An Awards Show, A Documentary, and Plenty of Ranting

Today is Monday 13th December and I am here to rant, rave, and generally talk about video games. Initiate angry drive!

The VGAs

 This man used the phrase "Halo Reach around" without a hint of irony.

So, Saturday night the 2010 Spike TV Video Game Awards were presented, and I’m going to be blunt, I did not like what I saw. I was expecting all flash and little substance, but the problem wasn’t just that the show itself was of a poor quality, but that it seemed detached from trying to celebrate video games, didn’t make the video game industry look good, didn’t make video game enthusiasts look good, and potentially sent a bad message to video game publishers about what consumers want. As Kevin VanOrd said, it was “a celebration of all that we should distance ourselves from”.

One of the consistent criticisms of the show has been that the presentational style was abysmal, and I can’t help but agree that this was my biggest annoyance too. At times there seemed to be little more than a never-ending torrent of poorly thought-out sex jokes coming out of the presenter’s mouths, it was just insulting to see the kind of immature humour the writers for the show thought they had to force to appeal to people who know about video games. The ceremony also seemed to feel a need to crowbar in as many people as possible from other entertainment industries, from comedians, to actors, to a live band. None of these people represent video games and they shouldn’t be allowed to, it was just a display of celebrity for the sake of celebrity, as though the video game industry was so weak that they needed these people from other industries to prop them up.

The area in which I seem to disagree with most other people over the VGAs is that I didn’t like the large volume of cinematic trailers during the show. Yes, they were pretty, yes I’m inconceivably excited for games like Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3, but I think having so many of these trailers was misrepresentative of what video games are about. Cinematics are part of video games, just as music, and many other art forms are, but at the core of all good video games is gameplay. On a relative scale the video game industry is currently in its infancy but it’s still much, much more than vulgarity and nice graphics. It’s good to see so many people expressing their dissatisfaction with what Spike TV are doing because the idiocy they are peddling shouldn’t represent the industry. We need to drift away from spectacles like the 2010 VGAs and look to ceremonies like the 10th IGF/GDC awards; hosted by people who understand games, dignified, and carried out with proper presentation.

Panorama on Video Games

 This "documentary" seemed like 90% pictures of peoples eyes and hands.

The VGAs weren’t the only people to be portraying video games in a less than flattering light in the last week though, Panorama decided to tackle the issue of addiction to video games. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, Panorama is the long-running flagship documentary series of the BBC. This means that here in the UK a lot of people listen to what they have to say, and their opinion carries a fair amount of weight. The BBC are usually considered one of the most unbiased news sources in the world, but as it turned out Panorama seemed to really phone it in, providing us with yet another one-sided, fear-mongering account of the effect of video games.

The report was carried out by one Raphael Rowe, a man who’s knowledge of video games didn’t seem to stretch beyond Pong, and someone who held such basic misconceptions as console games and online games being two distinctly different things, and that games rewards systems are based solely around giving players new features and lives as they progress. He spent far more time talking to addicts in their bedrooms than people with proper knowledge of the effect of games, and he even journeyed to Korea to study the anti-addiction camps and playing habits there, while failing to draw any distinction between the way gaming links into Korean culture, as opposed to western culture. It was mentioned that there’s no proven link between video games and addiction, but that didn’t stop Rowe and his colleagues from splicing together lots of provoking imagery of people concentrating on computer screens, or claiming that RPG mechanics were directly adapted from Skinner’s Box psychological experiments.

One of the very few people in the program who made any sense was the single academic featured, Mark Griffiths of Nottingham-Trent University, who emphasised that video games are a positive influence on most, and that the real answer to all of this is more research into video game addiction. Presenter Jeremy Vine also used his very brief slot at the end of the show to make the necessary point that video game addiction is very rare. In the year 2010 I thought we would have come a long way since “Doom fries your frontal lobes” but it seems that ignorance surrounding video games is still far too prevalent.

What I’ve Been Playing

Before I wrap this up I want to again, thank Giant Bomb for giving me the Noble Map Pack as part of their give-away a couple of weeks back. I’ve played quite a bit of it and there seems to be somewhat of an emphasis on open spaces in all of the maps, but they’re all well-designed and gorgeous to look at. While I can’t say they’re the greatest games developed, Harm’s Way and Doritos Crash Course also came out on Xbox LIVE Arcade for free in the last week, and I have to say they are surprisingly advertisement-free and competently made.

