The Game Awards 2014 will desperately try to convince you that this show has nothing in common with the Spike Video Game Awards or last year’s disastrous VGX. They are fuckin’ liars. Everything about this show—from the corporate influence, to the structure, and pacing, to the horrible choice of entertainment options—is partially or absolutely the work of one Geoff Keighley, the Lord and Master of Doing the Dew. But talk is cheap and so is this awards ceremony. Let’s get to business.
(Oh, and in case you are wondering: There was no reason to recap last year’s disastrous VGX for the simple reason that Joel McHale was the host of the show and he tore the show to shreds during the show. It would have been like doing a recap of someone else’s recap. Keep up the good work, Joel.)
December 5, 9:00 p.m. EST – “The following program may contain content that some viewers find offensive.” No shit?
9:01 – “Players are artists who create their own reality in the game”, so says the Shigeru Miyamoto quote. Meanwhile, somewhere at Nintendo, the company’s lawyers are on alert, preparing to crush any videogame players who assert ownership of the Let’s Play videos that use Nintendo game assets.
9:01-9:03 – Opening montage goes live and all your favorite videogame characters are there. In recent years, there’s been a stink made about Hatsune Miku, the digitally-created Japanese popstar who is little more than smoke and mirrors. And the critics say, “Who could cheer for a manufactured popstar?” (As though today’s flesh-and-blood popstars aren’t manufactured, either.) And here we are, with a live audience screaming for all their favorite celebrities: Nathan Drake, Big Boss, Lara Croft, a digitized Kevin Spacey, Master Chief, and so forth. Friendly reminder that the line between fantasy and reality is continuing to blur, and that THE SIMULATION IS BREAKING DOWN.
9:03-9:04 – And on the main stage, Nintendo musical composer Koji Kondo does his thing with the piano. Two things stand out here. Number one, these shows are incredibly awkward about honoring videogaming’s past, as though someone believes the sheer nostalgia of the Super Mario Bros. overworld theme can carry the show. The second is that these shows insist on showing how “mature” games have become by using classical art—in this case, classical music—in order to bridge the gap between traditional art and vidya. And quite honestly, if you’re still hung up on whether games can be artistic, then you don’t have a chance in hell to begin with.
9:04 – Camera cuts back to reveal the entire venue, and I would not recommend doing that again. This place is small. (No help from the camera, press, and production section right behind the pit, which takes up a good portion of the venue.) It’s painfully obvious that they did not sell out the pit, and it’s no surprise why, since the tickets were going for forty-five bucks a pop. When a venue dims their lights and makes it difficult to see the audience, there’s usually a good reason for that. They don’t want you to see the crowd. Small peanut galleries with unsold seats break immersion.
9:04-9:07 – Nintendo COO Reggie Fils-Aime emerges on the stage, and yes, he’s still fuckin’ gigantic. “You’re probably wondering: What’s next for Nintendo?” Actually, I was wondering what’s next for The Game Awards 2014™, but don’t worry, we already know this show is little more than a press release. Continue onward.
9:07 – For those of you who may not be convinced that this is the Spike Video Game Awards in drag, here we are with a “World Premiere”. Sound familiar?
9:07 – We cut to a Shigeru Miyamoto pre-taped promo, and he continues where Fils-Aime left off. Highlights include the acknowledgement of a new StarFox game, the reigning champion for “game which appeals to fans of Nintendo because they don’t play action games made by anyone else”.
9:08-9:09 – Mario Maker looks really damn cool. Not merely because it’s the long-awaited first-party Mario creation tool that Mario fans have long desired, but because the Nintendo Stamp of Approval™ allows the editor to get away with things that would otherwise feel cheap if they were done by third-party amateurs. (Flying Spiny Shells that shoot spines and turn Mario into a bullet-hell platformer? Count me in.) And yes, “first-party stamp of approval” is a weird hangup, but it’s one that exists. Having Nintendo place their authority on a coin-shooting Bullet Bill Blaster is far more credible than having MarioFan227 cram it into his Super Mario World ROM hack.
9:09-9:10 – The Lord and Master of All Things Sweet ‘n Salty—or for short, Geoff Keighley—emerges from his Dorito-encrusted Popemobile to inform us that “This is something completely new I’m doing this year. We’ve got the entire game industry here in the room and the fans together.” Good for you, Geoff. Please stop pretending you’ve never done this before.
