Let’s Talk About the Game Awards

The Game Awards, hosted by Geoff Keighley, were last night and I have some thoughts. I’m not normally one to put my thoughts down in writing, but I can see the direction the media is pushing the public image of the industry and I think it’s worth keeping an eye on if you’re a developer.

I noticed the trend a few years ago, when big companies started to sponsor streamers and eSports players. Thousands of dollars just to run their logo across the screen or wear their t-shirt on camera. Meanwhile, developers still needed to go through the process of finding a publisher or investor in order to fund their work, and 99/100 times would get rejected. The big money was in streaming the games we poured months or even years into, just to get one video out of the popular crowd if we were lucky.

Last night’s game awards sealed the deal. 29 awards in total, and 6 of those were devoted to people and THINGS in streaming and esports, including:

  • Content Creator of the Year
  • eSports Coach
  • eSports Event
  • eSports Host
  • eSports Player
  • eSports Team

I get it. eSports are huge. Gigantic even. But for an event that supposedly celebrates the art and innovation of games from the last year, where is the Programmer of the Year? 3D Modeler? Composer? Concept artist? If you’re going to have an eSports Team award, why not Studio? eSports Event but not Games Expo? eSports Host but not Community Manager? eSports Coach but not Studio Head?

As Donald Mustard from Epic Games pointed out last night, Fortnite has over a thousand staff working on various aspects of the game day in and day out, from development to tech and community support. The game overall won a few awards, and the staff is surely happy about that, but at the end of the day a team is still comprised of individuals. How are those individuals’ efforts less important to the game industry than that of a single gamer who just happens to be very good at the games those developers created?

While I understand how quickly eSports is growing and how important it is to recognize the achievements and contributions of individuals in that sector, I find it bewildering that individuals who create unbelievable works of art every day are left by the wayside for what has become a very important, annual event in their own line of work. The Oscars have awards for Costume Design, Editing, Hair & Makeup, Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Writing. There is no separation by genre, and they even have smaller awards shows dedicated to Science/Technology and Student Films to praise other areas of filmmaking. If The Game Awards wants to be the Oscars of gaming, they absolutely need to follow suit. Start praising the parts and people of game development, stop the antiquated “Best RPG” and “Best Racing Games” separations. It’s arbitrary, and so many games are blending genres now that it’s insulting to compartmentalize them.

If I were in Keighley’s position, I would split the Game Awards into 2 or even 3 events: AAA, Indie/Modding, and eSports. Start praising the achievements of teams and individuals in actual game development rather than general genre awards and neglecting the hard work of artists worldwide in favor of internet celebrities.

It’s clear to me that eSports are starting to creep their way toward taking over the awards, and while they are important, the games they play are moreso. I think it would be a good idea to devote shorter shows to each sector before even Game of the Year gets left by the wayside.