Cast your minds back to The Game Awards 2016.
Yeah, the Keighley/Kojima thing was weird. There were some weird picks and choices for winners. And could you tell that UbiSoft had an Assassin’s Creed movie to push? I mean, it’s not as though they rammed that into our eye sockets at every available opportunity. But most of this was small potatoes, a minor annoyance at best. No, the worst part of The Game Awards 2016 was… well… this.
The Hydrobot was just… the worst… I mean… where does one START with this fucking thing?
Okay, first up – no. Hydrobot in a video game vs. a normal razor blade was just cringey as hell and believe me, we have Peter Molyneux AND Randy Pitchford in our industry so we know what a full-body cringe feels like and this was worse than both of them combined and multiplied by ten. A cheap, frankly embarassing little pixel animation reminiscent of Rise of the Robots. Which is the first port of call – if you’re going to take the piss out of something, Rise of the Robots probably is not a good starting point considering even now, more than twenty years after its release, we’re STILL TAKING THE PISS OUT OF THAT GAME!
And that poor guy pretending to play with an unplugged controller. Jeez, look at that face. That’s a Doritopope Moment. The moment someone realises forever that this is the thing that is going to haunt them, forever. The Internet Never Forgets. This is never going away. You are faking playing a game, trying to big up a dude in a giant razor blade robot costume, and trying to look cool doing it despite the fact this is never going to be cool in any reality in any universe in any parallel dimension ever.
And they pulled this crap TWICE. Once would have been bad enough – but they couldn’t resist a second round.
But more than that, what annoys me is what this tells us about Keighley and his attempts to fund this show. I get advertisements will be a thing – and product placement will undoubtedly happen in a big show like this. I mean, seriously, you think the Red Carpet Event at the Oscars is about seeing the stars? Hell no, designers pay massive amounts of money to get their clothes on those people – and you’re going to hear their names because it’s part of the deal. It’s advertising, plain and simple. I mean, we don’t -like- advertising but I think we’re all at least moderately aware that an awards show of this scale and magnitude and the time it takes to set it up is not a cheap undertaking so we are at least going to suffer at least some advertising.
However, Hydrobot was pandering to the point of obscenity. It was like going “whose a good baby goo goo yes you’re growing so fast” to a twenty-year old. It was a full-frontal insult to our hobby and our collective intelligence. This is how advertisers want to sell to gamers. Not by being good, or slick advertising, but by sticking a man in a bloody costume and trying to make a super hero out of it for some reason. I blame drugs. There’s no way Hydrobot came into existence without the motivating factor of illegal chemicals.
The truth is – gamers are normal people. Surprise, Advertisers! We’re not morons, hell, EA tried that recently and it’s cost them $3.1 billion in company value and counting. We’re also not children – yes, kids are coming into the hobby more now thanks to Pokémon Go and other titles but the vast bulk of your audience are adults and a lot of them are also parents themselves, meaning that why yes – we’re a long way beyond the Birds and the Bees talk here. This goes out in an evening, and even later for most of us who have the sheer audacity to live in a place that is not the United States of America. I know, big shock there. Your audience is adult. Probably those already pushing into their thirties, even. I think you can dispense with the childish goofiness. Want to sell us something? Do it the way you’d sell it to anyone else. You’re funding a gaming awards show, but it doesn’t mean everything has to attempt to be shoehorned into “gaming” in some way.
Keighley should already know this. I get having a goofy sense of humour but the problem is what is funny when you’re sitting in a board meeting trying to brainstorm some kind of joke doesn’t necessarily translate in the real world. If the idea was to have a really bad self-referential stab at yourself – fine, but this doesn’t make me want those razors. Ever. I mean, after this for me I’d be far more likely to boycott the damn brand. And yes, we had TV ads with this crap early 2017 in the UK. They disappeared so fast it’s not even funny. It was just not going to work here in the UK. Hell, I watched other peoples reaction streams and even the American streamers were alarmed and depressed by this.
It just tells you what they think of gamers – “haha, they’re stupid and like memes so let’s try making one.”
Geoff Keighley doesn’t get out of this one for me – this is the man who lives on in infamy for one very important image. Perhaps for many of us the single most important image in video game journalism as a whole;
This is the problem – this is a man who has been, sadly, at the forefront of this nonsense (and was a precursor to the whole GamerGate thing as we questioned whether Journalists were selling out a bit too quickly). I have often felt really bad for ol’ Geoff, because that face is just priceless. It’s my Mona Lisa, even. It’s that dead-eyed state of “I am never, ever going to live this down” (and you’d be right, Mr. Keighley. We’ll NEVER let you live it down!). He knows more than anyone in this industry the perils of when marketing crosses too far over the line, and you end up sitting between a picture of Master Chief promoting Mountain Dew and a big bag of Doritos.
In short – Keighley has no real excuses here. He’s certainly taken his derision on the chin for the most part – which I do respect immensely – but Hydrobot was another goddamned example of this. Except this time he got someone else to publicly humiliate themselves for an advertiser. Which… I think… is… kinda worse? Yeah, I mean if you’re going to sell yourself out for that sweet, sweet Dorito Cash, fine. Wear that badge with pride. But to basically sell someone else out? That’s a special level of nasty that I can’t even and wouldn’t even begin to touch with my bare hands.
It is still, effectively, his show. Surely he could have said, “This isn’t going to work.” And he’d have been right. Instead, he allowed this to go ahead despite clearly knowing how this was going to go down and letting someone else take the fall. No, no, no, NO, NO!
Look, I get the idea of The Game Awards. It’s a massive industry and we deserve a big awards show of our own too. I get that. But at the very core of this is always, as ever, going to be the question as to how much influence the advertisers have on the way things develop. If Keighley can’t tell them to treat us as adults, to respect our intelligence and to come up with a better way to sell a product to us… well, he’s the wrong person to be running the show isn’t he? You need someone with the balls to stand up and say, “This is stupid and no-one is going to like this.”
We need to be treated as adults. I know the idea is to have fun and to be seen having fun, but if you cannot treat us like fully-functioning adults then you are in the wrong industry entirely. And take it from a disabled guy – I get this a lot. Physical disability does not equate to developmentally challenged. We’re grown-ups. Whatever our circumstances, whatever the state of our bodies or our minds, one thing remains fundamental in all of this – to treat us with respect, to acknowledge that we’re smart enough that this stuff doesn’t work. That’s all we want. A little, tiny bit of respect. Yes, we’re going to be marketed the hell to and we know that. But do it with some decorum!
But most of all, Hydrobot needs to go the fuck away. Forever. And never, ever return. If that thing is back this year, then I am officially 100% done with Geoff Keighley and his stupid awards show.
Though considering last years audience was less than half that of the previous year… I think I’ll probably be the one turning off the lights on my way out.