9:11 – Voiceover: “And now, please welcome the voice of Snake and the body of Jack Bauer, Keifer Sutherland.” Crowd cheers for a man with minimal videogame voice acting experience, a man who is replacing the beloved David Hayter. (Or at least we’ve been led to believe that he’s replacing Hayter.) In professional wrestling, they would call this a crowd of “marks”, a crowd which is easy to work over and is willing and interested in shoveling the shit down their throats. Let’s see how it plays out.
9:11-9:14 – Sutherland advises the audience that he’s not going to use a teleprompter. Big mistake. So far as I can tell, he is attempting to discuss the application that film-making can have in the world of videogames, and how films and videogames will “come together”. Lord, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
9:14-9:15 – Kojima! Ease the pain! Yes! He’s doing it! TIME Magazine’s Man of the Century introduces Kojima Productions L.A. head Tom Sekine so that they can blow us all away with the new incarnation of Metal Gear Online. Let’s do it.
9:16-9:20 – Obviously, the new Metal Gear Online is an extension of Metal Gear Solid V, so little surprise that what’s on display here looks completely fuckin’ amazing. And you see, it’s easy to take versus multiplayer games to task for their lack of scope. MGO builds the battlegrounds right into the mountainous world we’ll soon associate with Metal Gear Solid V and it looks fantastic. Admittedly, I haven’t played any of the previous installments of Metal Gear Online, but there’s one thing you can never criticize this series for: Attention to detail. This most certainly has it.
9:20-9:21 – Tim Schafer introduces himself to the 3.3 million people watching the show, and in introducing the award for Best Performance—where we *groan* honor the best acting role in a videogame—there would be absolutely nothing of note to speak of, except that Schafer begins to rant against the celebrities and how award shows “pay them to care about games for minutes upon minutes”. You may think he’s railing against the run-of-the-mill celebrities who dominated the Spike Video Game Awards, but in reality, he’s still assblasted by Joel McHale’s antics at the VGX. Diving into the scrapbook, I wrote: “Schafer lets out a groan that, in ten years, will be studied in university psychology classes around the globe. Keighley tries to cut the tension with a shit-faced grin and fails miserably. Hilarious. You can actually pinpoint the second when Schafer’s heart rips in half.” You’ll get over it, Tim.
9:22-9:25 – The Best Performance award…and I’m not listing the nominees, because I don’t care to do it…goes to Trey Parker, for his various voice-over work in South Park: The Stick of Truth! Here’s how it works. Step one, create a category for the specific purpose of showing how games have “grown up”. And step two, give the award to the puerile adaptation of a television show. Excellent job, boys. Upon accepting his award, Parker quips that “Only in videogames can Trey Parker beat out Kevin Spacey for acting.” Yes, and only in videogames can Gone Home earn praise for its storytelling. Do we see the problem here?
9:26-9:27 – Oh, and speaking of Gone Home, the next World Premiere™ is The Fullbright Company’s next game, Tacoma. Want to know how I knew it was a Fullbright game? My first thoughts were “Where is the content?” And then I realized they had shown me the whole game.
9:27-9:30 – Then The Game Awards cuts to…a commercial break…in a show which is not being broadcast on cable television. Well, this is awkward. Highlights include Dying Light, the upcoming game from the creators of the original Dead Island, and the game which actually kind of looks like what we thought the original Dead Island was going to be. Then we get a short ad for The Wolf Among Us, and it implores that the game is now on sale through Steam. Oh, no. This show isn’t an advertisement. It’s a celebration. Remember?
9:31-9:35 – Upon “return”, we’re introduced to footage of Bloodborne, and as far as the footage would lead one to believe, the game is going to be faster and more focused on straight action than the prior Souls games, but the telegraphed moves still stick out like a sore thumb. (Then again, that’s by design. What, you think people would play the “super hard” Souls games if they were actually as unforgiving as the old-school lineage people associate it with?) But hey, let’s be fair: This is the generation of videogames where the Arkham series is commonly held as the high point for brawler combat. Anything which is not Arkham—or not pretending to be Arkham—is a step in the right direction.
9:35-9:36 – Roughly ten minutes removed from Tim Schafer’s rant against celebrities who indulge us in their worthless opinions, Conan O’Brien introduces the first Game of the Year nominee via a taped viginette. Conan offers expert advice on Dragon Age: Inquisition, noting that “Anyway, it sounds like a fun game, good luck.” Because if there’s anything that gets me excited these days, it’s a squad-based tactics game that plays like an MMORPG with a pause button. Imagine if they had spent half the money on the combat system that they spent on—*takes look at character models*—oh boy.
