(Editors note 1/17/2018: Added some post-2012 events, such as splitting off from Spike and being its own thing. Also some changes in grammar in some spots. This post is *hilariously* out of date in some spots, but I don’t wanna completely rewrite something from six years ago. I’d rather make a new post in that case.)
Ah, the Spike Video Game Awards. Once advertised as a legitimate video game awards show — ignoring other, more professional award ceremonies — the Video Game Awards are celebrating their tenth year of being a hilarious trainwreck of TV executives trying to “understand” gamers combined with exclusive trailers for wonderful games like Command & Conquer Generals II. I personally haven’t watched the awards in years, opting to see the trailers on GameTrailers.com after the show is broadcast instead. Doesn’t mean I still can’t mock it endlessly every year. Unlike a certain person who has an “Angry” persona, at least I have tact and don’t give Geoff Keighley the third degree about this, as he’s clearly held against his will, making a goofy awards show just to keep his job.
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of this wonderful award show, I thought I’d give you the highlights of the event. Note that this is not a complete list, anything prior to 2005 is pretty fuzzy, and since I don’t watch the event, I have to go by hearsay and second-hand information. So let me know if I left anything out, or made any errors in this. But enough of that, let’s get started!
2005: The award goes to… a game that’s not even out yet!
2005 was an interesting year. The Xbox 360 was new, the world wasn’t introduced to waggle motion controllers yet, and I had just graduated out of High School. The 2005 VGAs were mostly uneventful, except for two games getting a fair share of awards: The critically-panned 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and the licensed title Peter Jackson’s King Kong: Jesus Christ, Peter, Why is the title for this game so dam- I mean, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Except both games weren’t out yet. Back then, this was recorded in advance rather than broadcast live, so they decided to hype up two yet-unreleased games for their award show. Makes the whole look totally legitimate, doesn’t it?
For a year or so following this fiasco, there was a time where they made awards specifically for games coming out between October-December for fairness, but they seemed to abandon this in recent years, being totally okay to give the then-recently-released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 “Best Shooter” in 2011.
2006: Sarah Silverman brings her comedy to the TV stage.
The following year graced us with Silverman’s brand of comedy with as much tact and grace as a person climbing down stairs with their shoelaces tied together. Her entire routine was based on depreciating most of the audience there, calling them basement-dwelling nerds who should contemplate suicide for being losers. I’d show a clip of this, but it’s since been scrubbed off the internet.
Humor mocking a certain group of people can be funny. The problem is that you can’t really do that at an award show where said group of people are actually there. Thus the jokes fall flat.
Silverman did reappear in future events, but was not given the opportunity to dunk on gamers.
Now, I was gonna end this with a “I’m Fucking Matt Damon” joke, but then I found out she voiced Penelope Von Schweetz in Wreck-It Ralph, and did a damn fine job there. So she gets a pass for now. I still don’t care for her comedy, though.
Now I’m not saying comedians aren’t allowed to be on stage at these events, just make sure that the humor is about gaming itself rather than gamers. People will laugh if you use the right kind of humor.
2007: The Year of Painted Models.
Imagine the executive meeting where this took place.
- Guy #1: “Hey, we’re a network for MEN, right? Us men like women, right? But how do we make women tie into this video games thing?”
- Guy #2: “Get actual women game designers to present and accept the awards?”
- Guy #1: “Nah, those people don’t exist! They’re like the Easter Bunny!
- Guy #2: “But they do exist…”
- Guy #1: “Even if they do, they’re likely all ugly and shit, we need beautiful women for this thing!”
- Guy #3: “I KNOW! Let’s have models walk onto the stage covered in body paint with the games as we reveal the awards!”
- Guy #1: “Genius, Jenkins! You get a pay raise! Now get back to writing more episodes of MANswers!”
I swear that’s gotta be how it happened, because I can’t understand it otherwise. Yes, they did this for every major award. I feel sorry for the women who were subjected to this.
2007: Hail to the Chimp crashes Ken Levine’s party.
