What Do Game Awards Mean, Really?

Illustration for article titled What Do Game Awards Mean, Really?

No TUD for a while, so I'll reopen the raging debates. And we had one going around the tower lately about the meaning, and utility, of video game awards. I'd like your opinions on this.

We just had the 2008 VGAs, which was compelling TV only when it was hyping things coming out next year, rather than honoring the best of the art form in this one. And, of course, numerous sites and publications are doing their own best-ofs and year-enders and games of the year. Crecente mentioned in a discussion that it can risk looking like a gift guide rehash, and I agree.

So here's where you get to weigh in: Are video game awards and honors at all meaningful? Are they foregone conclusions honoring top sellers and major releases only? Can you really hand out a "game of the year" when your candidates can be as disparate as racers, fighters, shooters, RPGs, sports titles and more? On the other hand, does giving out genre-specific honors water down it down more? Does anyone even give a shit? Tell us, dammit!

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Videogame journalism and advertising are WAY too closely intertwined for me to take any sort of attempt at award shows as seriously as the Oscars, for example. Gerstmann's "Kane & Lynch" review pretty much brought to the public what anybody steeped in the j-biz knew already about slaughtering sacred cows. You don't fucking do it if you value your job.

There's a reason you don't see too many investigations on your local news station into car dealerships screwing over clients: They're the top advertisers. Same with print journalists looking into consumer issues at the local mall. Once those full-page Sunday ads disappear... well, the industry is already on hard times as is, no need to rock the boat for a story that will inevitably lose the Pulitzer or some other award to some paper in another city that is "lucky" enough to have a missing/dead kid on their front page. If it bleeds, it leads.

Award show results are great to tack into a marketing campaign for your 30-sec TV spot pimping your product to the unwashed masses that, hey, our game is great! Buy it! Like film though, word of mouth remains the great X Factor in separating the decent from the blockbusters. COD: Modern Warfare didn't have nearly the marketing push that Halo 3 did. It sold because it was a great game, and everyone's "gamer friend" put the word out that this game was worth playing. FPS today is the fighting game of yesteryear, sort of like hair metal in the 80s or emo bands today (god help us). The average joe digs it.