9:37-9:39 – Two of the men who worked on The Banner Saga arrive on the main stage and I do not care. A high school choir joins them and sings music from the game, continuing the “we can only be real art if we have inferior forms of art build up our show” narrative. They announce a sequel to The Banner Saga. I still don’t care.
9:39 – Keighley brings members of the Bungie crew to the side-stage and announces that “Bungie’s had a great year with Destiny.” Haha, yeah, okay. Acti-Blizz conference calls now come with trigger warnings, because every time Robert Kotick hears the word “destiny”, he cuts himself. Destiny wins Best Score and Soundtrack and Best Online Experience. Whatever. The Bungie Crew™ announces that we’re going to see more of the new Destiny content later on. Announce a game worth playing and maybe I’ll give a shit.
9:40-9:41 – In order to announce the Trending Gamer—whatever the fuck that means—famous YouTube personalities iJustine and Boogie2988 appear on the stage. Boogie appears very, very slowly. In professional wrestling parlance, there is something called a “gimmick”. In other words, “What kind of character do you play?” They say that the best gimmicks in professional wrestling are the ones where a person simply plays up their existing personality. Well, Boogie2988 plays a fat man and iJustine plays a woman who is too stupid to beat the easiest puzzles in Portal 2. They’re both really fuckin’ good at their gimmicks.
9:41-9:43 – Our four nominees include four morons who scream into a microphone so they can appeal to those who lack a functioning cortex, and the fourth is TotalBiscuit, who—okay, five morons. Fortunately, we’re spared an acceptance speech from PewDiePie. TotalBiscuit wins the award. He claims that he could not be there, which translates to “I did not want to be there.” TB claims cancer was keeping him from the ceremony, but why that would stop him from showing up at The Game Awards, I don’t know.
9:44-9:45 – E.A. COO Peter Moore emerges on-stage and asks everyone to thank Geoff Keighley for organizing this event. No sweat. He’s done this plenty of times. Moore mentions that he is on the advisory board for this award show, so yes, Inquisition is winning a ton of awards. Moore adds that they just signed a new “indie” studio, thus making the studio “not indie”, or something, fuck it, just go to the tape.
9:46 – Electronic Arts’ new indie game is coming from the guys who built Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and if you actually think Brothers is good, then at least go play The Lost Vikings and get back to me. (Or, if you’re desperate, play Trine.) According to the trailer, their game is a cutscene involving two people (brothers?) on a train. Seriously, that’s the entire trailer. They don’t even include a name. But then again, when they released Brothers, they didn’t release a game, either.
9:48-9:49 – Then we get a promo for Dungeon Defenders 2, and a friendly reminder to everyone that if you are wasting your time on Tower Defense games, you are wasting your time. The trailer, hilariously enough, goes by the motto that “DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE”, and normally, the idea is that when you create a clever motto that turns things on its head, you try not to choose one where anyone with a basic understanding of videogames would not turn around and ask “What the hell are you thinking?”
9:50 – Oh, and here’s a commercial for Sunset Overdrive, because why the hell not? Nobody bought the game, so you can just pretend that it hasn’t been released yet. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a commercial for the Far Cry 4 Season Pass. It still baffles me that nobody has come up with a better name than a “Season Pass”.
9:51-9:56 – Keighley congratulates “one of the composers” for Destiny for earning Best Score and Soundtrack, conveniently leaving out that Marty O’Donnell was fired during the creation of the game. At least Geoff thinks you did a good job! Shortly after, and supposedly with O’Donnell’s direction, we are treated to a dance/rave edition of “old videogame music that is now memes”, including but not limited to Sonic the Hedgehog 2‘s Chemical Plant Zone and Guile’s Street Fighter II theme. The reasonable person would assume they’re killing time to set up the next act…9:56 – …and we quickly cut to another pre-recorded segment with Conan, who announces Dark Souls II as the next Game of the Year candidate. Conan states that he thought the “II” in “Dark Souls II” was an “H”, and calls it “Dark Soulsh“. You only need two words to sum up Conan’s commentary: Contractual obligation. It’s like he’s trying to come up with the worst commentary he possibly can without someone deciding it is not suitable for public broadcast. It’s the game within the game of the year! Spooky!