Duder, It’s Over

Thank you to everyone who left constructive comments on my blog last week, and thank you to everyone who has read my blog this week. Good luck, have Kirby (note: explicit lyrics).

-Gamer_152

20 Comments
21 Comments
Posted by Gamer_152

Today is Monday 13th December and I am here to rant, rave, and generally talk about video games. Initiate angry drive!

The VGAs

 This man used the phrase "Halo Reach around" without a hint of irony.

So, Saturday night the 2010 Spike TV Video Game Awards were presented, and I’m going to be blunt, I did not like what I saw. I was expecting all flash and little substance, but the problem wasn’t just that the show itself was of a poor quality, but that it seemed detached from trying to celebrate video games, didn’t make the video game industry look good, didn’t make video game enthusiasts look good, and potentially sent a bad message to video game publishers about what consumers want. As Kevin VanOrd said, it was “a celebration of all that we should distance ourselves from”.

One of the consistent criticisms of the show has been that the presentational style was abysmal, and I can’t help but agree that this was my biggest annoyance too. At times there seemed to be little more than a never-ending torrent of poorly thought-out sex jokes coming out of the presenter’s mouths, it was just insulting to see the kind of immature humour the writers for the show thought they had to force to appeal to people who know about video games. The ceremony also seemed to feel a need to crowbar in as many people as possible from other entertainment industries, from comedians, to actors, to a live band. None of these people represent video games and they shouldn’t be allowed to, it was just a display of celebrity for the sake of celebrity, as though the video game industry was so weak that they needed these people from other industries to prop them up.

The area in which I seem to disagree with most other people over the VGAs is that I didn’t like the large volume of cinematic trailers during the show. Yes, they were pretty, yes I’m inconceivably excited for games like Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3, but I think having so many of these trailers was misrepresentative of what video games are about. Cinematics are part of video games, just as music, and many other art forms are, but at the core of all good video games is gameplay. On a relative scale the video game industry is currently in its infancy but it’s still much, much more than vulgarity and nice graphics. It’s good to see so many people expressing their dissatisfaction with what Spike TV are doing because the idiocy they are peddling shouldn’t represent the industry. We need to drift away from spectacles like the 2010 VGAs and look to ceremonies like the 10th IGF/GDC awards; hosted by people who understand games, dignified, and carried out with proper presentation.

Panorama on Video Games

 This "documentary" seemed like 90% pictures of peoples eyes and hands.

The VGAs weren’t the only people to be portraying video games in a less than flattering light in the last week though, Panorama decided to tackle the issue of addiction to video games. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, Panorama is the long-running flagship documentary series of the BBC. This means that here in the UK a lot of people listen to what they have to say, and their opinion carries a fair amount of weight. The BBC are usually considered one of the most unbiased news sources in the world, but as it turned out Panorama seemed to really phone it in, providing us with yet another one-sided, fear-mongering account of the effect of video games.

The report was carried out by one Raphael Rowe, a man who’s knowledge of video games didn’t seem to stretch beyond Pong, and someone who held such basic misconceptions as console games and online games being two distinctly different things, and that games rewards systems are based solely around giving players new features and lives as they progress. He spent far more time talking to addicts in their bedrooms than people with proper knowledge of the effect of games, and he even journeyed to Korea to study the anti-addiction camps and playing habits there, while failing to draw any distinction between the way gaming links into Korean culture, as opposed to western culture. It was mentioned that there’s no proven link between video games and addiction, but that didn’t stop Rowe and his colleagues from splicing together lots of provoking imagery of people concentrating on computer screens, or claiming that RPG mechanics were directly adapted from Skinner’s Box psychological experiments.

One of the very few people in the program who made any sense was the single academic featured, Mark Griffiths of Nottingham-Trent University, who emphasised that video games are a positive influence on most, and that the real answer to all of this is more research into video game addiction. Presenter Jeremy Vine also used his very brief slot at the end of the show to make the necessary point that video game addiction is very rare. In the year 2010 I thought we would have come a long way since “Doom fries your frontal lobes” but it seems that ignorance surrounding video games is still far too prevalent.

What I’ve Been Playing

Before I wrap this up I want to again, thank Giant Bomb for giving me the Noble Map Pack as part of their give-away a couple of weeks back. I’ve played quite a bit of it and there seems to be somewhat of an emphasis on open spaces in all of the maps, but they’re all well-designed and gorgeous to look at. While I can’t say they’re the greatest games developed, Harm’s Way and Doritos Crash Course also came out on Xbox LIVE Arcade for free in the last week, and I have to say they are surprisingly advertisement-free and competently made.

