duty: Black Ops to become Best Multi-Player Game.
– BioWare defeated Rockstar: San Diego to become Studio of the Year.
– Rockstar: San Diego watched their product become Game of the Year, defeating BioWare’s title.
I hope this show and its “awards” explain why the pay-to-own video game industry is going to shit a brick in the near-future. Think about it. If you didn’t know a single thing about video games, you would have watched this show and come to the conclusion that Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Halo, and Call of Duty are the only four meaningful video game franchises on the market. That’s the problem. Instead of addressing criticisms that the industry is becoming deathly stagnant, they’re going to try and elevate their existing franchises to god status and hope nobody notices that the next generation of great video game characters are not being produced. This is one way they’re going to do it: A television award show that openly insults its audience and the developers who make the games. And not a single industry force will call this multi-publisher-organized trade show out for what it is.
Tell me how that works out for you. I hope it works out better than this show did. Not really. This show made me want to see things burn and the video game business model would be a nice start.