Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Honor Just to Be Nominated

The Spike TV VGA's are the Grammy's of video game awards; a popularity contest at best, shamerless plugging and pay-to-play consumerism at worst. BUT it is nice to work for a company that not only gets nominated, but wins as well. So congratulations to Dragon Age for winning Best RPG and Best PC Game 2009.

I had to read about the wins this morning online because I simply can't watch the VGA's. I tried to watch it last year when the last game I worked on, Warhammer Online, was nominated for Best RPG, but it the show 45% celebrities unrelated to gaming, 45% trailers/advertising for next year's games, and maybe 10% awards show. It's nothing but pandering to hype-machine obsessed mainstream audience and an attempt to validate ourselves to the same audience by coopting celebrities from other entertainment mediums. I want a televised awards show that celebrates the art and artistry of game development the way the Oscars do film making. But then I'm one of the people who enjoys watching the Oscars from start to finish every year. If there were a video game awards show like the Oscars, likely no one would watch it. And it's not just because most people find awards shows boring, but because the video game industry has spent so much time hitching it's star to other forms of entertainment that people don't know how to relate to us without them.

I just wish the video game industry would take itself more seriously when in the spotlight instead of prostrating ourselves before television, hollywood, and the celebrity cult of personality like we're their kid brother trying to "be cool." Yeah we're the new kids on the block, but we don't need their approval to succeed and the fact that the video game industry revenue exceeds that of music, television and film and has for several years, should be proof enough.

In America at least I feel as if video games are still seen as an industry of nerds and slackers making more money than they have any right to. This is a myth perpetuated by an misunderstanding of what goes into the making of video games and the few publicized successes from the 90's (Doom, etc.) Are we nerds? Yes. Are our work environments generally casual? Yes. But I challenge any hollywood, record label, television, or other office drones to call me or any decent game developer a slacker to our faces while they're skipping out of work at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. Game developers are overworked and underpaid and we love every minute of it. And while my ultimate payoff is that I love my job, I wouldn't mind a little respect from the rest of the 9-5 working world and that's not something we're going to get by acting excited just to be invited to the party.

Video games are going to shape the 21st century the way that film shaped the 20th, it's time to grow up and act like it. I'm honored to have worked for companies that have been nominated for and won Spike TV VGA's, but I don't need Jack Black, Green Day, and Samuel L. Jackson, to validate that to the rest of the world. We need to make our own celebrities and face the world on our terms. Let them pander to us because we don't owe them anything.

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