9:58-10:00 – Up next is an “FPX” by the name of Adr1ft…oh, yes, yes, they’re calling their “First Person Experience” an FPX game. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. (Oh, and also, I am the only person who has the nagging mental block that the forgettable Remember Me was once going by the name Adrift.) And, at least as far as we can ascertain from the trailer, the game is a huge swimming mission, only we’re supposed to think this is cool or novel because it’s in space. Except there are no obstacles to dodge. And there are markers telling you exactly where to go. Congratulations. I’m totally not interested in this. The end of the trailer lists the game’s support for the Oculus Rift, because if there’s any game which is going to get me excited for head-tracking, it’s the game where you’re in a spacesuit with a limited field of vision. Congratulations. You done goofed.
10:00-10:03 – Comedians Matt Braunger and Ron Funches arrive on stage. Don’t worry Schafer, your talk about celebrities ruining the moment won’t be the first time you’ve ever broken a promise. The two immediately make themselves the center of attention—Funches asking Fils-Aime to join him at the strip club after the show—and they fail miserably at it. And shortly after, we get the jokes about Pac-Man and “eating pills”, and I mean, fuck. There are people in your audience who made these jokes years ago, and even then, they kind of nodded that “Yeah, it wasn’t that funny.” Braunger follows up later with a rumored revival to the Guitar Hero series and pitches the crowd on Orchestra Hero, announcing a proud return to the least original joke of 2008. These dudes fuckin’ suck. Off my monitor, now.
10:03-10:05 – We only get a slight improvement from the previous segment, where Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Bravely Default, Threes, Monument Valley, and Super Smash Bros. 3DS duke it out for the Best Mobile or Handheld Game. The winner is Hearthstone, and thankfully, this ceremony shows some continuity for once, with Hearthstone: Game of the Year Nominee checking out against Hearthstone: Minor Award Winner. (“But Mikey, isn’t that what should always happen?” Go read up on your Spike Video Game Awards history, and you will be embarrassed to find out it has a very long and painful one.)
10:05 – Alongside Fils-Aime on the side-stage, Keighley quickly announces that Super Smash Bros. has won the award for Best Fighting Game. And before you get upset at the label of Smash Bros. as a fighting game—which it is—I checked to see what the other nominees are. Apparently, in a genre which is defined by its niche nature, the only other two fighting games released this year were Killer Instinct: Season Two—yes, “Season Two”—and Ultra Street Fighter IV. The seven members of the Jojo fighting game community are absolutely furious right now.
10:06 – Oh, and just in-case you’re wondering whether someone was supposed to accept an award for Best Mobile Game, yeah, they finally found Hearthstone Lead Designer Eric Dodds. Apparently, they couldn’t find him, decided to move on to the next segment, and then rushed him onto the side-stage. Dodds notes how humbling and amazing it is when you find out the fans enjoy your game even more than the company does. Yeah, well, you’re forgetting what company you work for. Blizzard could put the plague in every fourth box and the journalists would say, “Wow, Blizzard sure knows how to make their games go viral!”
10:07-10:10 – Meanwhile, fans of the Advance Wars series are crying in a corner someplace, as Fils-Aime praises Intelligent Systems for their work on “Fire Emblem and some other great series.” (I’ll go ahead and take a bow for the Puzzle League series, which is also done and dead.) And given how this show has been dedicated to powerhouse console experiences, there is absolutely no way I’m going to get worked up over Code Name S.T.E.A.M., a 3D turn-based strategy game for portable hardware that’s less powerful than the Wii. It’s an eyesore. It’s never fun to watch a new game head out to a commercial market with an inevitable death sentence, but man, this is gonna burn.
10:10-10:16 – But maybe Nintendo is smarter than I am, following up the aesthetically disinteresting game with someone else’s aesthetically hideous game. Welcome to the “world” of Before. The environments of the Far Cry series, these are not. For those of you who had “low-poly 3D graphics” in the “Shitty Indie Game Trend” Betting Pool, collect your cash. We’re now in the future, and it is fuckin’ disgusting. If I remember correctly, the purpose of low-poly design—ahem, “stylization”—is to ease the strain on the creator’s artistic limitations. It is not to embrace those limitations. Good grief. When I was making shitty, poorly-textured 3D Studio Max models back in high school, I should have kept at it. I could have become an “indie game developer”. Like, I mean, there are games which are blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. Before can’t even blur the line between fantasy and shapes.
10:17 – Back to side-stage with Keighley and videogame voice actor Troy Baker. They talk about stuff. Get to the good stuff. Oh, you have nothing interesting to talk about. I see. Let’s carry on.
