The Game Awards Having Celebrity Presenters Hurts the Video Game Industry in the Long Run

There's no room for movie stars at The Game Awards 2020 while the veterans of the video game industry have been almost forgotten.

December 10, 2020

The Game Awards has been one of the biggest video game events in the industry’s history over the last few years. Of course, various gaming festivals existed before to honor the best video games of each year, but the industry was always in need of a big, major event that had the potential to be turned into an icon. The games industry needed a showcase where every company would try to get a share of it; something similar to the Oscars for movies. If you ask me, The Game Awards surely has achieved this over the last few years, even though it isn’t perfect.

Similar to every event in the world, The Game Awards has its own weaknesses that should be addressed and fixed year after year. Even during its short life so far, Geoff Keighley has put a lot of effort into The Game Awards to bring a better show each year. And in most aspects, he has succeeded. The current form of The Game Awards is not even comparable with its debut show six years ago, and this is an honorable achievement. However, the unexpected leap in the event’s success seems to have impacted it negatively over the last years and somewhat forced it in the wrong direction, especially with more big name film and TV stars making appearances at the show.

This year’s event isn’t the first time that we’ll be seeing some movie stars at The Game Awards as presenters, but I do hope that it would be the last. There are some strong reasons that following such a trend hurts the front of the video game industry in the future. Our industry is rivaling the profitability of other entertainment industries (especially movies), and it’s expected to see this privilege in the events and festivals related to games as well.

So, it feels a bit out of place to see that one of the most iconic annual events of the video game industry is seeming to forget the people who have shaped it over time. There are several reasons behind why I insist that there is less of a focus on having celebrities from the film industry as presenters for The Game Awards, with a few of my main concerns below.

It Barely Happens in Any Other Form of Entertainment

Believe it or not, the thing that Geoff Keighley has been doing in The Game Awards by choosing movie stars as presenters is something almost rare in the other forms of entertainment, and there are some wise reasons behind that.

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First of all, anyone that follows a certain career path have their own legends within that industry that they respect or admire. A person who dreams to be an author, for example, probably honors legends like Dostoevsky, King, Dickens, Keller, and many other well-known authors. On the other hand, there are people who would love to be great screenwriters, so they start following and understanding the works of Kaufman, Sorkin, Nolan, Tarantino, and other legendary screenwriters.

Then there are the people in this industry who have ambitions about becoming a video game writer, likely looking to veterans like Druckmann, Levine, Lake, Kojima, and more as this industry’s “Hall of Fame.” With that in mind, you would probably agree that following Charles Dickens as a primary legend for the purpose of being a video game writer doesn’t seem reasonable. You already have people out there who are making ground-breaking video game stories from time to time, so why don’t you try to follow them instead of moving in the wrong direction?

For this reason, a nominee who is about to win the Best Game Direction award would likely prefer to receive it from a veteran of game directing rather than a movie actor or director who has never worked in the video game industry before. Presenters at the Oscars are usually related to the movie industry, and even they have to have given their best performance to present or be honored at the Oscars. And the reason is obvious: The Academy Awards is the icon of the movie industry. It’s the peak; it’s a place where the best of the best of the film industry can only enter. To me, it feels like that would have less of an impact by bringing others into the scene that have never worked on a movie.

The presenters at the Oscars are usually veterans of the cinema or people who have already won an Oscar in the past. In this way, it feels more respectful and a way of honoring the winner by having someone who understands them and the work they’ve accomplished. I will admit that I don’t want The Game Awards to be exactly like the Oscars, but we should learn from the good things that happen there and use them to improve The Game Awards and what it is striving to be for the games industry.

It’s Disrespectful to the Veterans of the Video Game Industry

The Game Awards is not only a celebration that honors the fantastic works from each year, but also a way to honor the industry as a whole. It helps to demonstrate that what developers are doing matters, and as such, we should dedicate such a big celebration to them as a way of showing respect. But how can it show respect to developers when the veterans of the industry barely have a share in it?

People like Ken Levine, Sam Lake, Shigeru Miyamoto, Casey Hudson, Hideki Kamiya, Shinji Mikami, Hideo Kojima, Amy Hennig, Glen Schofield, Michel Ancel, Jade Raymond, Hidetaka Miyazaki, Todd Howard, Ed Boon, Tim Cain, Bruce Straley, Hajime Tabata, David Cage, Fumito Ueda, and many others will be staying at home this year, watching some stars from a different industry honoring the winners of this year.

I don’t want it to seem like I have disrespect towards the movie celebrities that will be presenting at The Game Awards. Brie Larson is a fantastic actress and a serious Nintendo player, John David Washington had a superb performance in Tenet, and Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors ever. But to me, this is not their playground. Even if all these stars are fans of video games, they are not developers, designers, or game directors. They don’t know what it’s like to be a part of a video game development team, so being the ones to present an award to honor the industry and the creators making games just feels out of place.

It’s a Misuse of an Industry Event for Achieving Bigger Commercial Success

Taking all of the reasons above into account, for me the main question is how hasn’t this come up during the behind-the-scenes production of The Game Awards? The answer is that it probably has, but its current direction guarantees better and bigger commercial success. Video game fans are already familiar with the show and will continuously follow it year after year. If Keighley wants to keep the audience growing, he has to make a show that seems attractive for those who are entirely fans of video games while also trying to appeal to those outside of it.

As such, it makes some sense that filling the show with as many movie and TV stars as possible helps with that goal. Mainly, it offers an opening for those who love movies to join in the audience and watch their beloved actors, actresses, or directors be a part of the awards, even if it means it’s something that a non-gaming audience isn’t as familiar with.

This becomes worse when you see how the show is gradually turning into a host for movie companies to share a new trailer of an upcoming irrelevant project. To me it feels like a completely misleading direction for The Game Awards, something that makes me feel sorry when I see how it intensifies year after year. In 2018 the show brought a new trailer for Alita: Battle Angel, and this year it will likely host the very first look at the upcoming Uncharted movie; at least the latter is related to video games.

All in all, there’s no doubt that The Game Awards is one of the essential events that the video game industry has needed for a long time, and the best we can do here is to try to save it from falling into a different direction. As an event meant to highlight the best achievements in the games industry, it doesn’t deserve to become one that shows video games as a subsidiary of the film industry. I don’t think any of us has a problem with movies (or those in the industry) here, but the problem is when you mix different unrelated things up, the result just starts to feel wrong.

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Mehrdad Khayyat

Mehrdad (He/Him) is a Senior Staff Writer at DualShockers. He started writing about video games when he was a high-school student. He's probably one of those rare Rainbow Six Siege fans that have the game installed and updated on every available platform.

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