If you remember, just before the airing of this past year’s VGX ceremony, I penned a piece in which I detailed my grievances with previous editions of the show and outlined what I hoped this one was going to do differently in order to make the show enjoyable, or at least bearable. It is reasonable to say that this past ceremony not only took zero steps forward, it took about eighteen back. The humor was virtually non-existent, and when it was there it was overly self-deprecating – on top of which the show’s structure was horribly misshapen. It is completely understandable that the efforts behind the show are to make it accessible not only to gamers, but to those that are casually into gaming or looking to get into the medium. However, out of the numerous problems that this show experienced, the one that was most constant centered around Joel McHale’s duties as co-host.
I could go on once more about the peculiar order in which the awards were handed out and their frequency, or the Loiter Squad, but the former has already been touched on in-depth in my previous piece, and the Loiter Squad are not the first musical performance to bomb at an award’s show. They certainly will not be the last. Joel McHale was the epicenter for all of the hatred that was directed towards VGX this past year, and rightfully so. I will clarify that I do not believe the problem starts and ends with his performance, however.
There are a few reasons why Joel McHale just simply did not work at the VGX. When you have a deadpan comic like him – or any comic for that matter – you need an audience to supplement them. A few of his jokes were funny, but the rest did not reverberate in any fashion. Of course, I am not saying that you need an audience or a laugh-track to know when to laugh or to understand what is funny. Joel McHale simply did not succeed as a comic because a huge part of a comic’s routine is working the room and building chemistry with the crowd. A joke’s punchline does not work if it is being told to an empty room. This is something that is of the utmost importance and should always be taken into account during the vetting process of a co-host. Joel McHale would have had the same effectiveness if he rolled a grape on the floor during his VGX performance. The lack of an audience degraded his performance from comedy to pure awkwardness.
What further compounds his appearance is that I simply do not think of video games when I think of Joel McHale, and his performance did not resonate with me as a gamer. I could sit here and easily throw out suggestions for replacements like other comedians, celebrities, or a personality known to the gaming community, but the real problem (even in the presence of an audience) is the material’s substance. A lot of Joel McHale’s jokes were based in rehashing old stereotypes – trust me, by now we have heard it all. There is indeed a fine line between self-deprecation and immaturity, his jokes were in the latter category. Additionally, a fixation on such material gives off the impression that the show’s audience is not interested in or capable of understand much more sophisticated material. If you cannot connect with your audience then your efforts at being funny and entertaining are nothing but futile.
The show is simply in a dire need of a reorganization and rethinking of its priorities, or even more-so, a break altogether. As I mentioned in my previous piece, there is an obvious goal with each broadcast to reach a wider audience that does not solely encompass gamers. However, before they do that, they need to seriously re-evaluate the sensibilities, likes, and dislikes of that audience comprised of gamers. In the meantime, here is a checklist of items to remember for the 2014 VGAs: Do not give out awards like candy, have a better balance between awards, news, interviews, and performances, hold the ceremony after the year has concluded, lose the streamers, and more importantly, do not take your audience for granted.