For years, the Spike Video Game Awards have been the most visible of all award shows in the video game industry. Alongside that distinction, however, have come waves of criticism; among these include putting up truckloads of B-List celebrities that quite obviously don’t want to be there, skimping on the actual awards and perpetuating the worst of mainstream gamer stereotypes. In response, for this year’s event which took place Saturday, Spike revamped the entire format of the event and rebranded it as “VGX.”
Alongside the name change, the event was only broadcast through streaming on several major game consoles, mobile devices, as well as several Viacom-owned sites such as GameTrailers.com, Spike, Comedy Central, MTV, MTV2 and BET. Instead of a featuring a live audience, the event took place in a small studio setting, avoiding the glitz and glamour of past events that drew criticism for trying too hard to be like the Hollywood-based award shows.
Like most years, the event featured a multitude of trailers and announcements, such as the reveal of Cranky Kong as a playable character in the upcoming WiiU title, “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” and new versions of Titans for the upcoming Xbox One game, “Titanfall.” The most intriguing announcement, however, may have come from the small, four-man team at “Joe Danger” developer Hello Games. “No Man’s Sky” is a space-exploration game featuring procedurally generated planets, which the developer promises will mean no planets that players explore will be the same as any planet another player discovers.
Alongside the usual run of trailers and announcements, the show also featured segments from YouTube personalities such as Smosh or PewDiePie, and the Adult Swim troupe Loiter Squad,” all three of whom several journalists, such as Gameinformer’s Mike Futter, had never heard of. Hosting alongside GameTrailer’s own Geoff Keighley were several other celebrities such as Joel McHale, who appeared to spend the majority of the show making jokes about how he was forced into being there and mocking the show itself. Deservedly, these segments and celebrity appearances received as much criticism as previous years, many questioning what demographic Spike was even attempting to target with the event.
However, the biggest criticisms of the show revolved around the awards themselves. Namely: there weren’t many. Between all of the reveal trailers, announcements, and possibly comedic segments, very few of the awards were actually broadcast, leaving many developers scrambling to figure out if they’d won.
But between all of the dysfunctionality of the event, there were clear winners Saturday night. “Grand Theft Auto V” walked away with Game of the Year, beating out such titles as “Bioshock Infinite” and “The Last of Us” for the uncannily named trophy, the “Vector Monkey.” The developer of the latter game, Naughty Dog, walked away with the award for Developer of the Year.
The award for Best Shooter went to “Bioshock Infinite.” Best Action-Adventure Game was won by “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” while NBA 2K14 walked away with Best Sports Game. Of the most intriguing category, Best Independent Title, Studio of the Year nominee Company’s “Gone Home” beat out “Paper’s Please” and “The Stanley Parable.” Studio Ghibli co-developed “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” won Best Role-Playing Game and Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” won Best Casual Game. DC Comics superhero brawler “Injustice: Gods Among Us” won Best Fighting Game and the brand new Xbox One game “Forza Motorsports 5” won Best Driving Game.
The award for best piece of Downloadable Content, or DLC, was taken by the ’70s sci-fi action flick-inspired game from Ubisoft, “Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.” For each gaming system, “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” won best Xbox game, “The Last of Us” won best PlayStation game, “Super Mario 3D World” won best Nintendo game, Gone Home won best PC game and “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” won for best handheld game.
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson won the awards for best male and female voice actors for their portrayals of Joel and Ellie in “The Last of Us.” “Grand Theft Auto V” won the award for best soundtrack and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” performed by Courtney Draper and Troy Baker for “Bioshock Infinite” won the award for Best Song.
Alongside these awards, which were all decided by an “advisory council” of journalists from several well-respected gaming outlets such as Giant Bomb, Gameinformer and Polygon, three awards were decided completely by fan vote. Of those, “Titanfall” was voted most anticipated game, the Lutece twins from “Bioshock Infinite” were voted as the best characters and “Plants vs. Zombies 2” was voted as the best mobile game.
With all the criticism revolving around the VGX, up to and including the change in name from the VGAs to VGX (what does the ‘X’ even stand for?), for another year, the relevancy of the awards show has come into question. Of the exceedingly hyped “World Premiers” most were either minor announcements or games everyone had already seen much of. Certainly no announcement topped the reveal of “Dark Souls 2” or “The Phantom Pain” (later revealed to be “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”). The fact that an award show that is supposed to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year in the industry would put more focus and time towards these reveals of future games than actually present the awards on the show (only five were shown) is well near insulting towards the community and industry it’s trying to play to.