Morning After: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Game Awards 2016

Last night was an exciting night for games. I wanted to shoot off a list of all the winners last night in a vain attempt to compete with websites that have staff and budgets and a well-established name, but then I paused. The Game Awards are certainly exciting for us as gamers and exciting for the industry; we get to see our favorite games, developers, and even YouTubers be recognized. The Game Awards even has its own trophy for winner to proudly take back to their studios or homes and display. The night was full of big names in the industry like Eiji Aonuma and Hideo Kojima, to successful YouTubers like MatPat from Game Theory, to Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps.


It’s a big step forward for our industry, to even have an awards show in an actual fancy venue with streaming coverage. Sure, it’s not network television, but it’s a start.

And credit where it’s due, the show did a good job having a nice spread of games, from independent titles to AAA games, and tried to pry apart the different aspects of games that make them unique from each other in order to put them in categories. New games were announced in a mini-E3 esque fashion, and world premiers of new gameplay from anticipated games teased the audience. And, like with other award shows, I’m sure there were some wins that left us viewers scratching our heads thinking, “How did that win?”


There’s a “but” coming, I just know it.

Press “X” to Not Die

Gamers, although we make up about 50% of the population according to Pew Research (and as reported by Polygon), carry a complicated label, as Polygon notes. Not all people who play video games label themselves as “gamers.” This is true for both men and women, although women are less likely to label themselves as such than men.

Anyway, the point is, gamers are still seen as a societal minority. But wait, I hear you say: 50% is half the population. Yes, you’re right. And women make up 51% of the population and yet are still considered minorities. Society sometimes isn’t logical.

Minorities have historically had to work harder to be accepted by the majority, to showcase the similarities between the groups in order to be accepted. Black and African-American people, Muslims, homosexuals, women… think of how we as a society ask them to change their behavior to act more like the majority, so the royal “we” will accept them.

And so it is with gamers. I was honestly shocked at the lack of well-dressed award recipients. And the stupid one-liners that were meant to be jokes that even the audience didn’t laugh at, resulting in awkward silences in the middle of the show, did nothing other than lower the caliber of the show as a whole. There was even a phony add with a stereotypical-geeky-looking man designing t-shirts with “gamer” phrases on them, while misquoting the source of his material. The last “slogan” was particularly lewd, and played right into the hands of the “socially-inept, heterosexual, oversexed male gamer” stereotype.


More than once I pointed at the screen and said, “And that’s why people hate gamers.”

Insert Credits to Continue

Why do I say all this? Why don’t I focus on the revelry of the evening, and congratulate Hideo Kojima for his Industry Icon award, or The Witcher 3 for its win for best RPG? Why don’t I focus on the reasons Doom shouldn’t have won Best Music, or talk about how Uncharted 4 scooped up many well-deserved awards?

Because I love video games, and I want people to take them seriously. I want people to take me and you and everyone who considers themselves a “gamer” seriously, the same way a bibliophile or cinephile is taken seriously.


We have an awards show. That’s incredibly important. The next step is to get non-gamers to take it seriously. So we need to step up and show that our awards shows are just as formal as any other awards show.

We play games, but we dress like professionals. We wield game controllers, but we respect the industry enough to put on a dress or a tie and tuck our shirts in.

We need to want to promote the viability of games enough to point to our awards show and be able to say that it is of the same caliber as the Academy Awards. We need to reconcile “video games” with “a serious medium that should not be dismissed.” Video games are not children’s playthings.

We’ve come a long way, and last night was a fantastic tribute to that. But it also showed how far we still need to go.

What do you think? Have I been too harsh on the game awards? Should we be content with what we have? How do you think we can keep moving games forward as a medium? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon.

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    1. Thanks! For all my griping, it was a decent show with a lot of nice world premiers. I think you can catch the highlights on YouTube, and I know Derek from “Gamer Crash” has all the premier clips on his blog if you wanted to check them out!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I didn’t even know this happened! It really grinds my gears that games are still considered a bastard media when just as much work (if not more) goes into creating them as it does for “legitimate” media (books, films, TV, etc.). I remember finding out that the song “Baba Yetu” from Civilization IV was the first song written for a video game to win a Grammy in 2012, and while I love that that happened, I’m amazingly irked that it took that long when there are a plethora of songs that were written prior that more than deserved recognition.

