Ah, the Spike Video Game Awards. Advertised as a legitimate video game awards show — ignoring other, more professional award ceremonies — the VGAs are anything but, often being a corporate mess with an award show that makes the MTV Movie Awards seem dignified in comparison.
The Video Game Awards celebrates their ninth year of being a hilarious trainwreck of TV executives trying to “understand” gamers combined with exclusive trailers for wonderful games like Command & Conquer Generals II.
I personally haven’t watched the awards in years, opting to see the trailers on GameTrailers.com after the show is broadcast instead. (2019 edit: When they still existed in 2012, anyway. RIP GameTrailers. 🙁 )
Doesn’t mean I still can’t mock it endlessly every year. Unlike a certain person who has an “Angry” persona, at least I have tact and don’t give Geoff Keighley the third degree about this, I understand that this is strictly a corporate affair and not a genuine awards show.
To commemorate the ninth anniversary of this wonderful award show, I thought I’d give you the highlights of the event so far. Note that this is not a complete list, anything prior to 2005 is pretty hard to find info on before the days of YouTube, and since I don’t actively watch the event, I have to go by hearsay and second-hand information. So let me know if I left anything out, or made any errors in this. But enough of that, let’s get started!
2005: The award goes to… a game that’s not even out yet!
2005 was an interesting year. The Xbox 360 was new, the world wasn’t introduced to waggle motion controllers yet, and I had just graduated out of High School. The 2005 VGAs were mostly uneventful, except for two games getting a fair share of awards: The critically-panned 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and the licensed title Peter Jackson’s King Kong: This Game Should Win An Award for the Most Overwrought Game Title, I mean, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Nothing wrong with that, right?
There’s one big problem: Both games weren’t out yet. Back then, this was recorded in advance rather than broadcast live, so they decided to hype up two yet-unreleased games for their award show. Really destroys the legitimacy of this awards show. It’d be like the Oscars giving an award to a movie that came out the day before, skipping the whole nomination process.
Following this fiasco, there was a time where they made awards specifically for games coming out during the holiday season in the interest of fairness, but they seemed to abandon this in later years, being totally okay to give the then-recently-released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 “Best Shooter” in 2011.
2007: Look at our sexy ladies! Oh and BioShock won an award or something.
2007 brought an… interesting approach to the awards. A fair share of the major video games had various models covered in body paint depicting the game’s name on them, which would be used to determine the winning game for each category.
Imagine the executive meeting where this took place.
- Guy #1: “Hey, we’re a network for MEN, right? Us men like women, right? But how do we make women tie into this video games thing?”
- Guy #2: “Get actual women game designers to present and accept the awards?”
- Guy #1: “What are you talking about, women game designers don’t exist! You’re just making up shit, Steve.”
- Guy #2: “But what if they do exist?”
- Guy #1: “Even if they do, they’re likely all ugly and shit, we need beautiful women for this thing!”
- Guy #3: “I KNOW! Let’s have models walk onto the stage covered in body paint with the games as we reveal the awards!”
- Guy #1: “Genius, Dave! You get a pay raise! Now get out, I gotta call up the MANswers guys and order 100 new episodes!”
I swear that’s gotta be how it happened, because I can’t understand it otherwise. Yes, they did this for every major award. I feel sorry for the women who were subjected to this. At least I hope they got paid well.
2007: A bunch of Gamecocks crash Ken Levine’s victory party.
2007 brought us a bunch of amazing games, including BioShock, which won Game of the Year at the 2007 VGAs. Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine gets up on stage, ready to do a speech to celebrate his team’s victory. Suddenly, a bunch of guys from Gamecock Media Group rushed the stage in dumb chicken hats, primarily to advertise Hail to the Chimp. After basically hijacking Levine’s moment in the TV spotlight, they leave shortly after realizing how ill timed this was, thus giving Levine and Greg Gobbi no time to give their speeches.
While Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson later apologized, it was a rather amusing highlight in the developer’s short history.