2007 brought us a bunch of amazing games, including BioShock, which won Game of the Year at the 2007 VGAs. Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine gets up on stage, ready to do a speech to celebrate his team’s victory. Suddenly, PR guys at Gamecock Media Group decide to rush the stage in dumb chicken hats, primarily to advertise Hail to the Chimp. After basically hijacking Levine’s moment in the TV spotlight, they bugger off shortly after and thus Levine has no time to give his speech. The Gamecocks thought now was the time to storm the stage, just as the award show was about to end. While Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson later apologized, it was still a dick move.
Today, Irrational is still hard at work making BioShock Infinite. Gamecock, however, got bought by SouthPeak Interactive in 2008 and were never heard from again. Fortunately, they got better, reforming as a better studio with games more fondly remembered.
2008: Jack Black wants to screw us gently, and make us look stupid.
Alright, so 2008 brings us a new host and Tenacious D member Jack Black. This is a good move: Jack Black plays games, and he’s likely gonna shill Brutal Legend which he recently starred in. Compared to previous years where we had David “I stopped being relevant when Chris Farley died” Spade and Samuel L. “MY FAVORITE GAME IS GTA 3: SAN ANDREAS” Jackson, this is gold in comparison.
However, I don’t think this is where we wanted to go. Yes, we’re back to the “People who play games are basement-dwelling nerds who will never get laid” jokes again. Yes, Spike, we get it. Gamers are degenerates. Whatever. This isn’t really as funny as you think it is. It’s not even funny in a self-depreciating way. Please stop.
It gets worse: Not only did we have more audience-insulting humor, we had jokes involving mocap suits and Black running around in costumes all night. I understand moments like these can be funny if done correctly, but I’ve seen YouTube personalities make better jokes than this.
2011: Teabagging! That’s funny, right?
2011 had a lot of gimmicks, more so than past years. At one point they were even fooling around with Augmented Reality, which looked pretty on TV, but likely looked very confusing to the studio audience. In addition to that, they decided to give us this wonderful gag: If somebody’s speech went on too long, an actor dressed in a cheap Halloween military costume placed people on the floor and teabagged them as a penalty. Even host Zachary Levi was not immune to this gag (see above).
When Modern Warfare 3 won “Best Shooter” that year, then-Creative Strategist Robert Bowling of Infinity Ward did his speech and went over the time limit. In a moment of panic, he tossed the award over to Michael Condrey of Sledgehammer Games, thus giving Condrey the teabagging treatment. All while Charlie Sheen, running on fumes from his “Tiger Blood” insanity, watches on. I don’t understand this teabagging phenomenon and I don’t think I ever will.
Wait a minute, isn’t teabagging more of a Halo thing? Why didn’t they have some yutz teabag Frank O’Connor instead?
2011: Felicia Day’s 15 minutes of fame.
Poor Felicia Day. I may not watch The Guild, but at least I respect her and her contributions to the gaming world, unlike a certain ex-Destructoid writer. Executives must’ve realized that she probably connects with gamers the most these days, as she was put on stage for 2011’s other gimmick: “WHAT IF VIDEO GAMES WERE REAL?”
Thus, Day was forced to do silly stunts in between the awards, like real-life Fruit Ninja! Meh, Tested.com beat Spike by a full two months on that whole gag. She was further humiliated with similar stunts, including the one above, where they grabbed cupcakes with their mouths as a vague tie-in to LittleBigPlanet 2. These are practically rejected Double Dare stunts. Maybe they would’ve been ten times funnier if they got Marc Summers to participate in these, I would’ve watched for sure.
So, she got to be known by Spike TV’s average audience as “one of the girls” who made an ass out of herself on national TV. I hope she got paid well to do this, at least.
2009-2014: We can’t afford putting in all these awards in time, we need more sketches!
Spike has been inconsistent on how it handles awards from year to year. In some years, the results were revealed on the night of the broadcast, while on some years they were announced in advance, which usually meant that they could shove some of the awards away to bring in more wonderful pairings like Mike Tyson and the cast of Jersey Shore. In more recent years, they don’t even mention all the awards on the broadcast, shoving some of the lesser-known awards to an event before the main VGA broadcast, or giving it only a passing mention. Because if it’s not “Best Shooter,” or some celebrity you can get on stage to give a silly speech, who gives a shit who won “Best Performance by a Human Male?”