10:17-10:19 – Oh, okay, Baker is narrating a playthrough in Shadow of Mordor, the game where Baker is the voice of the main character. Not going to say that Mordor is worth playing, but I ain’t going to lie: The idea of the Nemesis system is really fuckin’ cool. Perhaps not entirely new or novel, but if it encourages more developers to create environments and characters that react to your actions, then by all means, go for it.
10:19-10:20 – Videogames in 2015: If this was a game by any other name, I’d be hard-pressed to see anyone taking a chance on it. Attach the Battlefield name to it—tangentially related only in the sense that you shoot guns at each other in urban environments—and Battlefield Hardline becomes one of the most anticipated games of the year.
10:21 – Keighley asks Visceral Games’ Steve Papoutsis about Hardline: “When you start with the cornerstone of the franchise: Multiplayer, with teamplay, strategy, all-out war, and then wrap it in the crime drama fantasy that we’re creating. Coupled with the singleplayer that really focuses on interesting characters and player choice, we’re really excited about it.” And raucous celebration just broke out in the Electronic Arts Marketing Division, as they fill out the entire bingo card.
10:22-10:26 – Hey guys, remember how Electronic Arts debuted Medal of Honor: Warfighter at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards by having Linkin Park perform the theme song for the game? Electronic Arts is introducing another band and doing the same thing! Remember though, these shows have absolutely nothing in common!
10:26-10:27 – Keighley warns us that we’ll have more music later in the evening and then directs us to the hard-hitting commentary that can only be found on the social media sites. Jason Barker writes that he cannot wait for Bloodborne. Ryan McNeal also writes that he cannot wait for the premiere of Bloodborne. Bear in mind that Bloodborne was unveiled earlier in the show. This is so bland and inoffensive that Activision is looking to turn it into a franchise.
10:27-10:28 – With absolutely no warning for all parties involved, Keighley asks Matt “NaDeSHoT” Haag to come up to the side-stage and receive his award for the ESports Player of the Year. “If you’re a fan of Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Dota, Halo, whatever e-Sport that you watch and support, I’m sure all the players are very appreciative of you guys tuning in every single day because we wouldn’t be able to compete and do what we love every single day if there wasn’t viewers to watch us play.” Oh really, you wouldn’t be able to get up and play videogames every day if there weren’t people to support you? Jesus Christ, e-Sports is the worst.
10:29-10:32 – Imagine Dragons lead Dan Reynolds, center stage, desperately shills his “gamer” cred by telling people about the hardware he owned when he was a kid, and the crowd cheers because they read about those consoles on Wikipedia one time. Reynolds then kills the moment by saying he’s spent way too much time playing League of Legends. Anyway, he’s here to announce the Best Sports/Racing Game, which means we get a bunch of simulation sports titles duking it out for second place as Mario Kart 8 wins the prize. Fils-Aime heads on-stage to accept the award and announce the size of the moneybag that Nintendo put into this program.
10:33-10:34 – “Software/Product Development for Sony Computer Entertainment America” head Scott Rohde comes on stage to talk about videogames while a banner for The Order: 1886 hangs in the background. I think we’re being set up here. Rohde tells us about tomorrow’s upcoming PlayStation Experience—the “PX”, so to speak—making this a videogame commercial within a videogame commercial. Rohde begins to sing high praises of 1886 and immediately exposes himself as the worst teleprompter reader of all-time. Then again, he’s trying to sell us on The Order: 1886. What’s there to be enthusiastic about?
10:34-10:35 – I don’t know if it’s worth stating the obvious here, but I have some time to kill: Even if The Order: 1886 was an actual movie, we would be mocking the editing, the “acting”, and the cinematography. Beyond: Two Souls and Ryse have pretty much tanked the market for these games. And again, I don’t like the idea of any videogame being sent off to die, the bloody demise of 1886 will act as a warning to everyone else.
10:35-10:36 – Rohde then introduces MLB: The Show, and at least one member of the audience lets out an audible groan. Because if there’s one thing that will appeal to the younger audiences watching the show, it’s baseball. And not only is The Show a baseball game, it’s one that, like most of today’s simulation sports games, do not cater to anyone with a mere passing interest in the game. Rohde announces that the cover-athlete will be the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, and since you’ve never heard of him, all I can say is that it’s amazing how baseball has completely failed to market one of the biggest freak athletes in American sports.
10:37 – And finally, on to the shit that matters: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Yeah, fuck off, assholes. The “movie game” may not be the ideal for an interactive medium, but Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and The Last of Us proved that Naughty Dog does the movie game better than anyone else out there.
