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Olin says the challenges the AIAS faces in popularizing videogames, and to a certain extent, the awards, are based in the media itself. Games aren't celebrity-oriented, like movies. Nobody will be tuning in to the AIAS awards to see what Ken Levine is wearing. "It's not about the stars," says Olin, which makes it difficult to generate interest. But this year the Academy has an ace up its sleeve: The videogame industry did over $17 billion dollars in business last year, rivaling movies, music and even television. And Nintendo's unique new machines are bringing games to an audience that's never considered them before, an audience ill-served by traditional game media. Whether that audience will be watching the AIAS Awards show isn't entirely relevant; it's the Academy's hope word of the awards will get to them eventually, and their tastes, and purchasing trends, will be influenced.
According to Olin, these kind of outreach efforts get people thinking about games in a different way, and folks who have just bought their first game platform, or are just now being introduced to the medium, will be interested to know what the people who make games think are the best games out there. The ultimate goal, he says, would be to get game developers in all of the places people look for news on what matters. He envisions, only half-jokingly, David Jaffe on Oprah, talking about why games aren't really as bad for your children as people think.
According to Olin, this year is the best year ever for gaming, although he admits he says that almost every year. And that alone is telling. As the industry ages it advances, and what seemed impossible one year may be old hat the next.
Olin likens the state of the videogame industry to the history of television and film. He envisions a time when games may be as ubiquitous as those media, and users will be able to download a game - or buy it almost anywhere - and play it on any one of a multitude of devices, not just those made by Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Just like you can with movies. "It's not science fiction," he says. "I don't see it happening in the short term. [But] it's gonna come."
He says the biggest problem with such a unification theory isn't resistance form the developers themselves, but rather an unwillingness to trust in government to set and enforce a standard, like they do with the television formats. That may change, but considering the current state of government - game maker détente, it's not likely to happen soon.
Whether or not history will agree that 2007 was the best year for gaming, it certainly seems that way, and unlike other media, games are a growing business. DICE may have a long way to go before it reaches the level of the Oscars, but Olin and the Academy are confident they're headed in the right direction.
Expect the talks and panels hosted by the Academy at DICE to cover all of these aspects of the growing game industry and more. The red carpet has been rolled out and the developers will be there in force. As will The Escapist. We may skip the celebrity golf tournament (very few golfers in the Humidor), but we'll be providing detailed coverage of the event all week, and if Call of Duty 4 does win those 12 awards, we'll be there to tell you about it before you see the sticker on the box.