The Academy for Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) was founded in 1996. If you think you've heard the name before, you may be half-right. The most famous "academy" in entertainment media is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the folks who present the Oscars. They do movies. The AIAS does games. And their awards take place each year at the annual DICE Summit.
This year's DICE promises to be the most eventful yet, with more than 50 games competing for 24 awards, including Overall Game of the Year. The goal, according to AIAS president Joseph Olin, is to recognize outstanding achievement in the industry, single out those games that represent a step forward for interactive entertainment "and bring that knowledge to the public."
Part of how that AIAS intends to do that involves DICE itself. The four-day Summit, hosted at the exclusive Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, brings together the best of the best of the games industry, the "top men" of the leading organizations, and a few other folks besides. Like Wednesday's keynote speaker, film director Gore Verbinski, who, according to Olin, intends to speak about the challenges of narrative and how game makers would do well to pay better attention to theirs.
"Narrative can add to the game making experience," says Olin, "and broaden it."
He cites games like BioShock and Call of Duty 4, which are expected to do very well for themselves at the awards program Thursday evening, as key games from 2007 that reestablished the function of narrative. It's no coincidence they're also heavily nominated for awards, and it's a sure bet the 12,000 members who voted for them (or worked on them) will spread the word if they win.
But by the time the DICE Summit comes to a close on Saturday, the real communication effort will be just beginning. Video coverage of the awards ceremony will be downloadable online via Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and, soon, Nintendo's download service, and GameSpot will be re-broadcasting the video online, allowing their community members to vote for their picks, popularizing not only the idea of voting for videogame achievement, but spreading the word about what the Academy thinks are the best games of the year. The AIAS is also working with game retailer Gamestop to promote award winners, much the same way movie stores
According to Olin. Last year's award winners showed significant sales boosts after the ceremony, and some of this year's nominees are already riding the wave. Activision, publisher of Call of Duty 4, up for 12 awards this week, can be expected to make a lot of noise if their game wins any one of those 12. Don't be surprised to see a new sticker on the box, at the very least.