First Person

First Person
Why I Am Patient With The VGAs

Dennis C. Scimeca | 15 Dec 2011 16:00
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Or to put it another way: Do you, dear reader, feel like the average person at your workplace watched the VGAs and, knowing that you play video games, is now looking at you with less respect or increased scorn as a result of having watched them? No? Me either. That's why I won't lose my mind over some perception that the VGAs might create for whoever the hell watched them.

Recognize that the choice may be between having the only nationally-televised video game awards show hosted on Spike TV, which regrettably does pander to a lowbrow audience and which will therefore dictate a lowbrow Video Game Awards show, or having no nationally-televised video game awards show at all. Given that choice, and thinking about what's best for the video game industry, I'll choose the VGAs every time. They are a step in the right direction in what will be a very long process of video games going mainstream, and the impatience for this inevitable process is a little immature and very tiresome.

Ten years ago, the idea of a nationally-televised video game award show might have sounded a bit strange. Twenty years ago, the idea would have been ludicrous. Thirty years ago, the response to such a proposition might have been "What's a video game?" Be patient. It won't be too long before a show like the Spike TV Video Game Awards ceases to be a viable economic property solely on account of the diversification of those who play video games, but the VGAs at least will continue keeping the idea in the television industry's head that such an awards show is, at the very least, not just a silly idea.

Think about what the kind of knee-jerk criticism that gets levied at the Spike TV Video Game Awards looks like to an outside observer. Do we, the people who really love video games and want to see them treated with respect, want to paint ourselves as a bunch of argumentative, reactionary people who are out of touch with reality and riddled with a bloated sense of self-importance? Would you want to engage with people like that, all other information about said people absent from your observation? Does that help video games take their rightful place in the pantheon of "normal" media?

Criticizing the Spike TV Video Game Awards for grasping at low-hanging fruit, and then writing criticism of the event that also reads like a grab at low-hanging fruit neuters that criticism and renders it impotent. Knocking something down is child's play. Building something up is much more difficult. Video game journalists who dislike the VGAs can help pave the way for a different kind of televised video game awards show without bashing anything or anyone.

If we want video game developers to be respected figures who deserve some time on stage to accept awards that are meaningful representations of quality of craft, and if we want this sort of programming to be economically viable, it's the job of video game journalists to make those developers interesting. People like David Jaffe, Cliff Bleszinski and Ken Levine make that job easy because they are outspoken, charismatic, and interesting. The job of a good journalist, at least as I understand it, is to find the angles to make anyone interesting.

If video game journalists are really concerned about a lack of serious video game awards coverage, there are things they can do to help set the stage for making that serious coverage possible. If they don't, perhaps that's because those journalists are facing the same, difficult choice that the producers of a video game awards show in the present day face: trying to take material which on its surface is informative and dry, and turning it into something entertaining.

First Person is a weekly column by Boston, MA-based freelancer Dennis Scimeca. You can read some of his other musings on his blog, or follow his random excitations on Twitter: @DennisScimeca.

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