Promises broken, dreams shattered - is our industry really still in this position? Spike, what are you doing to us? Is this some giant conspiracy to discredit gaming as an art form? Not so very long ago, Spike announced VGX, a replacement to the much-lambasted VGAs. The VGX was created to be a rebirth – a celebration of all things video games. The award show aspects would be torn away, and it would be a true, intimate look at new games and upcoming games for us to celebrate our industry. This is what was promised.
What was delivered was worse than anything the VGAs ever did. It’s hard to even know where to start on this truly embarrassing experience. Let’s begin with what was pretty clearly a last minute hosting decision of Joel McHale. McHale’s presence throughout the night erred on the line of an irritation blocking us from seeing the games we were actually interested in, to a cold reminder of how ludicrously horrible what we were viewing actually was. Joel made fun of the show even as he was a part of it. This was on occasion pretty funny, but any time developers were around to discuss their games he stopped the conversation dead, making this a largely useless venue to give information and announcements.
McHale's smug wit can be very funny, but it was a detriment to the already bad show and its content more often than not.
His co-host, generally respected industry veteran Geoff Keighley, rarely fared better himself. Geoff was deadpan and uninteresting. The only time he lit up during the night was to attack Reggie Fils-Aime for bringing Donkey Kong with him as his big VGX reveal (while I agree it was a mistake, the treatment was inappropriate and unprofessional). Otherwise he found himself rolled over by McHale, and confused by this awkward non-show he was hosting. Neither were prepared for their guests.
Between these hosts we were treated to the occasional trailer, interspersed with awkward cutaways to rappers, some of whom appeared drunk and/or stoned, and who had nothing to say to a camera which had to stay on them for 60 seconds at a time anyway. Following the trailers we’d be back to the hosts, supposedly interviewing industry personalities, but actually just awkwardly interrupting them and preventing them from delivering any new information about their games to eager fans.
The non-format broke down further as guests came in seemingly unprepared to talk about their own games. Remedy, a developer I have a lot of respect for, managed to talk for 5 minutes without saying anything at all about Quantum Break. Awards would be given, but with no audience they were awkwardly announced to a near-silent loft of scattered production crew applause. Over-produced cutways were common, including digital characters "accepting" their awards and nominations, and awful youtube "personalities" like PewDiePie. The production was capped off with an awful concert performed by awful musicians.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone delivered a couple funny lines, but brought with them only a tutorial trailer.
If there was anything redeeming to this performance at all it was the fact that there were, in fact, a number of interesting looking games, but their distractingly poor vehicle of delivery made it impossible to enjoy the content. I found myself wishing I was watching the clean, fun, high-information Nintendo Direct format instead. I encourage you to look up trailers and information for the games, but this brings me to my main point. We as an industry must not support this going forward.
This unprofessional, childish, irreverent, and testosterone-filled sideshow is a disservice to everyone involved. Games that were shown there somehow look worse than they did before the show. The more interesting products never got their message through the messy and unprepared hosts. We can’t become the Grammies. We deserve better than this as press. Gamers deserve better than this as fans. The developers working hard on these games deserve better than this as artists.
It’s time for gaming to grow up. The VGAs, VGX, VGXtreme or whatever nonsense Spike decides to call it next year should not have your support. This is a cancer on our industry. It is the public face that we present to others, and it does a disservice to the progress we have made as a medium. Games have a lot to offer. We do deserve to be taken seriously as a medium of entertainment and art for all ages. We can’t do that with Spike as our public face. We cannot do that with VGX representing us to the world. It’s time to cut and run from this show. It’s time for developers to not show up. It’s time for the media to not participate. The VGAs must die, once and for all.