10:38 – What, no teaser? No game footage? Fuck off, give me my Uncharted 4. No, don’t give me a teen slasher choose-your-own-adventure! Fuck! No!
10:38-10:39 – Until Dawn. It’s an interactivemovielol where you make binary choices—hide under the bed or keep running—and as always, half the fun is finding ways to get the main character killed. Whatever. Back on the Sega CD, there was this game called Wirehead, a full-motion movie that played out different scenes depending on the choices you made. Except the problem was, the “choices” were “which arrow to press”. It was Dragon’s Lair with worse graphics and a significantly stupider plot. Until Dawn is even stupider than Wirehead, because that game never took itself seriously. And another solid entry into 2015’s bargain bin.
10:40 – With a quick cut to the new isometric Tomb Raider game—and my inclination is that it will be pretty good—all I want to say is that it’s “Lara”. Not “Laura”. “Lara”. No, I don’t give a fuck how they pronounced her name in the Tomb Raider reboot, and neither should you, because that game was mediocre garbage. Anything I don’t like is not canon, okay?
10:41-10:42 – Look guys, I know Activision needs to make their money on Destiny, but it’s over, man. Just let this shit go. “NEW LEVEL CAP AND GEAR”. “NEW RAID”. Does it come with a new hat? As the trailer concludes for Destiny: The Dark Below, links for popups to “WATCH TRAILER” or “BUY NOW” appear, showing us they simply lifted whatever they were planning to use for YouTube—where they can supply those clickable links—and launched it here. Yeah, uh, you should have killed the trailer before that.
10:43 – Let’s briefly cut away from a project which did not cost 3.3 million dollars to make. Shay, the star of Broken Age Act 1, appears on our screen and mentions that this was just the first half of the show. Um, we’re almost two hours in. What the hell? I thought this shit was almost done. God dammit. Anyway…Broken Age Part 1 proved that when game creators are left to their own inhibitions, they can be just as big of assholes as the suits. And here we have a classic example of that. “We need more money to make the game, but we have enough money on hand to animate and voice a sequence for your awards ceremony!” Shay then says that “I hear the second half is even better than the first”, demonstrating that Tim Schafer has no grasp on reality and thinks this “in-joke” is anything less than a “fuck you” to the people who backed the original project.
10:44-10:47 – Mass Effect creator Casey Hudson unveils the “Best Shooter”, because I always need to be reminded how depressing the popular FPS is these days. Remarkably, a cast of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Destiny, Far Cry 4, and TitanFall, and Wolfenstein: The New Order is a much more interesting roster than anyone could hope for. It otherwise bodes well for the future of the genre, where developers have finally realized that “make Call of Duty 4 over and over” doesn’t sell anymore. But anyway, Far Cry 4 wins.
10:47 – Conan returns to unveil the next Game of the Year candidate: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. “I know nothing about it”. I would ask why they brought someone who knows nothing about games on this show in order to talk about them, but that would be redundant.
10:47-10:48 – All you need to know is that Hearthstone is a bad card game and a bad videogame. “Once again, Blizzard has redefined a genre.” Yes, by taking everything interesting about trading card games and completely missing the point. Namely, the part where trading card games are remotely complex.
10:48-10:50 – CD Projekt Red Managing Director Damian Monier shows up to inform us that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not in development hell, it’s coming out soon, and that the Americans will be crushed by the might of the Iraqi Army.
10:50-10:51 – In the previous sequence, Monier informed us that one of the secondary characters in the upcoming trailer will be playable. He does not tell us which one and neither does the trailer. And given that the release date for Witcher 3 keeps getting pushed back, I suppose there’s a good chance CD Projekt doesn’t know who the playable character is going to be, either.
10:52-10:53 – Keighley brings two members of the Ubisoft team on the stage and announce the studio is up for a nomination in a new category known as “Games For Change“, whatever the hell that means. Keighley states that the award is given to games which have a “message”, and now I’m morbidly horrified at how pretentious this award is going to be.
10:53 – Nameless Ubisoft corporate slave: “We wanted to show that videogames can also talk about serious things.” Oh, fucking fuck. The same team that won awards for Far Cry 4 gets an award for their work on Valiant Hearts: The Great War. I’ll just say that when it comes to World War I games, I liked NecroVisioN‘s message better: Shoot shit and don’t die.
