The Dos and Don’ts of Video Games on TV

VG Extremely disappointing 


If you had the misfortune to watch the VGX awards on Saturday night you were treated to three hours of awkward interviews, failed jokes and disappointing ‘reveals’. For a much-hyped annual event it seemed to push all the wrong buttons for pretty much everyone involved, even the guests and presenters looked ready to walk out while the crew could be heard laughing (and not at the right times) in the background. It was a live-broadcast car crash that everyone could see. While we might be able to look back at this and laugh, features like this can do a huge amount of damage to the videogame industry and the general public’s perception of gaming and gamers. Thankfully the show wasn’t actually televised so the damage will be limited, but people involved in these productions need to do better. Here’s our list of problems with shows like this and what we (as gamers) really want to see.


Don’t use a presenter who doesn’t care. We get that it can be hard to find A-list presenters who are really into gaming and keep up with the latest news (although there is Jonathan Ross, Dara O’Brien, Charlie Brooker, Vin Diesel, Will Wheaton, Jack Black and Robin Williams just to name a few, we can add Elijah Wood to that list now too I think), but surely it’s better to have a no-name presenter who can actually contribute to gaming discussion on the show rather than someone famous who’s going to act uncomfortable through the whole thing. Joel McHale (actor from Community) hosted this year’s VGX and he almost brought the whole show to a screeching halt. From making immature jokes (which may not have been his fault, he was – as he mentioned repeatedly – reading from a teleprompter) and asking irrelevant questions that broke the flow of interviews to outright insulting gamers and the show he was presenting, Joel was an awful host and should have been pulled off the air within fifteen minutes. He obviously didn’t care and when he did care he didn’t know enough to contribute. When repeatedly asked what his favourite game was he struggled to name any of them, Randy Pitchford even called him out for not knowing what he was talking about. If they’d just let the main presenter (Geoff Keighley) to do all the hosting it would have been a much more enjoyable show with meaningful interviews, as it stands it was a painful three hours of garbage interspersed by some pretty cool trailers.


Don’t promise loads of world exclusive reveals when they’re terrible. The reason most people watch video game awards ceremonies isn’t for the awards, everyone knows they’ll just disagree with those (Bioshock Infinite as best shooter, really?) but for the reveals and trailers that are promised. Spike told us there’d be tonnes of reveals, and there were but we knew about nearly all of them in advance, Joel spoiled the few we didn’t know about shortly before the trailers started and then most of the reveals were incredibly boring as it was. The Telltale announcements were cool (although we already knew about Game of Thrones and they clearly had nothing to show or say about it other than that it exists), No Man’s Sky was huge and genuinely exciting, then everything else was disappointing. Remedy had what must be the shortest gameplay reveal in the world – to the point where I was watching fairly closely and still managed to miss the bit that was ‘gameplay’ (apparently there was a bit with cover), the Titanfall reveal was just a few new types of robot in the game and I’m pretty sure those Titans were playable at Gamescom in August, and the Nintendo reveal was that Cranky Kong, a character not many people care about, will be playable in Tropical Freeze, a game that not many people care about. I’m sure it’ll be a great game but a single character reveal in something that’s not very exciting doesn’t really count as a reason to tune into VGX. The Tomb Raider reveal was something we knew about, and would barely be worth a trailer as it was, let alone a live reveal. If Spike had something amazing, like Fallout 4, a new Wii U-based Zelda or a Halo 5/Uncharted 4 trailer, it’d be exciting. I don’t put any of the blame on the developers, it’s entirely on Spike, they knew what they had to show and they insisted on trying to hype it up right until the last minute.


Don’t insult your audience. Repeatedly Joel McHale insulted the audience as ‘nerds’ and made references to the antisocial stereotype that still persists in the minds of the general public. When you finally have a platform to speak to a broader audience about gaming, don’t reinforce those stereotypes and push other people away while making your fans feel bad about themselves. This whole show should have been a celebration of gaming, not a chance to make jokes at the gamers’ expense. The occasional video clips they’d put together for the show with various nobodies trying to make you laugh by being stereotypically ‘gamer’-y were absolutely awful. They didn’t just stop at the audience, they even made fun of developers including Nintendo who’d gone to the trouble of sending Reggie to the show. It came across as offensive and rude and completely unnecessary.


Don’t forget about production values. For our last complaint about VGX, it was a horribly produced show. There was no studio audience, despite there clearly needing to be one to clap after each award. The concert outside was basically an afterthought with no presenter out there to oversee it, things were in the wrong order and the presenters got confused, entire segments fell flat and they did nothing about it, having video games in the show isn’t enough, we need a good show about videogames, something that non-gamers might want to see. This was just embarassing.

So that’s enough for the complaints, now what do we want to see?


Do get the developers involved. Seeing some of the industry’s most important minds speaking about their games and development is always a treat and with the right interviewer it can come across really well. We’d like to see VGX (if it returns) come back to a real stage for the awards and make a show of it, but perhaps have the interviews pre-recorded to fill in the gaps between awards. Every developer on the show had something interesting to say, and although the interviews were generally sabotaged by one of the presenters, the idea was definitely a worthy addition that we’d like to see more of.


Do include short films about the subject. I thought the brief clips about King Kong would be as awful as the ‘comedy’ videos, but they were genuinely great and entertaining. With the success of recent gaming-based documentaries like King of Kong and Indie Game: The Movie there’s a place for high-quality short films as an interval to the awards. There might not be quite enough for a category to themselves but giving upcoming filmmakers a bit of a platform would be a great thing for the industry.


Do use an expert panel of judges. This wasn’t as well advertised for the show, but the panel who judged the awards was a collection of the most important and influential game journalists and commentators in the business. They had guys and gals from Penny Arcade, Polygon, Joystiq, Gamespot and more – and this is how it should be. The list was huge so while some of the decisions were odd, they tended to be the fan-voted ones. It would have been nice to see a bit more about the judging process with some interviews with key judges talking about their decisions.


Do treat indie games like any other title. No Man’s Sky got the same attention as some huge AAA games on the show, and rightfully so – it looks incredible. A day after it went live and it’s the main game everyone’s talking about, it had a bigger impact than Titanfall, Destiny or Quantum Break. There was no patronising comments about it being indie, no special treatment or condescension, just a fantastic reveal for a spectacular upcoming game. It would be nice to see more of this and I’ve got a lot of faith that we will with Sony and Microsoft both treating indie games like any other game on their respective stores with the next-gen consoles. It was also nice to see indie games nominated for categories other than ‘best independent game’.


Do show live gameplay. This doesn’t just apply to awards shows, but any gaming show. Live gameplay lets everyone see what a game is really like, pre-recorded or rendered footage tells you almost nothing. Seeing someone having a go on games like Tropical Freeze and Dying Light lets you know what you’re seeing is likely to be what you’ll actually get when the game comes out, plsu the popularity of and UStream have proven that people enjoy seeing gameplay live, we’d personally love to see some of the developers playing their own games.

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