Where are they now, in 2012? Well, Irrational is still hard at work making BioShock Infinite. Gamecock, however, got bought by SouthPeak Interactive in 2008 and were never heard from again. Fortunately, they got better, reforming as a better studio with games more fondly remembered.
2010: And the award goes to… me!
2010 featured Neil Patrick Harris of How I Met Your Mother fame hosting. You would think you would get a host that might not be up for an award, right? Nope, he ends up winning “Best Performance by a Human Male,” for his portrayal of Peter Parker in the Amazing Spider-Man video game.
For the record, the other nominees were: Gary Oldman as Reznov in Call of Duty: Black Ops, John Cleese as Jasper in Fable III, Martin Sheen as The Illusive Man in Mass Effect 2, Nathan Fillion as Sgt. Buck in Halo Reach, and Rob Wiethoff as John Marston in Red Dead Redemption. Harris’ portrayal of Peter Parker beat out Oldman, Martin Sheen and John freakin’ Marston. Guess the man that brought us “Legend- waitforit, dary!” was the only one available to accept the award.
In most cases, people who are hosting or presenting an award don’t get nominated to win an award, I’m just saying.
2011: Teabagging! That’s funny, right?
2011 had a lot of gimmicks, more so than past years. At one point they were even fooling around with Augmented Reality, which looked pretty on TV, but likely looked very confusing to the studio audience. In addition to that, they decided to give us this wonderful gag: If somebody’s speech went on too long, an actor dressed in a cheap Halloween military costume placed people on the floor and teabagged them as a penalty. Even host Zachary Levi was not immune to this gag (see above).
When Modern Warfare 3 won “Best Shooter” that year, then-Creative Strategist Robert Bowling of Infinity Ward did his speech and went over the time limit. In a moment of panic, he tossed the award over to Michael Condrey of Sledgehammer Games, leaving Condrey to be victim to the teabagging treatment. All while Charlie Sheen, running on fumes from his “Tiger Blood” insanity, watches on. I don’t understand this teabagging phenomenon and I don’t think I ever will.
Wait a minute, isn’t teabagging more of a Halo thing? Why didn’t they have some goober teabag Frank O’Connor instead?
2011: Felicia Day’s then-15 minutes of fame.
Poor Felicia Day. I may not watch The Guild, but at least I respect her and her contributions to the gaming world, unlike a certain ex-Destructoid writer. Executives must’ve realized that she probably connects with gamers the most these days, as she was put on stage for 2011’s other gimmick: “WHAT IF VIDEO GAMES WERE REAL?”
Thus, Day was forced to do silly stunts in between the awards, like real-life Fruit Ninja! Meh, Tested.com beat Spike by a full two months on that whole gag. She was further humiliated with similar stunts, including the one above, where they grabbed cupcakes with their mouths as a vague tie-in to LittleBigPlanet 2. These are practically rejected Double Dare stunts. Maybe they would’ve been ten times funnier if they got Marc Summers to participate in these, would’ve been the highlight of the night.
So, she got to be known by Spike TV’s average audience as “one of the girls” who was roped into doing ridiculous things for fame. Which I guess worked, considering the stuff she’s on these days.
2009-2014: Is this an award show or a sketch comedy show? You decide!
Spike has been inconsistent on how it handles awards from year to year. In some years, the results were revealed on the night of the broadcast, while on some years they were announced in advance, which usually meant that they could shove some of the awards away to bring in more wonderful pairings like Mike Tyson and the cast of Jersey Shore.
In other cases, they’d shove a bunch of these out in a montage towards the end of the program. For example, in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Game won Best Adapted Video Game, while Portal 2 won Best Anticipated Game. All this sponsored by Stride gum, which I’ll get into a bit later.
In later years, they don’t even mention all the awards on the broadcast, shoving some of the lesser-known awards to a red carpet event before the main VGA broadcast. Because if it’s not “Best Shooter,” or some celebrity you can get on stage to give a silly speech, who cares who won “Best Performance by a Human Male?”
This lead to some problems on 2011’s award show, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong — both of them up for awards in “best performance by a human male/female,” respectively — weren’t even aware who won those categories, thus forcing them to watch a 2 hour spectacle and not knowing if they won any awards. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t think Hamill would’ve appreciated being teabagged.
