First Person

First Person
Why I Am Patient With The VGAs

Dennis C. Scimeca | 15 Dec 2011 12:00
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Criticism, if it's good, is constructive. If criticism points out something that isn't working, that criticism makes it clear why something isn't working. Creators can then draw from that criticism and try to alleviate the problem. Good criticism should be more about the work being criticized and less about the person leveling the criticism. Criticism of the Spike TV Video Game Awards, on the other hand, has taught me more about the people making the criticism.

Too much of the response to the VGAs by critics of the event falls under the category of concern trolling, i.e. wrapping a set of attacks in the guise of wanting to make someone or something better. Complaints about the VGAs usually invoke video game developers not being treated with respect, and/or the VGAs not taking the awards seriously, and then degenerate into the snarky fare favored by so many who write about video games.

While I believe responses along these lines are completely honest reactions to watching the VGAs, they are disingenuous to me as criticism if the voices behind these responses don't promote the legitimate video game awards like the Game Developers Choice Awards handed out at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, or the Interactive Achievement Awards given out at the DICE summit in Las Vegas. Those are video game awards given from developers to developers, versus being handed out by a television network after an "advisory council" of consumer-facing games journos and a pair of webcomic creators decide who the nominees are. Surely if someone's concern is lack of respect for video game developers at an award show, that critic would also do their best to direct their audiences towards an example of how award shows ought to be run.

Complaints about the VGAs are also made in ignorance as to the realities of broadcast television. Putting on an awards show is not cheap, and someone has to foot that bill. Networks won't sink their money into financing an awards show unless that awards show is going to make them money. Television makes money by selling the ad space that runs during the commercial breaks. No one will be watching the program to see those commercial breaks unless the programming plays to the network's audience. When critics of the VGAs suggest that Spike TV make changes to the awards show which would make the program less palatable to Spike TV's audience, they're essentially recommending that the network throw money away just to please a few vocal, pissed off writers who cover the video game beat. That's not criticism that Spike TV can act upon.

Many of those suggested changes also have to do with asking Spike TV to represent the video game audience in a certain light, versus leaning so heavily on the stereotypes that have plagued the video game industry for years, but it's not the job of a cable network to change anyone's perception of video game fans. The picture of the video game player that the Video Game Awards paint for anyone analyzing them with the intent of putting that picture together (which is probably a ridiculous proposition - I doubt any cultural critics are paying attention to the VGAs at all), is such a patently false stereotype as to be laughable. Can't we grow up just a little and get past this?

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