While I have not seen the 2009 Spike TV Video Game Awards show yet (it hasn’t aired yet here in Arizona), I have been following the show’s results and announcements via Twitter and I’d like to post some reaction to the winners.
For starters, let’s talk about the Game of the Year award. No waiting for two hours here– the surprise winner was Uncharted 2 (Naughty Dog for PS3). This is a major upset given that the PS3 userbase is so small compared to the Xbox 360 and Wii and yet the game triumphed ahead of Modern Warfare 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and other games. This is a good thing. It’s not because I have major issues with the other nominees, but to see hard work rewarded over intense hype is a good sign. I was happily wrong with this prediction, and I’ll be very curious to see where else Uncharted 2 scores GOTY honors. It was the game that almost kept me from parting with my PS3 in the first place, and it’s the game that makes me want to buy a new one.
Another big upset came in the Best Team Sports Game category. NHL 10 upset Madden NFL 10 to win the award this year, and this is also a good thing. In a time where professional hockey is still rebuilding its image, the popularity of NHL 10– and its excellence of execution– really sets a good precedent. Sports games and Madden have been synonymous for many years and it’s almost always been elementary for Madden to win this award every year. To quote Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.” Hockey also translates well to the video game arena as it’s fast and action-packed. Not a lot of pauses or play calls… just skating, scoring, and hitting. I still believe that MLB 09: The Show was the best game in this category, despite the VGA snub, but this choice is one I can support.
Before we get to the bad stuff, I’d like to call attention to the Studio of the Year category. While I believe that Rocksteady Studios’ win here over Infinity Ward, Valve, and Naughty Dog might have been linked to the announcement of Arkham Asylum 2, it’s also good to see an underdog win here. Arkham Asylum rightfully is in the conversation for Game of the Year, and Rocksteady showed us how to do a comic book game the right way. In many ways, Arkham Asylum was (for me, at least) this year’s Bioshock.
OK… let’s talk about the crap.
Let’s talk about the Best Voice award, first. To refresh you, here’s who the nominees were:
- Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn, Arkham Asylum)
- Claudia Black (Chloe Frazier, Uncharted 2)
- Jack Black (Eddie Riggs, Brutal Legend)
- Mark Hamill (The Joker, Arkham Asylum)
- Nolan North (Nathan Drake, Uncharted 2)
OK. The good news is that there was lots of love for Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2, both of which has interesting storylines that were made even better some quality voice acting. Personally, I thought that Nolan North was the best of the lot in this category, with Mark Hamill just behind him. If it wasn’t for Spike TV’s relationship with Jack Black, anyone else on this list would’ve won. While he was funny in Brutal Legend, the game itself was a disappointment in all phases including story and presentation and Jack Black did not deserve to win. It will be the only award he wins in 2009.
The other voice awards were just as foolish. Hugh Jackman (X-Men Origins) and Megan Fox (Transformers)? Really? And X-Men Origins won Best Cast? How can this be? Why was there no love for Ghostbusters here? You know, Bill Murray? What’s worse is that voice talent with less visibility or starpower are more deserving of these awards, but Spike TV and its awards panel just ignores them. Voice acting has become a staple in the video games that we play today, so to see 90% of the voice talent that goes into creating these game just get ignored is criminal.
Moving to DLC, which I talked about in my last entry, it turns out that Rockstar got the award for The Ballad of Gay Tony (DLC expansion for Grand Theft Auto IV). I still believe that it’s an inexcusable oversight for only two games (Grand Theft Auto IV and Fallout 3) to split four nominations in a category that’s incredibly relevant to this console generation. I can buy that TBoGT is deserving of the honor, but I still don’t understand how so much other DLC can be ignored. Borderlands and Best RPG winner Dragon Age: Origins each had quality DLC, but neither received nominations. Big Surf Island, the expansion to Burnout Paradise, was bypassed as well… and Criterion Games has been providing quality DLC for Burnout Paradise for some time now.
As for the rest of the awards, I could argue with them… but can also see why they won. I personally would not give Left For Dead 2 the 360 GOTY over Arkham Asylum, as Arkham Asylum was a new IP and had much better production values, storyline, and a much better single-player option. I personally believe that Halo 3: ODST got a gift by way of the Best Original Score category as it was the weakest game in its class (Assassin’s Creed 2, Modern Warfare 2, Uncharted 2). The Best Soundtrack category was the one award that Brutal Legend should have easily won… but it went to DJ Hero for some reason.
For now, though, I’m going to save my reaction of the actual show and trailers / announcements until I’ve actually seen it. The event is recording now, so I’ll probably post something here on Consoleation in a couple of days. In the meantime, you can check out the full list of winners here and react in comments however you’d like.
We’re a few hours away from the 2009 Spike TV Video Game Awards, and I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about them.
I will not be watching the event live. There’s no way. As much as the event tries to be credible, with the involvement of familiar faces like Geoff Keighley and Jeff Gerstmann, it just isn’t. The network (Spike TV) takes precedence over what the event tries to accomplish. Spike TV is a “network for men”, which means that we’re going to see silly objectification of women and pointless “guest” appearances, like the cast from MTV’s Jersey Shore– which I’m 110% sure has nothing to do with video games.
It’s sad, because people that I genuinely respect in the gaming press are covering the event and even have shown some eagerness despite the awards being a farcical spectacle. There’s also the fact that game companies actually consider the event worthwhile enough to debut new game footage for the first time, overstepping the gaming press entirely. I understand that it’s more of a mainstream audience that publishers can Reach (pun intended), but this show tends to magnify the stereotypes surrounding the gaming community. Contrary to what Spike TV thinks, we’re not all Halo-playing frat boys who like us some fine women and MTV trash. We cover all ages and genders. We have many different tastes in entertainment and lifestyle. First-person shooters may dominate the current gaming landscape, but there are other options out there. Still… for people who aren’t quite as serious about gaming as I am, the portrayal of gamers and what they like in past Video Game Awards telecasts has been an embarrassment in the most colossal sense.
This year’s event also has some issues when it comes to the awards themselves. MLB 09: The Show (Sony for PS3) get left out of the award nominees for Best Team Sports Game, despite carrying higher marks on Metacritic than all of the other noms except FIFA 10. How does this happen, awards panel? Did they know that there was more quality downloadable content available than expansions for Fallout 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV? What about Big Surf Island for Burnout Paradise? No mention of Borderlands and Dragon Age: Origins DLC, yet both games get award noms in other categories? Speaking of Borderlands, how does it get a nod for Best RPG when the game’s RPG element is fairly subtle compared to the game’s FPS exterior?
Perhaps the Video Game Awards are the closest to the mainstream spotlight that the industry will ever get. I understand, to a point, why there is so much support behind it. Unfortunately, past shows have set terrible precedents in terms of the event’s format, writing, and award winners… and there is absolutely no reason to believe that this year’s event will be any different. There’s no host to keep things together, we have guests and presenters who likely have never played a video game in their lives, and it’s still Spike TV. If you’re interested in more credible end-of-year awards, check out more relevant websites. Sure, there may not be spectacles like you’re likely about to witness to accompany them, but at least a few sites may have some experience and expertise to back up their choices.
As for myself, I’ll be recording the show via DVR so that I can watch it in doses and skip over the irrelevant and/or offensive parts. I’ll post some reaction next week, as well as a belated look at November’s NPD numbers… which should concern quite a few people as the industry’s slump is far from over. I also have Part III of Consoleation’s Year in Review coming.
In the meantime… enjoy the show! Or not.