2003-2014: This award is brought to you by Mountain Dew!
Ah yes, the infamous “Fueled by Mountain Dew” award. Usually it’s titled “Most Addictive Game Fueled by Dew,” but the green-colored soda has also sponsored “Best Independent Game” among other awards in recent years. In addition to the Dew-fueled sponsorship, other brands like Stride gum have sponsored similar awards in past years. I’m surprised the Oscars don’t have a “Best Car Chase sponsored by Chevrolet” or the Grammys having “Most refreshing tune sponsored by 7UP.” Oh right, because that’s dumb and smacks of blatant corporate marketing.
In 2007, the “Most Addictive Game” was Halo 3. Certainly has to be a coincidence, right? Surely it’s not because there was that Mountain Dew Game Fuel that was made as a promotional tie-in, no siree. Totally a coincidence.
Mountain Dew isn’t even that good of a soda, and I’ve had Game Fuel over the years. If you’re curious, you can read what I thought of 2012’s Game Fuel here.
I originally wrote this back in 2012, but I’m gonna add on 2013’s entry, which in itself was a trainwreck.
For that year’s affair, they changed the VGAs to the straight-from-the-’90s title VGX. Joel McHale and Geoff Keighley himself take over this time, and the event has shifted over from being a big TV spectacle to a strictly online affair taking place in a small studio.
This one had such internet greats like Smosh and Pewdiepie guest-starring. Combined with a lot of the common “world premieres” and Keighley interviewing people like Reggie Fils-Aime while Joel McHale just stands there awkwardly. And to cap it all off, VGX blew its load early by giving the game of the year award in the middle of the show. Cap it off with a several-hour long concert of bands you’ve never heard of performing music from Grand Theft Auto V and you got a broadcast.
You know something is wrong when it’s being livestreamed on the internet rather than broadcast on TV like in previous years. I bet Spike thinks this is a waste of time if they opted to go for a “VGX Highlights” special that year rather than the full awards. It looked like this was the end of the Video Game Awards, thus relieving us of a garbage fire that only the likes of Gfouria ever had.
2014-present: Enter The Game Awards.
Except it wasn’t.
Sure enough, the Video Game Awards were officially over after 2013’s VGX. After getting jerked around by the chains of Spike for so long, Geoff Keighley decided to roll solo and do the show independently from the network, now under the new moniker “The Game Awards.” Now livestreamed over different websites, the show could now be the true award show it wanted to be, free from network mandates.
But despite going independent, some of the problems I mentioned in past years here are still there — winners of awards being announced before the show, showing “world exclusives,” that sort of thing. It *has* gotten slightly better by acknowledging more of the game industry despite the veneer of being a big advertising spectacle akin to E3. So it shows that all the dumb marketing gimmicks were more Spike’s fault than Keighley’s. It’s still not *great*, though.
Even in the years since the Game Awards, it too has had a fair share of blunders and questionable decisions, but this article’s already long enough so I’ll just end it here with this blurb.
While Spike’s Video Game Awards may be a part of ancient history at this stage, the memories of it will last forever. The concept of a game awards show is pointless now considering places like BAFTA give out awards.
Granted, The Video Game Awards were on Spike (as they were called back then), a TV network that gives us programs such as Bar Rescue, Auction Hunters, and Flip Men — so my expectations should’ve been low to begin with.
I understand the market that Spike is trying to cater to — red-blooded twenty-to-thirty-something MEN — but lots of people play games. The machismo attitude of the network just makes it a byproduct of the 2000s, where video games were strictly advertised for MEN, giving this machismo vibe that is horribly dated nowadays.
We’re getting better at shedding that, ever so slowly. Even if we’ll have to drag gamers kicking and screaming into the modern era. Even The Game Awards are passable at best. But the moment the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences acknowledge video games and give Academy Awards for them, that’s when I can ignore Geoff Keighley’s game spectacle for good.
At least these are hilarious to watch because of how bad they are.