2012 Spike TV VGA Fallout
By: Lawrence Napoli
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what did Spike TV do now?
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4553:]]Last year, my underlings at Cosmic Book News and I discussed several failings regarding the 2011 VGA’s and the kind of improvements that were needed to make this televised event simply better. This year, we prefaced December 7th with a 3 part podcast that raised several concerns regarding the games that were represented, the categories themselves and which games we thought should be recognized as the best.
After watching last night’s show I was left befuddled, in the middle of the arid wasteland, alone with my thoughts, completely convinced that I was living in another world in the year 2012 where I played video games that no one else apparently played and experienced things that no one else did.
Then I had my moment of clarity and realized that once again, the Spike TV VGA award show reaffirmed its static role in the videogame industry as a dedicated marketing tool and nothing more. As such, the following truths reveal themselves to be self evident and unwavering:
1) The show is barely an awards show and merely a lengthy, cross promotional commercial.
2) The show does not provide an adequate venue for the industry professionals that make games.
3) The show is more interested in looking ahead than appreciating the present.
4) The winners determined have less to do with quality and more to do with economic power plays that fabricate trends and enhance already popular ones.
Samuel L. Jackson’s return as the host of Spike TV’s VGA award show is most welcome in light of past curiosities such as Zach Levi and Doogie Howser, er . . . Neil Patrick Harris. The man conveys equal parts confidence and eccentricity and this show needs his type of energy. I enjoyed his frequent cursing (would have loved to actually hear it). I enjoyed the fun a 64 year old man clearly demonstrated in being the temporary focal point for an industry he may or may not have genuine interest in. Either way, he’s an excellent actor and an exceptional host. Kudos, Samuel L! The audio clips of your most iconic dialogue in films set the tone for a very entertaining evening and those in attendance were truly privileged.
The Musical Performances
There was a lot to talk about in regards to the music of the 2012 VGA’s. It all starts with the orchestra that was featured multiple times (as well as that hot, blonde 1st violinist in the leather dress) that played a musical homage to all of the game of the year nominees. They even had the girl who sang the vocals for the Dishonored theme, which was a neat add-on. Then there was DJ Wolfgang Gartner who kept the tech, pop, beats pumping throughout the show which was very acceptable, but by no means exceptional. I enjoyed Gustavo Santaolalla’s live performance presenting another introductory trailer for The Last of Us which is set to be released May 7th 2013. I also got into Linkin Park’s performance of Castle of Glass, the theme for Medal of Honor: Warfighter. I honestly don’t care if Linkin Park isn’t what they used to be as a band, but their performance was solid. Finally, Tenacious D gave the show a nice bookend with their signature 80s rock sound. I’ve never been the biggest Jack Black fan in the world, but he’s a decent showman.
Right off the bat we are all greeted by 3 cast members of The Walking Dead TV show: Steven Yeunn (Glenn), Norman Reedus (Daryl) and Danai Gurira (Michonne) make the presentation for the Best Shooter Category. I didn’t care for Zach Levi and his weird haircut making some color commentary (and promoting his nerd website) with Alison Haislip. Zach needs to stay away from this show. Jessica Alba presenting the world premier of Dark Souls 2 was funny due to every male in attendance achieving simultaneous erections, but odd because it had no connection to her little intro story concerning her “love” of Super Mario Bros. Marlon Wayans shows up to shamelessly promote his dumber than Scary Movie, scary movie who simply presents (Rasta) Snoop Dogg who talks about how much he loves Tekken Tag Tournament and then introduces Assassin’s Creed 3’s Tyranny of King Washington expansion. Before Tenacious D got to playing music, they presented the first ever Game of the Decade recipient which I completely disagreed with, but we’ll get into that later. Yet another curious celebrity cameo was Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Into Darkness) presenting Game of the Year (which I also disagreed with) who claimed it took some extra effort for her to be at the awards, but wouldn’t miss it for the world. Overall, the celebrities seemed out of place and for the awkwardness to end, they’d be better off staying home in the future.
The best thing I saw all night was the world premier of The Phantom Pain by Moby Dick Studios, a Swedish company that no one has apparently ever heard of before. It featured a haunting trailer of a man attempting to escape a hospital that was besieged by murderous soldiers as well as some supernatural force which had many speculating as to what this game could be. The internet has recently provided a possible explanation via conspiratorial links to Hideo Kojima and Konami in order to shroud what this game may really be: Metal Gear Solid 5.
Possible link #1) Later in the show, cameras cut to Kojima’s table, making note of the 25th anniversary of the Metal Gear franchise. Link #2) Moby Dick’s CEO is listed as Joakim Mogren. “Joakim” is an anagram for “Kojima.” Link #3) “Mogren” contains the word “ogre” as in Kojima’s secret “Project Ogre” which Kojima himself refutes having anything to do with Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, further suggesting that Project Ogre is, in fact, Metal Gear Solid 5. Link #4) The main character bears a striking resemblance to Solid/Old Snake or Naked Snake/Big Boss. Link #5) Several on the internet suggest the man on fire shown in the hallway is Colonel Volgin from MGS3 and Psycho Mantis from MGS1 is seen briefly towards the end of the trailer. Whatever the rumor and speculation concerning The Phantom Pain suggests, the trailer looked amazing, mysterious, suspenseful and everything gamers want to see in new projects.
Other show highlights involved the video skits that put Samuel L. Jackson’s likeness in various video game videos. They were all quite funny featuring Sam’s affinity for the F-word, but my favorite was the digital composite of Sammy in The Walking Dead: The Game graphics. I also enjoyed the overall flow and format of the show despite the fact they make precious few “award presentations.” I also want to make note of the really cool commercial for the game Metro: Last Light which presented it in a very dramatic fashion, but almost zero game footage to prove it.