Duder, It’s Over

Thank you to everyone who left constructive comments on my blog last week, and thank you to everyone who has read my blog this week. Good luck, have Kirby (note: explicit lyrics).

-Gamer_152

Moderator
Posted by Khann

At the risk of starting an argument, the anti-video game crowd seem very, very similar to the anti-marijuana crowd.

Edited by TwoOneFive
@Khann said:

" At the risk of starting an argument, the anti-video game crowd seem very, very similar to the anti-marijuana crowd. "

i agree. they have nothing but bullshit to back up their arguments. absolutely unfounded bullshit. and usually they have no experience with it at all. That's actually a very fitting analogy. 
Posted by Gamer_152
@TwoOneFive said:
" @Khann said:

" At the risk of starting an argument, the anti-video game crowd seem very, very similar to the anti-marijuana crowd. "

i agree. they have nothing but bullshit to back up their arguments. absolutely unfounded bullshit."
I think in both cases the answer is finite research into the effects of each to conclusively prove to everyone what the effects really are.
Moderator
Posted by MisterChief

They made a gay presenter make a reach around joke? REALLY?

Posted by Gamer_152
@MisterChief said:
" They made a gay presenter make a reach around joke? REALLY? "
Yes but I don't think it was specifically because he was gay. He also came out with "Assassin's Cream" and I believe it may have been him who said "Call of Booty".
Moderator
Posted by Doctorchimp
@Gamer_152: Jesus yeah the VGAs was a fucking joke. I just remember tuning it out until I felt a trailer coming. 
 
Not to mention that they decided to fill the time up with their "hilarious" skits they didn't even announce all the winners. 
 
NPH was awful and I actually like the guy, also the most ironic thing out of that show wasn't NPH doing a gay joke it was Dane fucking Cook presenting a "character of the year" award. 
 
Then you add in Olivia Munn....who I like less and less each time I see her. She really seems to be grasping at straws lately to make sure she isn't saddled as the G4 chick but more of the "nerd culture hostess". Keep in mind she never comes off as liking the "nerd culture" and embracing it, but more along the lines of being more aware of it than the average person and then making fun of the typical "gamer" stereotype. BTW I hate the term "nerd culture", I only use it cause it saves time...oh by the way Olivia isn't even hot...
 
I'm sure it has something to do with G4TV getting dropped from cable providers as it regularly brings in the lowest ratings as re runs of COPS and Cheaters wastes everyone's time so she's trying to jump shit ASAP.
Posted by RsistncE

Newsflash: cinematic trailers that show no gameplay aren't a "Spike VGA's" problem, they're an industry wide problem in general. Look at Blizzard for a good example of this. Cinematics = epic. Gameplay = not so epic shitty grindfest.

Posted by Gamer_152
@Doctorchimp said:
" @Gamer_152: Jesus yeah the VGAs was a fucking joke. I just remember tuning it out until I felt a trailer coming.  Not to mention that they decided to fill the time up with their "hilarious" skits they didn't even announce all the winners.  NPH was awful and I actually like the guy, also the most ironic thing out of that show wasn't NPH doing a gay joke it was Dane fucking Cook presenting a "character of the year" award.  Then you add in Olivia Munn....who I like less and less each time I see her. She really seems to be grasping at straws lately to make sure she isn't saddled as the G4 chick but more of the "nerd culture hostess". Keep in mind she never comes off as liking the "nerd culture" and embracing it, but more along the lines of being more aware of it than the average person and then making fun of the typical "gamer" stereotype. BTW I hate the term "nerd culture", I only use it cause it saves time...oh by the way Olivia isn't even hot... I'm sure it has something to do with G4TV getting dropped from cable providers as it regularly brings in the lowest ratings as re runs of COPS and Cheaters wastes everyone's time so she's trying to jump shit ASAP. "
I think everyone at that awards show got strapped with crappy parts. I like NPH but his bits to the audience were terrible, and I don't like Dane Cook but I thought his jokes were even worse than usual. Although Olvia Munn's speech was as bad as all the rest, especially with that pathetic "giving male gamers boners" joke, I think the sad thing was that she was more relevant to video games than any of the other presenters; she actually has done games journalism work. Considering the reputation Munn has built up for herself I can't really tell if her appearance was bad judgement on the part of Spike TV or whether there's still a sizeable audience that consider her a respectable journalist. Oh and yes, "nerd culture" does not equate to "gaming culture", nerds often game but that doesn't mean that people who play games are nerds. You know what though? The worst part of that show for me was douchebag bragging about how he was talking trash to someone in Call of Duty backstage, and then on-stage proceeding to do a joke about getting stoned and playing God of War.
 