10:54-10:56 – Well, at least No Man’s Sky looks kind of pretty. Of course, the question is, is it worth exploring these worlds? Considering that everyone involved in the project has been doing everything in their power to desperately avoid that question, I’m going to guess that it is not. Oh, and one other thing: Stop pretending this game is the work of three fuckin’ men. Remember how Journey was sold to the public as the amazing exploits of a dozen-man developer? And then the credit roll was five minutes long? Same shit here. Sony has you assholes on hook, line, and sinker.
10:57-11:02 – Shaun Murray of Hello Games insists he is part of a “small indie team working on No Man’s Sky“. He then explains how he coded the first parts of the game while listening to a band that is now doing music for the game. He then introduces the band on-stage to perform the music in the game. There are four people in the band. Remember: The narrative is that three people are working on this.
11:02-11:06 – Okay, fuck you, I’m done with the commercials. Fast-forward time.
11:07-11:08 – Next Game of the Year is Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Because if there’s anything that gets me running to the GameSpot Midnight Launch™, it’s a game which combines the platforming of Assassin’s Creed with the combat of the Arkham games. Videogames continue their undefeated streak in squandering the potential of Middle-Earth.
11:08-11:09 – The Last of Us Creative Director Neil Druckman announces the Industry Icon award, and before you laugh, these retrospectives actually seem to be the one thing that these awards shows can do correctly. (Well, except for that Blizzard one where they pretended Warcraft III did not exist.)
11:10-11:13 – The award goes to Ken and Roberta Williams for, you know, being one of the biggest and most important faces of computer videogames in the eighties and nineties. And predictably, the vigniette is far, far more respectable (and interesting) than they have any right to be. The only knock being that for all the time and energy that the game industry has put into trying to build “mature” games, we’re mocking the existence of Leisure Suit Larry and pretty much pretending Phantasmagoria never happened.
11:13-11:18 – Ken and Roberta accept their award on stage. Williams chimes in: “I didn’t get to see the video at the beginning, so apologies if this is reruns.” Even when this awards ceremony is classy, they still find a way to completely fuck things up.
11:18 – Roberta Williams announces that there’s a new King’s Quest coming on the way, which would sound reassuring if it was coming from someone other than Activision. (Friendly reminder that Acti-Blizz now owns Sierra and its soul.) Two of the people working on the new game emerge on the stage and Roberta fits a sterling recreation of Graham’s cap on one of them. It would be cringeworthy if Roberta Williams hadn’t made it so absolutely adorable and heartwarming. Dawww.
11:19-11:21 – Now they show footage of the game, and the only thing to be said is that it’s entirely impossible to see how a series—whose early games have a reputation for being obtuse and merciless in a way that modern audiences could not possibly comprehend—will be adapted for an audience where disgustingly easy puzzle games like Portal are thought to be the high point of the genre. More power to Zombie Sierra if they succeed.
11:21-12:22 – Want to hear how Dungeon Defenders II, a game in a genre that is nothing less than a regression for the real-time strategy game, is pushing the boundaries for gaming? You see, as an example, you can cover an enemy in oil, and then you can allow a teammate to set the enemy on fire, and that will cause them to burst into flames! Which is fitting, because if there’s anything that needs to burn, it’s this entire fucking genre.
11:23 – More commercial skipping time!
11:24-11:25 – Taking a cue from the previous award ceremonies, Cassandra Pentaghast and Varric Tethras are the only ones who are accepting their Game of the Year nominations “in-person”. Good fuckin’ grief, BioWare cannot animate their characters for shit. Varric begins to shill his “book” for the live audience, which leads Cassandra to debate the reasons that people play Dragon Age games, and she loses her train of thought as a topless male character walks by. (No, I don’t know who the character is.) Friendly reminder: This is the series which is taking a stance against the sexualization of female characters in games. Maybe it should take a stand against shitty animation, instead.
11:25-11:27 – If there’s any wonder as to which game is going to win tonight, forget it. Lindsey Stirling performs a violin performance from Dragon Age: Inquisiton, and I openly wonder why this show had to be three hours long.
11:29-11:30 – SCEA President Shawn Layden comes out to announce the Indie Game of the Year! The camera bizarrely cuts over to four people who appear to be cosplaying half-naked videogame characters and then cuts back after someone realizes the mistake they’ve made. The nominees include Broken Age—mysteriously not labeled as Act 1, because Schafer doesn’t want you to know they didn’t finish the damn game—Transistor, Shovel Knight, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Monument Valley.
11:30-11:31 – Layden has trouble opening the envelope and he is now the third person on the show who had had trouble with the thing. After enough fumbling, Shovel Knight wins, and while we should not be handing out awards like this, at least we can say it went to a game that’s worth playing.