Funny enough, in 2011’s award show, Mark Hamill and Tara Strong — both of them up for awards in “best performance by a human male/female,” respectively — weren’t even aware who won those categories, thus forcing them to watch a 2 hour spectacle and not knowing if they won any awards. Maybe that’s a good thing, I don’t think Hamill would’ve appreciated being teabagged.
2003-2014: This award is brought to you by Mountain Dew!
Ah yes, the infamous “Fueled by Mountain Dew” award. Usually it’s titled “Most Addictive Game Fueled by Dew,” but the green-colored soda has also sponsored “Best Independent Game” among other awards in recent years. In addition to the Dew-fueled sponsorship, other brands like Stride Gum have sponsored similar awards in past years. I’m surprised the Oscars don’t have a “Best Car Chase sponsored by Chevrolet” or the Grammys having “Most refreshing tune sponsored by 7UP.” Oh right, because that’s dumb and smacks of suspicious corporate marketing.
In 2007, the “Most Addictive Game” was Halo 3. Certainly has to be a coincidence, right? Surely it’s not because there was that Mountain Dew Game Fuel that was made as a promotional tie-in, no siree. Totally a coincidence.
So while this was all written for 2012’s awards, they still kept going in 2013.
For that year’s affair, they changed the VGAs to the “straight from the ’90s” title VGX. Joel McHale’s taking the reins this time around, and the event has shifted over from being a big TV specticle to an online affair, with a “trimmed down” version airing on Spike TV later. This one had such internet greats like Smosh and Pewdiepie guest-starring. And to cap it all off, VGX will blow its load early by giving the game of the year award in the middle of the show. Add a several-hour long concert of bands you’ve never heard of performing music from Grand Theft Auto V and you got a broadcast.
You know something is wrong when it’s being livestreamed on the internet rather than broadcast on TV. I bet Spike thinks this is a waste of time if they opted to go for a “VGX Highlights” special this year rather than the full awards. This might be the end of days, folks. It’s only a matter of time before the VGAs go the way of GFouria and end up being relegated to Geoff Keighley’s GameTrailers TV as a segment within the program. It might actually be sooner than later.
2014-present: Enter The Game Awards.
Sure enough, the Video Game Awards were officially over after 2013’s VGX.
After getting jerked by the chains of Spike for so long, Geoff Keighley decided to roll solo and do the show independently from the network, now under the new moniker “The Game Awards.”
Despite going independent, some of the problems I mentioned in past years are still there — winners of awards being announced before the show, showing “world exclusives,” that sort of thing.
However, it *has* gotten slightly better by acknowledging more of the game industry despite the veneer of being a big advertising spectacle akin to E3. So it shows that all the dumb marketing gimmicks were more Spike’s fault than Keighley’s. It’s still not *great*, though.
Honestly, as I update this post in 2018, I thought about expanding this to feature some of the few gaffes from the post-Spike era, such as the developer of forthcoming game A Way Out blurting out “Fuck the Oscars” in 2017, to even the frequent problem of their “Trending Gamer” award being given to people who would later have an incident that would damage their credibility. I think I’ll leave it at this, however.
If I wrote this now compared to how I started, it’d be a more essay form rather than a list. But I don’t like going back to older posts unless I have to correct something, so I’ll leave this up as a nice time capsule.
We now return to 2012 me, already in progress…
Of course I’ll avoid watching the VGAs this year just like I have in the past. I honestly put the BAFTA over Spike in regards to being an actual awards show, but this is on a TV network that gives us such programs like Bar Rescue, Auction Hunters and Flip Men — though I do like all three of those shows. I understand the market that Spike is trying to cater to — red-blooded twenty-to-thirty-something MEN — so clearly I am not part of their demographic. Feel free to join me in this not-watching endeavor, by watching something else and reading the internet’s reaction on Twitter instead. It’s more entertaining that way.