@RsistncE said:
" Newsflash: cinematic trailers that show no gameplay aren't a "Spike VGA's" problem, they're an industry wide problem in general. Look at Blizzard for a good example of this. Cinematics = epic. Gameplay = not so epic shitty grindfest. "
I understand perfectly that when something can only be viewed and not interacted with, cinematics come off far better visually than gameplay, but I think there was a way to showcase visuals while still celebrating the other elements of the games. The VGAs showed off the graphics, the music, and to some extent the narrative but they didn't really talk about the games themselves or have anyone representing games or games journalism (besides Olivia Munn) to balance it out. I believe there was a way to include cinematic trailers and be respectful of video games as a whole and the VGAs didn't do it.
Moderator
Posted by RsistncE
@Gamer_152: I personally don't think there is a way to fairly use cinematic trailers to hype a game - they're downright deceptive to the core and should be disallowed under the pretense of false advertising.
Edited by Yummylee

I came for the announcements, I left with the ignorant filth. T.T 
 
Also I barely watch TV anymore, let alone a short documentary that appears as if gamers need to be captured via a witchhunt. I read the eurogamer summary and it was pretty much what I was expecting.

Posted by Tylea002
@RsistncE: 
They aren't claiming to be gameplay. They totally have a place, everyone just needs to know what it is.
Posted by RsistncE
@Tylea002: Oh come on man, you KNOW that they advertise that shit almost acting like it's representative of the game. Hell, Blizz ads don't even bother showing real gameplay at all anymore, they just straight up show the high quality CG cutscenes. 
Posted by Claude

That show sucked the life right out of me. Award shows in general suck and are over long in their diatribe of non-related material, but this one made me gag a little. Trash, nothing but pure trash. Whiskey Media and Giant Bomb could put on a better show and cheaper too. 
 
As for video game addiction, that's so yesterday. How about social media? That's the new in addiction. Video games are only a small part of that now. Hell, video games are trying to get in on the social media bandwagon. Look at how Whiskey Media works. Look at my addiction to Giant Bomb. There you go.

Posted by Gamer_152
@Abyssfull said:
"I barely watch TV anymore, let alone a short documentary that appears as if gamers need to be captured via a witchhunt. I read the eurogamer summary and it was pretty much what I was expecting. "
Honestly, I thought because it was the BBC it might not be completely ignorant and biased. I was mistaken.
 
@RsistncE said:
" @Tylea002: Oh come on man, you KNOW that they advertise that shit almost acting like it's representative of the game. Hell, Blizz ads don't even bother showing real gameplay at all anymore, they just straight up show the high quality CG cutscenes.  "
Almost doing something and actually doing something are two very different things, either they are doing it or they aren't. We know the cinematic trailers aren't representative of these games and whenever they show these things on TV they have to put "not representative of in-game graphics", or something to that effect in the trailer. Like I said cinematics are part of creating games and games themselves and I agree with Tylea that these cinematic trailers could very well have a place at an awards show.
 
@Claude said:
" That show sucked the life right out of me. Award shows in general suck and are over long in their diatribe of non-related material, but this one made me gag a little. Trash, nothing but pure trash. Whiskey Media and Giant Bomb could put on a better show and cheaper too. 
 
As for video game addiction, that's so yesterday. How about social media? That's the new in addiction. Video games are only a small part of that now. Hell, video games are trying to get in on the social media bandwagon. Look at how Whiskey Media works. Look at my addiction to Giant Bomb. There you go. "
Man, if Whiskey Media put on an awards show, it would be freaking amazing. The GoTY deliberations of pretty much every website out there are going to be of a much higher quality than the VGAs were. Also I thought we might have gotten past the video games addiction myths but apparently not.
Moderator
Posted by RsistncE
@Gamer_152 said:
@RsistncE said:
" @Tylea002: Oh come on man, you KNOW that they advertise that shit almost acting like it's representative of the game. Hell, Blizz ads don't even bother showing real gameplay at all anymore, they just straight up show the high quality CG cutscenes.  "
Almost doing something and actually doing something are two very different things, either they are doing it or they aren't. We know the cinematic trailers aren't representative of these games and whenever they show these things on TV they have to put "not representative of in-game graphics", or something to that effect in the trailer. Like I said cinematics are part of creating games and games themselves and I agree with Tylea that these cinematic trailers could very well have a place at an awards show.

