Spike TV held its sixth annual Video Game Awards show in Culver City, California last night, honoring the biggest, best and brightest the game industry had to offer in 2008. Oh, did we say "honoring"?
That may be too generous of a verb to bestow upon what Spike TV did for the gaming industry, but the general consensus is that the network is getting better at providing its viewership a show less despised by the so-called "hardcore gamer." In fact, the show may speak as directly to them as anything currently broadcasting on prime time, providing plenty of flash, pomp and fully painted ladies to keep short attention spans focused between game award announcements.
Consider me, at least, mostly entertained during the Spike VGAs and not just for the mostly free booze provided by the host bar.
Despite ultimately feeling like we were enjoying a two-hour long commercial — one that suffered from actual commercial breaks and awkward appearances by Kevin James — it was a tightly produced show, packed with exclusive reveals and videos.
We heard some grumbling from other attendees that those first-look trailers for games like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and God Of War III were frustratingly brief, but those tiny snippets were certainly in line with the strobing fireworks and booming musical numbers.
Spike's also giving developers some of the best face time cable TV provides, giving the people who make the games an opportunity to thank their mothers and QA testers in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
Sure, any award "fueled by Dew" is bound to be giggled at — we're sort of glad Braid didn't win that one for awkwardness' sake — but the exposure that those independently produced games will hopefully give each a chance to be experience by gamers who aren't as annoyed about soft drink-sponsored kudos.
While we opted to pass on the red carpet crawl, I'd have to say that this year's celebrity appearances were possibly the most appropriate of any show so far. Keifer Sutherland, Mike Tyson, Tony Hawk and host Jack Black are appearing in some of 2008 and 2009's more prominent games, some of which we genuinely hope benefit from their Hollywood endorsements.
Yes, the show still has room to grow and mature. It could stand to drop some of its musical acts in favor of more actual game related content, though the prominence of Rock Band and Guitar Hero make it harder to argue against those marketing attempts. We'd like more exclusive, longer game reveals, which are well-timed for the mid-holiday shopping crunch. And we'd make sure Neil Patrick Harris always has a back up cue card in hand, but that's nitpicking.
And we'd have Jack Black back again. He brought with him great comedic energy and — dare I say it — a little bit of genuine identity to the program. Not to mention the longest chant of "Tim Freakin' Schafer! Tim Freakin' Schafer!" ever in TV history.
The night's winners, while safe and generally predictable, aren't as undeserving or controversial as we've seen in years past. The voting process could stand to use some refining, but many of the year's best titles were given a chance to shine. Hopefully, any rights wronged during the VGAs will be remedied when the DICE Annual Interactive Achievement Awards roll around next year, when nothing will be fueled by Dew.