BAFTA Gaming Awards – Why it means nothing.

It’s that time of year, the awards season. Usually, for the majority of people it ends with the Oscars – which was as predictable as the sodding tide this year. But for me, it ended last night with the BAFTA Gaming Awards – hosted, as ever, by the delightful Dara O’Briain – himself an avid gamer. Which makes me more susceptible to watching Mock the Week, even though it has gone down in quality in recent years.

The problem is, it’s a show streamed on the internet. It has no real presence, it is rarely reported unless the game is being re-released where winners, typically it must be said, scream their achievement as if it redefines their game somehow. It’s the fact it isn’t really celebrated that makes me ask – what is the point of it?

Awards ceremonies like the Golden Globes and Oscars and even the BAFTA Film and Television Awards have two sides to their story; the first is the red carpet. The worlds media loves to see what the big stars of the day are wearing, and who they are wearing. They scramble to pick at every loose thread; every dropped sequin and every rushed hemline. Indeed, some have even made careers out of being Red Carpet Fashion Police. Somehow, I’m not sure the worlds media cares what UbiSoft’s Jade Reymond is wearing when and if she comes to an awards ceremony. Pity as she’s a very attractive woman; but she doesn’t command near the same level of respect as Meryl Streep or the fabulous Dame Helen Mirren. Likewise with Peter Molyneux; he doesn’t have the gravitas or ability to set pulses racing as Brad Pitt. It is because the people involved in the industry aren’t the Global Super-Famous that the worlds media really has no interest in who turns up to these events. When your biggest famous-person on the carpet is Jonathan Ross, you’ve got issues.

The second is the awards themselves. The categories are perfectly okay, but the presentation – despite Dara’s best efforts – just lacks somewhat. To be fair, I wouldn’t want BAFTA to stop giving awards to the games industry as it is as valid a medium as movies and television. But whereas those two get masses of coverage, the gaming awards still have yet to escape that stigma of being perhaps a bit nerdy and uncool, something you wouldn’t willingly want to turn up at unless there was some money being shoved into your back pocket.

The show feels cheap. It looks cheap. Of course, it hasn’t the budget of its bigger siblings, but if gaming is a valid medium, shouldn’t it be invested in, and the show pushed more into the limelight?

And the third, for me, is the winners and losers. And the question – “Who cares?!”

Gaming is a creative business with many loyal fans and devotees. We have annual awards across blogs, gaming websites and most of the published press as to the best – and usually worst – games every year. Like movies, the people in the know will have read reviews; checked prices and bought games accordingly. Like movies, games only have a limited “box office” period in which to make money.

Unlike movies, however, is the business behind it. Payments being withheld if a metacritic average is too low. Pay being suspended when games aren’t released fast enough. Long hours. Late nights. Angry publishers, and managers who are nothing short of slave drivers. Megan Fox likened Michael Bay to Hitler – but she’s super famous. If any person working in the gaming business did that to their manager – regardless of whether he deserved it or not – they would be fired, and unhireable for the rest of their working life.

The people you see in the TV and Movie awards ceremonies are rich, well catered for divas. Most of them have a PR Agent to deal with any and all fallout of certain events. The gaming industry doesn’t; it keeps changing, the faces keep changing, the recognised brands keep changing. I mean, BioWare are no longer the darlings of the gaming community, whereas this time last year they were still held in high regard. So a public awards ceremony isn’t like you’d annually see the same faces and get to know them; it’s a dynamic, ever-changing industry, where studios come and studios go. Most of the faces simply wouldn’t ring a bell for most – heck, a lot of the faces wouldn’t ring many bells for me, and I’m really into this industry!

And who decides the winners? Most websites are run by fans, or results are corroborated from users submitting their votes and such. That is the voice of the customer, the consumer, the gaming public. They are the ones that matter, and matter far more to the industry than a few people behind some cloak and dagger smokescreen deciding who gets what award.

That said, BAFTA is a “brand”, a recognisable name in a sea of unrecognisable awards. And it is nice I guess to see them at least try to give the games industry a shot; even if it is of a far lower key.

But I simply don’t care. The winners are pre-determined, the nominations sometimes daft, the presenters unrelated to the actual ceremony for the majority of it, and most look like they’re only there because they are being paid to do it. It’s a ceremony that costs a lot of money and, I fear, has no real importance in the grand scheme of things.

Many of the games that were nominated have burned through their natural sales lifespan. We’ve moved on. Games simply don’t have that overall lifetime potency that movies and television shows do – the two sides age in very different ways; great movies and TV can last a lifetime and burn brighter years on from their release, whereas games often burn brightly for a short period and are then gone.

It’s a completely unnecessary object, the BAFTA Gaming Awards. And unless they can make it relevant, important and actually get presenters who can feign pleasure at being there with some conviction – I’ll trust in Eurogamer, IGN and others and their annual end of year awards lists than the BAFTA ones.

Because they actually know what they’re talking about usually.

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