I think after the last few years, expectations were low for The Game Awards 2017.
Of course, that might have been a very good thing for Geoff Keighley – hurdling an already low-set bar wasn’t going to be much of a challenge and on the whole it certainly didn’t trip over it. But in truth, something more surprising happened – that being, it didn’t feel like a complete waste of time and effort!
Right from the outset, we got a teaser for FROM Software’s ‘new game’; to call it a teaser would be generous, since it was just a bloodied tool and some freehand Kanji in the background. It could be a new game… or a new Tenchu… or Bloodborne 2… or, well, anything really. But it set the scene for what was a non-stop ride of new game announcements – some which had been leaked weeks in advance, like SoulCalibur 6, and others that were genuinely pleasant surprises like Bayonetta 3. GTFO looked like a solid science-fiction horror in the Aliens vein, Witchfire looks like another solid action horror from the people behind Painkiller, In The Valley Of The Gods looks… intriguing, from the people behind Firewatch. And even Death Stranding was there – and shock horror, it looks like a science-fiction horror experience. Hideo Kojima hasn’t been one of my favourite auteurs over the years but this felt like a sweeping, almost melancholic epic and that even Kojima looks like he’s doing something genuinely intriguing is frankly insane to me.
Of course, the Awards themselves rattled through with little impact and on the whole, the winners felt predictable this year. Cuphead, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were the big winners, with Mario+Rabbids and Super Mario Odyssey taking home best strategy game and best family game respectively. In truth, the main complaint that I’d agree with is the one which frankly undermines this annual circle-jerk: the awards themselves feel surplus to requirements. And whilst it’s amazing to see Carol Shaw finally get some recognition for her early work in the console space, working on arcade ports back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it was for me the only real sort of surprise of the whole night aside the Game Premiere Trailers.
… but the ads.
Okay, there was no Hydrobot. So that’s a massive win, though they snuck in a promo for Shick Hydro fairly early on. But I could have done without some of the egregious promotional stuff – particularly the eBay crap, which didn’t seem to even know how to math properly at times and this is eBay. If their big “deals” can’t even get basic percentages right, you’re in a world of problems and mockery. Going from 99.99 to 59.99 is NOT 50% off. It’s 40% off. Yes, that’s nitpicking but I shouldn’t really have to be saying this.
More wins came with far less musical interludes – yes, there was Phoenix (not my cup of tea) and some orchestal stuff, but it was surprisingly light and frothy for the most part without the desperation of previous years with sub-optimal rap artists grasping at straws in the vein hope someone actually deigns to give a crap about their “music” (news just in: Rae Sremmurd still suck). On the whole, it stuck with video games and advertisements that when they weren’t failing basic mathematics, actually came off as more grown-up and less try-hard this time around. So full credit to the people behind it and Geoff himself, who rightly I think took a lot of flak for destroying someone else’s credibility last year.
So yes. It was good. Decent, even.
… but I still don’t get why. Why? Several awards don’t even get a proper presentation – they’re rattled off in the pre-show, in a “break” or in the lead-up to another award, just casually tossed out there for whatever reason and considering last year was dominated by RPG titles, that “RPG Of The Year” was afflicted by this very throwaway feel was a travesty of frankly epic proportions.
And yes, there was the very early joke about microtransactions. It was good. Better than good, actually. It was rather savage. And ballsy to do in an awards show where every major publisher had decided to show up.
So Nintendo was the big winner – and in my view, the biggest loser was Sony. Sony didn’t really get anything, but Nintendo has been outrageously dominant this year so I wouldn’t have counted that against it… except that every time Star Wars: Battlefront II was promoted or advertised – and it was, several times – there was the Sony PlayStation conclusion animation, boasting “we have this game” in a period where frankly most people are trying to forget about it and move on. Sony nailed their promotional push to a dead horse this time around and I felt horribly embarrassed for them. I know this was probably struck months ago, but it was not the image Sony wanted to be pushing in an event where Nintendo was scooping awards and showed off a Bayonetta 3 tease.
It’s just… I see something taking shape here, and I liked it this year. Nothing that made me froth at the mouth with blood-curdling rage, at least, and nothing that made me lose the will to live like last years musical interludes. But I still wonder if the awards are superfluous here. They happen, then more announcements and teasers, then ads, then a few more teasers than an award and so on and so on. The Awards are sandwiched in the middle of, if we’re being brutally honest, way more interesting stuff.
I think that’s kind of the problem that Keighley still needs to iron out. The Oscars, for all its rubbish at times and for how long-winded it is, stays on-point as an awards show. The Game Awards has, for years now, been devolving into The Next-Years Game Reveals Show (With A Handful Of Awards). And if it works more as a place for reveals and teasers and promotions… don’t we already have E3 for that?
But that’s something to watch out for next year. On the whole, The Game Awards 2017 was a much better, tighter and less insulting show than previous years. It had some solid announcements, good trailers and yeah the awards were predictable but few would have outright disagreed with the winners either.
I just still wonder if The Game Awards are necessary, is all, when every blog, website and YouTube gaming channel has their own awards listing at the end of each year – and in actuality, when it comes to advertisements, game publishers use those resources far more than The Game Awards.
It was good. But it still just… something feels off still.
However, no Hydrobot.
That’s all I wanted.