Oh boy, I think you need to understand how a business works. These aren't altruistic people, their job is to maximize those financial profits, and where possible their economic profits, and that includes doing so by any means that will get them by without explicitly breaking laws out in the open. They know perfectly well the effect these CGI trailers have: for one, they know that many consumers are misinformed and will buy the product on the basis of the trailer. Who logs a complaint over a $40 game nowadays anyways? Second they know the positive reinforcement those ads have on people who are informed; I can tell you right now that I watch those trailers and say, "Oh man that looks awesome", but then I have to remind myself of what World of Warcraft is REALLY like. It's naive to treat this as, "They aren't saying the game IS this," because if you took them to court they would never claim that; instead they would say, "We're saying the game is this awesome." Guess what? That's not a measurable claim. No consumer could come up to them and say, "This wasn't as AWESOME as you said." It's called weasel advertising. 
 
Cinematic trailers do have a place - in the damn game and out of advertising where it's used explicitly to manipulate consumer opinion. I'm personally tired of having a company show me a CG trailer and try to act like they've actually given me any useful information about the game.
Posted by BraveToaster

Another good blog.  Fortunately, I didn't watch the VGA's
 
How do they expect the industry to mature if they reinforce the gaming community stereotype? And we wonder why videogames aren't accepted as art, this does us no justice.  

Edited by Gamer_152
@RsistncE: Yes, I understand the people putting these cinematic trailers out are businesses, and businesses want to make money, but all product advertisements are made in the same vein; as a form of positive reinforcement to try and make consumers buy a product by any legal means. Even those video game trailers of people jumping up and down to motion control games, or adverts featuring hastily spliced together gameplay clips aren't aiming to be representative of the game, they're aiming to show the game in the best light possible to sell more copies. It doesn't matter whether it's a cinematic trailer or not, I'd say any game purchase made on the basis that someone enjoyed an advert for it was an ill-informed purchase. I don't understand your argument about the court case though, the supposed quality of the game would never enter the legal situation, the only thing that matters in terms of legality is whether or not they are claiming something is in-game footage which is not in-game footage.
 
All of this seems a little irrelevant though because my original point was not whether cinematic trailers should be used on advertising platforms, but whether video game cinematics have a place at an awards show. I still believe that given the right moderation of these trailers, and given the right amount of respect for the other elements that make up a game, they still do.
 
@Axxol: Thanks. Indeed the VGAs are the kind of stuff that is fucking poison to the image of video games.
Moderator
Posted by RsistncE
@Gamer_152:  The use of trailers to reveal a new product at an awards show IS advertising. The point I was getting at with the court case was that a game company will never explicitly state that, "this is what the game will look like." That is a clear and measurable statement. You can prove in court if a product does or does not look like what was advertised quite easily. That is why CGI trailers are used to implicitly state that the game will be, "THIS AWESOME/GOOD." This is a vague, unmeasurable, and subjective statement. You could never take a company to court saying, "This game wasn't as good as they said it would be." You'd lose because there would be no way for you to prove it. In other words what I'm saying is that these companies are using CG trailers to implicitly state that the game will be like those trailers. If you were right in assuming that they're not saying this, Blizzard would have the balls to show at least ONE World of Warcraft: Cataclysm trailer composed of in-game action, but it doesn't...ever. They know the CG trailers have a much more favorable effect because they give off a much better impression of the game. Like I said, it's ultra naive to think that game companies aren't using cinematic trailers to warp consumer choice.
Posted by afrofools

I just watched the trailers on IGN's Youtube, and GiantBomb. In-fact I never really noticed this whole award show. Only now do I realize that it was just on. 
 
Off Topic: 
Watching trailers on GameTrailers sucks balls. I only do it if I have to, and there video players don't stream/load properly for me, even though I can watch higher quality YouTube fine.

Posted by Gamer_152
@RsistncE: Yes, it would act as advertising, but so would pretty much any other mention of a game at a games awards show. As far as the "you said your game was this awesome" thing goes you could argue the same situation about any piece of advertisement. Yes, cinematic trailers are meant to warp consumer opinions, but so are all forms of advertisement.
 
@afrofools: Just watching the trailers is probably the right way to go. On the whole Gametrailers haven't been too bad for me. I did have a little trouble with them after the VGAs but I assumed that was just due to the volume of traffic to the site at the time.
Moderator