Tagged: Geoff Keighley

Cybermania ’94: An extremely ’90s video game awards show.

It’s that time of the year again. The Game Awards, an awards show that’s ostensibly about giving awards to the biggest games of the year, has come and gone. A continuation of the Spike Video Game Awards from years past, The Game Awards is peppered with occasional celebrity guest talent and reveals for hot new games. It’s more of a spectacle than an actual awards show.

I really don’t enjoy watching these shows. Especially during the Spike era, which was peak “dudebro TV” where one year they literally had models body painted to look like the games being awarded. I wrote about some of the more “notable” moments of the awards show back in 2012 – updated in 2019 – that you can read about here if you wanna see how I felt about them, and how I feel about The Game Awards now.

So instead, I’m gonna head back into the past. To look into the days when video games were just considered a technical marvel and not quite a billion-dollar industry done to shill sneak previews like it’s a mini-E3. An awards show that was only attempted once, yet is quite the embodiment of the 1990s: Cybermania ‘94.

Yep, this is totally ’90s as hell alright. I mean, when you get pop artist Peter Max to do it, what do you expect?

Airing on TBS in late 1994 (natch) and filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood, this award show was the prototype to the future Spike VGAs and Game Awards. In 1994, video games were starting to gain more traction in the United States, especially in the era of 3D graphics and full motion video. The show was made during the peak of the multimedia trend of the mid 1990s, and it shows throughout the whole event.

This was available one week early to everyone who backed my Patreon. All it takes is $1 to see this stuff before everyone else does. Every little bit helps!

It’s like they went “who are the two most affordable and oddball actors we can afford here?”

Our hosts for this event are actors Leslie Nielsen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. A rather bizarre combo to be sure, which was probably bolstered primarily by the difference of age between the two actors. Both of them were still fairly popular – Nielsen had recently starred in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and JTT was on one of the biggest sitcoms of the ‘90s, Home Improvement – but the two couldn’t be a worse fit. Nielsen’s age means he’s clumsily talking about future technology as if he’s impersonating Phil Donahue like in The Naked Gun 33 1/3, and Taylor Thomas has the problem of just being awkward and inexperienced next to Nielsen. Granted, it’s probably better than the later game awards where we got David Spade or Joel McHale, but not by much.

Can this style make a comeback, please?

We start Cybermania ‘94 with The Gate to the Mind’s Eye, the third in a series of computer-generated videos that were fairly popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Afterwards, the show starts in earnest with Nielsen and Taylor Thomas standing in front of a computer as a Hillary Clinton impersonator tries to turn it on, Nielsen realizing it’s not plugged in, plugging in the power and having the computer explode in front of the “first lady of the United States,” giving her a cartoonish explosive face before walking offstage. This introductory segment is a strong indicator of what the show is going to offer.

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The “Highlights” of the Spike Video Game Awards.

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.

More like video LAME awards hahaha I slay me

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!

I wonder if Jack Black still accepts awards in his underwear these days.

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.

I wonder if this model has any regrets for doing this. Probably not, considering she’s standing next to Dave Navarro.

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.

This guy said “Gamecock will rise some day” while Ken Levine looks on awkwardly. They certainly didn’t rise after this.

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.

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