    You’re also absolutely right about “minorities.” There are more poor people than rich, but the poor/impoverished are marginalized and have less power in society, which is why they have minority status.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes this was the first year I actually watched the show, myself. Games have come a long way, but we’re still somewhat in an infancy stage in regards to even defining what games are as a medium. The recognition will come eventually, I’m sure; we just need to keep speaking intelligently about games and pushing forward with thoughtful conversations!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s one of the reasons I blog. The majority of my topics are about games in one way or another, and I really just apply the same method of abstract analysis that I learned to do for literature to them. I half wish I’d taken more film analysis classes, because I’m sure that would be beneficial, too.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Aw thank you! I think they’d give me better insight on cinematography and how directors utilize shots and what not. I’ll always be grateful for the one film class I took though. It taught me the term “mise en scene,” which I now use all the time 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I think this is why I don’t really identify with the gamer identity; it’s one that seems too detached from reasonable societal expectations if that makes any sense. I like games and know a thing or two about them, but I don’t call myself a gamer. Indeed, the lack of professionalism when it comes to games criticism is one reason I decided to become a critic myself. It’s also why I tend not to use the word “gamer” in my reviews, instead opting for “fans,” “players,” or “enthusiasts” as the situation demands.

    I think games will be accepted as a legitimate art form in the public eye someday. I don’t think one single work will accomplish that feat as some artists have been striving to do, and I think it will take some time, but I have confidence that they will in the end.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make a good point about what the label of “gamer” insinuates. I throw that word around on this blog a lot in the hopes that my using it to simply mean “someone who plays video games” will change something. I also agree with the need for good game critiques. Plenty of people offer game reviews or summaries (and many of them are fine writers and provide good information), but critics are the people who will keep our medium moving forward. I really enjoy reading your critiques, and think more people should be as detailed and objective as you are in your articles.

      Yes, video games will one day be seen as more than a childhood plaything, and it will be a long process during which games will evolve and mature and, hopefully, so will the enthusiasts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah, I have to agree with Red Metal. I have a hard time putting myself under the capital G ‘Gamer’ label, even if that’s the most convenient way to refer to the community of people who play games, even if video games are my main means of leisure and they make up a large part of my lifestyle. There’s grown a large culture around the video game industry and the people who enjoy games, and as seen with the game awards show, it’s not one that seems to hold a lot of respect for itself.

      It’s hard to ask those not familiar with the medium and its potential to show it and those who enjoy it respect when the most visible parts of our culture don’t bother taking it seriously. There’s a lot both good and bad about E3’s carefully crafted spectacle, but at least they make a habit of cultivating a certain image, and taking it seriously. When you get big events like these throwing out the “all gamers are dateless mama’s boys” and the presenters are largely socially inept, when the communities in the competitive games that get all the press get to be so toxic, and when most of the online dialog is just gamers firing shots at each other for some part of the culture war, it makes it a lot harder to ask others to treat games one way when we as a community don’t.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, yes, yes to all of this. The game industry is growing up, and it doesn’t seem to actually realize it yet. And I don’t want to sit here and spout canned phrases like “you have to give respect to get respect” and “dress for the job you want” but I do think that some people need to hear these things. Repeatedly.

        It crossed my mind that the socially-inept bits of the show were a weak attempt at trying to embrace the stereotype of the “gamer” culture, Unfortunately, that stereotype is not one that the rest of society wants to accept (or even one that most game enthusiasts I know what to accept), so I think it was more harmful than entertaining…

        I think overall the industry is experiencing some growing pains. I’m hopeful that we will keep moving forward, though. Eventually someone will notice the silent majority of folks who play and love video games are socially adept, intelligent, functioning members of society!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As I said, I remember one somewhat prominent critic referring to video games as toys, which to me seems pretty disrespectful to both the artists and the fans. I think it alludes to what you say in that the culture doesn’t have much in the way of self-respect. I also think that it permeates throughout developer culture as well on a more subtle level. It would explain why AAA and certain indie developers try that flawed approach of discarding the medium’s oddities. How they go about it is different (i.e. turning games into films vs. pursing some vague high art goal), but it’s why I believe they’re fundamentally the same mistake.

        I may not adopt the moniker of “gamer,” but I choose to give respect to the medium and its creators whenever I can because I know it will eventually be embraced as the legitimate art form I know it is. It’s why when I reviewed Undertale, I declared it one of the best works of the decade and not merely one of the best games of the decade.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m surprised an expansion was awarded best RPG. With respect to awards, they are fun ceremonies but I don’t put much stock into them. Movie ones for example aren’t that credible, but attract an audience because of all the celebrities in attendance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! Yes, I was surprised at the choice for best RPG, as well. From what I hear, it’s more like an expansion pack that could be it’s own game, so maybe that’s the angle they worked…?

      Award ceremonies are definitely about all the pomp and celebrities! But like with anything else, if something is going to be in the public eye, the image it’s projecting should be the desired one, or at least a desirable one. I agree that the Academy Awards are completely political, but all the extravagance and formal wear presents the movie industry as “high class,” which the video game awards were distinctly lacking. Like I said, it still had its moments!

      Liked by 1 person

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