Friday, December 04, 2015

The Game Awards 2015: The New Drinking Game for Geeks

Just as I did for 2014 I live Tweeted The Game Awards, which aired last night in Los Angeles at the Microsoft Theater. No surprise there about the location. Branding! Woo!

There were some highs, some lows, some improvement, and some failures that make up everything that we enjoy, and hate, about award shows.

For those who don't know, The Game Awards (TGA) is the brain child of Geoff Keighley. His history includes stints on G4, GameTrailers, and as the mastermind behind Spike's Video Game Awards. With the VGA's, then turned VGX (because the X makes it cooler!) now defunct, at least we think they are - they never really officially cancelled it, TGA came in as a replacement to try and bring some legitimacy back to giving awards to video games on a public level. Despite the awkwardness and length of the show, as well as the insane amount of "World Premieres," TGA was tolerable and had potential to grow.

This year TGA promised a 2 hour show, with a 30 minute pre-show that ended up being full of awkwardness. It was a mash-up of "World Premieres" and reviewers from the top gaming sites talking about the nominees. There was a lot of flack on Twitter at Mega64 for not getting the indie games. The interviews with the gaming sites went one of two ways: you had the people that were hamming it up like an episode of "I love the 80's" from VH1. Or you had the people who were serious and gave great insight into the games on the nominee list. If they want to try this again next year they need to go one route or the other. You can't do both.

There were some improvements in the show composition and stage set-up. First the self-dubbed Reggie-Cam was removed and there were no breaking of the 180 rule, or weird closeup nose shots. I hope that Keighley read my review in regards to that. I even Tweeted him directly last night in regards to it with a thank you note for using sensible camera angles. They also altered the location of the winners. Instead of shucking them to the back of the auditorium with minutes of dead air while each person/team got up from their seat to walk to the stage, people were placed closer to the front. Downtime was minimal and it sped up the show immensely.

They also didn't start the show with a "World Premier." GASP! Last year it was 21 minutes before they hit their first award. This time they started with an award right off the bat. After all this is an award show, not E3. We expect people to get awards and talk about how great it is to be a game developer.

Next year I think it would do Keighley a bit of good to hand off the hosting duty to someone else. He felt stiff and kept repeating himself sentence after sentence (which is where the drinking game comes into play). He's a very composed man and can handle himself well in a conversation, but last night he wasn't on his A game. It showed in the way he talked to the camera, how he stood, and how his hands looked like clamps around the microphone.

I was also a bit confused by the musical acts; Churches in particular. I like the band a lot, so it's nothing to do with their music. But I felt it didn't quite fit in with the theme for the night when other musicians on the stage performed from gaming soundtracks or had a gaming medley. deadmau5 created a set specifically for TGA that revolved around classic Mario songs. I appreciate the diversity in music, but the cohesion of the show was lost with some artists on stage.

+10 CHR for deadmau. That needed to be said.

And Shaq was there. I was really, really, really worried that we'd be getting into VGA territory at that point. Luckily he was there to show off a new video of Shaq-Fu even though he punked the audience into thinking they were all getting free copies of the original game. Bad form Shaq. Bad form. This is why we worry about TGA's becoming the VGA's.

Also, whoever came up with the Iwata-san montage for the in memoriam and the Metal Gear Solid V sequence needs to look into proper montaging. The former was a bunch of images fading together. It didn't show the man at his craft, doing what he loved, and exploring the Nintendo vision of 'fun.' The latter was weird - heavy-handed action sequences to accompany a soft, soothing song. What? Why?

There was a gaming booth for people to stop in and play. I'm almost positive that either Disney or EA sponsored it because it was the Battlefront booth all night. Nothing but Star Wars, Star Wars, and more Star Wars. Even Cliffy B was there to talk about Star Wars, and he looked a bit uncomfortable about it. Wonder how much everyone got paid to promote it. Hmm...

Onto the highlight of the night: Keighley totally called out Konami!

It was glorious and Twitter was lighting up with hashtags to Free Kojima and for Komani to stop being a dick. Let me set up the premise. The first thing I noticed is that whenever MGS5 was mentioned throughout the show it was never tagged as a Konami product. It was Kojima Productions. Initially I wasn't sure if this was a middle finger to Konami, instead an oversight, given how the switch-over on branding was unexpected. If the graphics were made months in advance, they may not have had time to update them and reflect the change in publisher.

When MGS5 was given an award on stage, Keifer Sutherland, the new voice of Snake, was there to accept it on behalf of the team. That's when Keighley let the audience know why Kojima wasn't there for the award.

What makes TGA stand out a little more from Spike's show is that they have a panel of some of the top industry leaders that assist with the selection of games to be nominated. Kojima is on the board and was at the show last year. Senpai was not there this year after Komani's lawyers informed Kojima that he could not attend to represent the game or the team. The dispute and the contracts Kojima signed give Konami the right to do this. As such, Kojima was told by a legal team that he had to stay away.

Boos from the audience erupted. Twitter went nuts. And Konami is probably going to blacklist Keighley now. The host followed up his announcement with a musical performance from MGS5 in honor of Kojima-san. Again, really funny.

Middle fingers to Konami all around! #FreeKojima!

For all of my naysaying, it was good to see TGA take a stand on this. While Konami published the game, MGS5 is a Kojima product. It's his brand, his take, his style, all things Kojima. Let the man and his team enjoy their success.

Other then that, the award show was just okay. Nothing great or glamorous, as the Chewbacca/Darth Vader hoodie crowd can attest to. But there were some quote-able moments and I made a new hashtag from the mess. #sexandunicorns courtesy of CD Projekt Red, winners of the Developer of the Year award for The Witcher 3, along with Game of the Year. Because that's all they have in Poland: sex and unicorns.

Overall not a bad show. It improved upon last year, but the staff need to be extra careful when it comes to how they design next year and leave the D List celebrities off the list. They do not want to fall into Spike territory. None of us would appreciate it.


Oh! So the drinking portion. Last year I gave a lot of flack to TGA for throwing around the words "World Premiere" so casually that I kept a tally this year on exactly how many times it was said during the pre-show and the awards. In the first 1 minute and 25 seconds of the pre-show the words were spoken 3 times. Three times! 5 within the first 5 minutes.

The final tally of "World Premiere" drops at the show is 35 1/2. I gave a 1/2 point to a developer at the Battlefront booth for saying "here's the premiere" which is close to "World Premiere" so I felt it needed some credit. My original estimation was that those words would be uttered 50 times. It was said 20 1/2 times within the first 40 minutes of the show, including the 30 minute pre-show. I wasn't quite on target, but pretty close.

After the initial 10 drops it was decided that the drinking game needed to be changed up. If anyone knocked back a shot based on "World Premiere" utterances, they would have passed out before the show began. So if you want to play next year, here's your TGA Drinking Game Guide:

1 chaser (water) - When someone says "World Premiere"
1 shot of tequilla - When someone says "Fantastic"
1 shot of rum - When someone says "Awesome"
1 hit of Everclear - When there's a burn again Konami
A pint of your drink of choice - If there are no D List Celebrities throughout the entire show

Stay safe and enjoy!

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