About roughly one billion years ago I wrote one of the very first ‘Game Critique Corners’ on Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Forgive the spellings, grammar and general ‘young Hardisty’ vibe that the piece carries, but I still think it makes a valid point about the Spike VGAs. Both in video-games themselves, from cut-scenes to voice talent to linearity, and the industry itself, from advertisements to merchandising, there has long been a thought that we are simply living in the shadow of cinema. The term ‘cinematic’ has practically been said about every video-game for the past decade, and it’s this term that I think is now outdated. For a while the ‘cinematic’ influence was our stepladder to higher expression, and now I think it’s happening. Now the teenage identity crisis is over. Now we have our own messages, themes, ideas and celebrities from Schafer to Newell. Now we have our own voice talent.
The above image is taken from the nominations for voice talent in the Spike TV VGAs, the largest ‘gaming awards’ thing. This thing has been ridiculed, dissected and been utterly despised by gamerkind since its inception. Because it’s not for gamerkind. Gaming journalist personality Geoff Keighley has served as producer on the project for many years now and I can honestly say that, after so long, this is one giant leap in a good direction. Go look at how Journey is nominated for Game of the Year, how Emma Stone is the last ‘celebrity’ nominated for voice talent and how Spec Ops: The Line (a goddamn SHOOTER game that DESTROYS AND DEMONIZES ALL SHOOTERS) is nominated for something. More importantly how Nolan ‘I am in everything and give stellar performances every single time but yet have yet to receive a fucking Spike VGA award’ North is primed to get something for once, for Spec Ops as well.
This was the VGAs’ voice nominees two years ago;
Look at that. Not a real video-game talent in sight. Just celebrity after celebrity after Rob Wiethoff after celebrity. You can imagine them sending letters and requests to agents to PLEASE ATTEND! PLEASE LET PEOPLE SEE VIDEO-GAMES ARE COOL! It’s a compromise. One that, quite frankly, remains detestable but necessary. Video-games had to become popular to become widespread, to gain credibility. Celebrities was the fast track. Keep in mind I still think that talent like Gary Oldman and Wiethoff delivered INCREDIBLE performances in their respective games, but video-games have long tried to find their own mix of talent. Now we have our own A-listers and B-listers and so on and so forth.
We still have work to do, obviously. We still have celebrities helming the thing, we still have some stupid nominees (Assassin’s Creed 3 for game of the year? Really?) and there’s still the issue of some ridiculously warped categories like ‘Character of the year’ and ‘Most anticipated game’ and the general giant advertisement for next year’s titles. Award shows shouldn’t be trade shows, they should be separate.
But the voice talent nominated? Some of the nominees for some of the bigger awards being goddamn downloadable? Spec Ops: The Line being nominated?! A game that literally beats the shooting genre to death and calls it out on everything (my personal game of the year and the main topic for my next book).
This is more than pleasing.