So I just finished watching the first VGX, Spike TV’s rebranded and now online only video game awards show. I have to say, beyond all odds, I didn’t actually hate it. Well, I disliked it immensely, but in that fun “I love to hate it” sort of way. This is a vast improvement over Spike’s Video Game Awards, which I previously just hated outright.
Let’s just get it out of the way: Joel McHale. He will be the most divisive part of this show. Hands down. I think most the people watching didn’t appreciate his apathy and sometimes sheer disdain for the show he was hosting. As someone that has a negative opinion of Spike and its attached Gametrailers TV brand, I found it refreshing. He often called out the cameraman’s unnecessary bobbing and swaying, which one can only assume was a conscious creative decision to give the show an edgy look. He called out his co-host Geoff Keighley’s strange stage attire. Seriously, who wears four layers in LA when it’s over 70 degrees out?
These are questions I ask all the time when I watch these shows that are clearly aimed at someone that is not me. I am quickly approaching middle age and have played video games for nearly thirty years. I don’t need my presenters or game developers to look trendy. I don’t need things to look edgy or borrowed from MTV. Joel was my voice during this entire show and I was laughing out loud at times.
Also, he seemed to have moments where he proved to be a better journalist than most of the professionals out there. What’s your expected launch date? You can’t say? Bullshit. You can at least give us a general window. Hey Reggie, enough sucking your dick about Nintendo… what do you think about the two systems that everyone is actually buying this generation? Not to mention, he kind of seemed to have a better working knowledge of Game of Thrones than one of the two guys from Telltale Games, the people that are charged to make the new game.
The ironic part is whenever something on the show truly caught his attention (“Wait, only four of you are making this whole game?”), it instantly made the project seem 1000x more credible. Here you have this guy who clearly doesn’t care about what’s going on, but something comes up that is so interesting or impressive that it even gets his attention? It kind of makes an impression. It was also funny to see him call out Tim Schafer on being on drugs when coming up with his story ideas (self pimping, Tim actually favorited a tweet I made about this. Kind of made my night.), while impressed with the overall work of the project and the people involved.
Sure, Joel doesn’t seem to be a “gamer” and he openly seems to dislike most of us, but can you blame him? Call of Duty is a best selling game every year, that alone gives me reason not to take gamers seriously. For really guys, it’s the Madden of First Person Shooters. The sooner we can admit it, the sooner we can move on to games that actually push the craft forward.
But despite what the internet might lead you to believe, VGX wasn’t about Joel McHale. It was about video games. And for once, it actually felt like this was true. Where the VGAs often felt like some strange parody of games, gamers, and gaming culture, the lineup for the VGX was very similar to what G4tv used to do for E3. In fact, VGX felt almost more like a convention slash press event than an actual awards show. This is fine with me, as video game awards are usually poorly thought out and rarely go to games I feel deserve them.
While Joel could be a bit of a troll at times, the interviews, debuts, and demos were really informative. It was nice to not have some celebrity that may or may not be a gamer hamming it up to some crowd of people that is filled with either industry insiders or trendy looking young assholes. No gimmicks where they tried to make the video game characters come to life on stage for the viewers. And sadly, no wonderful and beautiful Claudia Black announcing -_-
However, though the show did lack Ms. Black, it had actual gameplay from upcoming games, talking to interesting indie developers, talking with established developers, multiple game announcements and much more! It was actually a decent show for gamers. Heck, even the musical performance at the end was very video game relevant. For those that might not have caught the show, it ended with a live performance of multiple licensed and original songs from the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack.
Now some of you might be a little confused that you weren’t able to find the show live on Spike TV. Don’t worry, it wasn’t on television. This might sound like a bit of a downgrade going from a well known basic cable channel to being an online only streaming event, but you would be wrong. Not having to futz with the FCC means that you got to see gameplay in all its gory glory and hear songs with their original profanity laden lyrics intact. Not to mention it was streamable from just about every major gaming and video platform, which means it had the potential to actually reach more viewers than ever before. Steam, Playstation, and Xbox all featured the show’s stream on their services. Overall, I think it was a winning formula to reach the people that want to watch it the most.
Lastly, I want to talk about the hosting a bit more. The cynic in me loved Joel McHale. It was nice to have someone in the show that was a valve for my grumpiness, but he shouldn’t be back next year. And for that matter, I don’t think Geoff Keighley should be back either. Nothing against Geoff, I think he seems like a nice enough guy, but there has never been a point that I saw him on screen and didn’t think he was a corporate shill. Everything he says and does seems like it was voted on by a committee to make sure it wouldn’t be found offensive to anyone in the gaming industry. X-Play’s Adam Sessler (who can now be found on Revision 3 be tee dub) always had a way of retaining a sense of genuine non-bias while interviewing people. He might have feigned interest in a demonstration for a terrible game while they were on the stage with him, you always knew he would drop the axe on the developers when it was time to review the title next year. I’ve never felt this way about Geoff.
So next year, I say we bring in some people that don’t have to worry about being in the good graces of the publishers in order to get exclusives or review copies. I nominate:
Ash and Anthony Burch. In addition to having a wildly popular internet series about video games, one was a writer for Borderlands 2 and the other provided the voice for the amazing character Tiny Tina. These guys are in love with games and are charismatic. While they may be passionate about games, they also don’t blindly eat up shit just because it’s popular or made by an important company. They would bring natural character and credibility to next year’s VGX. I would also watch it multiple times, just like each episode of “Hey Ash Whatcha Playing?” Bonus points if they can bring their dad along.
I also nominate Ali Baker to be a correspondent, because fuck you. She’s awesome.