Here’s the short list:
1) Anything that continues to make South Park into a game, 2) Zach Levi’s hair, 3) the world premier of Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2 -- Castlevania in the world of today? 4) Marlon Wayans, 5) too many Playstation All Stars commercials, 6) the “new” voice of Lara Croft making an appearance without much of an English accent despite her claiming to be very British, and 7) Ken Levine pushing the release of BioShock Infinite (which looks AMAZING!) further into 2013.
The results, ‘nuff said! And now we roll up the sleeves:
Best Shooter: Borderlands 2?– I never agreed with this game being in this category in the first place. If Borderlands 2 was subjected to Goldeneye’s award system, it would win the “Where’s the hit detection” award every time it is turned on. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Borderlands 2 and it is worthy of winning Best Multiplayer, but come on! Shooting needs more precision than that.
Character of the Year: Claptrap?– Ok so I guess this was a bit of a fan favorite and Claptrap is hysterical, but I bring this result up to make a further point regarding Borderlands 2 as a production. What does it say about your game when none of your main characters get considered for this category and the annoying comic relief gets the victory representing all characters for the year of 2012?
Best Individual Sports Game: SSX?– Do we even need stupid categories like this?
Best PS3 and Xbox Games: Journey and Halo 4? – The biggest “no duh” moments of the evening and totally worth mentioning only in passing.
Best PC Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown? – I’m pretty sure Guild Wars 2 is amazing and XCOM is just pretty fun. I have no explanation for this.
Studio of the Year: TellTale Games?– No.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4559:]]Game of the Decade: Half-Life 2?– Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of 10 games since 2002 which were deemed worthy of the title “Game of the Decade.” Unfortunately we don’t exactly know what this means because it clearly doesn’t mean “the best.” Such a title implies the best incorporation of all elements of a video game that creates a truly seminal work of art. Wii Sports (2006) was on this list because it sold a hell of a lot of copies considering its simplicity both as individual software and with every Wii bundle that is currently collecting dust in your grandmother’s basement. Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002) was considered because someone really fell in love with cell-shading Link (FYI, I didn’t). World of Warcraft (2004) was considered because it is the biggest money making juggernaut (from a purely software perspective) of all time. Shadow of the Colossus (2005) was on the list for its “alternative art” status. BioShock (2007) was considered because of its twisted take on art design, its kick-ass gameplay and giving shooters more intelligence. Batman: Arkham City (2011) was considered for being the best video game adaptation of all time. Red Dead Redemption (2010) was here simply for being the best offering Rockstar could muster up. Portal (2007) was here to fill out another “different type of game” slot. Mass Effect 2 (2010) SHOULD have won because its combination of graphics, gameplay, narrative, characters and scale redefine what it means to be a videogame and is on the short-short list of best games ever.
But, Half-Life 2 won because a lot of nerds out there sleep next to a blow up doll of Gordon Freeman.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4560:]]Game of the Year: The Walking Dead: The Game?– Thank you Robert Kirkman.; AMC and TellTale Games have relevance thanks to adapting your comic book. And make no mistake! 2012 is the year of TWD; good or bad, right or wrong and it is that shear fact alone that explains how this game took home the title of Game of the Year for 2012. If you require an explanation, I refer you to my review of TWD’s final chapter and thoughts concerning the game overall right here. Despite the insane ridicule suffered by Mass Effect 3, it is a superior game in EVERY respect. Of course, I could say the exact same for Assassin’s Creed III and Dishonored (both of which I am enjoying very much right now). The only Game of the Year contender I haven’t experienced is Journey, but simple games like that are lucky to have been made, let alone win for GOTY. This was simply the wrong choice and I loved The Walking Dead: The Game. But it is an extremely flawed game and to a large extent, doesn’t fully qualify as a game in the first place.
So who were the losers of the 2012 VGA’s?
Assassin’s Creed III and Ubisoft got absolutely zero love from Spike TV this year. This is quite stunning considering the quality of the game and the dedication of the company, but I somehow feel this is backlash for producing annual titles for a series that I affectionately refer to as suffering “The Madden Effect.” Madden comes out every year, they charge $60 bucks for it and how much of a “new game” are you really getting for your money? The Madden Effect has already taken a hold of Call of Duty. Apparently Assassin’s Creed needs to go into hibernation for a while to get back some respect.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload:4562:]]Who were the “winners” of the 2012 VGA’s?
The Walking Dead and TellTale Games are the obvious choices besides winning Game and Studio of the Year they also took home Best Adapted Game, Best Downloadable Game and Best Performance by a Human Female (Melissa Hutchinson as Clementine). The real winner, however, is Robert Kirkman because his children’s children can easily afford to eat as well as he clearly does without concern for health risks because they are now (or will soon be) super rich thanks to The Walking Dead. I’m happy for Kirkman because the success of the comic book is warranted.; however, I give one warning to heed in regards to selling his license out as shamelessly as the local hooker. TWD: The Game is already showing a lesser polish to its product and the more hands that are stretched out, begging for a piece of TWD, the greater the chance for dilution pissing the brand away. I realize Kirkman’s comic series is soon coming to a close, so I guess it’s cool to take whatever money he can grab now and run, but that doesn’t mean TWD will be truly dead. If someone pays Kirkman more than enough money, you bet your ass he’d come up with more TWD stories. The fans love TWD specifically because its tone is the polar opposite of the concept of “selling out.” Please don’t break our hearts Robert. It’s ok if you feel the need to kill off Carl.