11:32 – Sean Velasco of Yacht Club Games: “I mean, when you’re developing an indie game, every bit of energy you have goes into it.” Yes, as though the people who work for huge corporations aren’t pouring their heart and soul into theirs.
Velasco: “Thank you so much to Nintendo for helping us with their indie program.” I mean, do any of these people even think before they talk?
11:33-11:34 – And Conan announces the final nomineee—announced as the “next nominee”, because the people doing the awards ceremony had no idea what order these pre-taped shorts were going to appear in—is Bayonetta 2. Conan immediately goes for the “sex appeal” joke, because hey, when you’re making millions of dollars every year to tell jokes, why aim higher? But I won’t lie, saying Bayo looks like an “incredibly dangerous real-estate agent” is probably better than you could have hoped for.
11:34 – Hey, it’s our favorite community manager, Robert Bowling! Oh, wait, he’s the president of his own videogame company now? Good for him! (It would be really, really nice if this show would list the name of the person and the company they work for, as though I was going to be able to sound out “Robotoki” on the first, second, or twelfth try.) And given Bowling’s association with the innovative Call of Duty series, it’s only natural that he’s here to announce an MMO based on the zombie apocalypse.
11:35-11:36 – Expecting something a little bit more realistic and visceral, ala The Last of Us? I hope you weren’t, because HumanElement isn’t about any of those things. It’s about cramming the Team Fortress, Borderlands, and Sunset Overdrive aesthetics into the same fuckin’ zombie game you’ve played over and over in the last six years. Basically, it’s one of those games that’s going to try and capture the audience that’s too edgy to realize they’re nine-year-olds and it’s going to fail miserably.
11:37-11:40 – It’s such a disappointment that EvE Online has a well-deserved reputation for being a spreadsheet simulator, because the mere concept of EvE Online is an awesome one. Bonus points to the viewers who were complaining about the “voice acting” in the commercial, missing the splash header indicating these are actual conversations being held by actual players in the course of playing the game. But nobody said a single word about Microsoft Excel, so I can understand where the confusion was.
11:40-11:43 – And who wins our Game of the Year? It’s Dragon Age: Inquisition. And in case we’re forgotten our roots, let’s take a look back at the 2011 Spike VGAs: “Look at the last five winners: Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Grand Theft Auto IV, BioShock, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. There is a very specific type of video game that the video game industry wants to honor in these events: Box-office smash hits for ‘mature audiences’.” The only thing that’s changed is what constitutes a “mature” game. In this case, it’s the game where women can’t be attractive because that is now considered offensive.
11:44 – And to finish off the show, Fils-Aime is welcomed “back to the stage”, even though he’s clearly not on the main stage and behind the audience. Crowd chants for Reggie. “Lately, whenever I run into a Nintendo fan, they always ask me one question: “Hey Reggie, can you tell me about the next Zelda game?”
11:44-11:49 – When people ask me why I despise The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, most of my complaints can be surmised by Hyrule Field, a massive, open area that takes forever to get across and has absolutely no sense of danger. And here we are, with the 2014 edition of Hyrule Field, only about a hundred times larger. Give Nintendo credit: If there’s one thing they can consistently do, it is completely misunderstand the complaints about the 3D Zelda games.
11:49-11:57 – And to slay the beast—or rather, kill this show—Imagine Dragons performs with Koji Kondo for eight whole minutes.
11:58 – Keighley thanks everyone for showing up and insists that this has been a “great experiment”. He will convince someone that this show has nothing in common with the previous tries, I’m sure of it! The crowd immediately files out. Yeah, those forty-five-dollar tickets have now become “buyer’s remorse”.
11:58 – If I wanted to make a stink about the people they’ve chosen for the Advisory Board—as though this would ever be the first time the suits and the journlolists worked together—I’m too beaten down to care. Take my money, game industry. Dragon Age: Inquisition is an interactive entertainment experience which showed that games have finally grown up.
At this point, we can define these shows by whether or not they are completely embarrassing, and on that front, I can say that for the first time in giving this show any real thought over the course of the last five years—and why I continue to do that, I don’t know—the show was as presentable an awards ceremony as it ever had a right to be. While you could still smell the stench of its predecessors, the execution of the program was significantly improved and there was a hell of a lot less bad stuff. (Regardless, the person who decided this show should be three hours needs a beating.) But at least in the past, when the train crashed, you knew you were going to get a show. This time, the train made it into the station and it was a pretty uneventful trip.
I miss you, Joel McHale.