We’re coming up to that time of year when The Game Awards starts to swing more into focus, being just a few weeks away, but this year something is amiss. Something is wrong. Something just isn’t right.
And the main talking point is Death Stranding, which has been nominated for Game of the Year.
Now, let’s clear this up; yes, it’s an industry awards show and they are entitled to nominate whatever games they want to be in that Game of the Year shortlist. They’ve nominated several games over the years which, in fairness, just weren’t really cut out to be held that high – but the Industry is gonna Industry and it’s not just about being the best game, but a golden marketing opportunity which raises continued awareness of a title going into the valuable Christmas shopping season, which for most of the world is when we give presents to other people – video games being one of those things we tend to gift to others.
It doesn’t matter if you like, hate or are otherwise indifferent to Death Stranding. That is immaterial background noise to perhaps one of the most critical and glaring problems staring The Game Awards, and Geoff Keighley, in the face.
That being that Geoff Keighley is WAY too attached to this game and Hideo Kojima.
Personally, I don’t mind that Kojima and Keighley are “friends” – the bunny ears there are very important, because I suspect deep down that it is a very one-sided love affair, which I’ll come to later. It does, however, raise the spectre of how impartial The Game Awards – a show which was birthed and pushed and otherwise brought back from the brink by Geoff Keighley himself – can be when he not only proudly and loudly proclaims that Kojima is his friend…
… but that Geoff Keighley is also IN THE FREAKIN’ GAME.
As is the usual way, the memes have been plentiful, playful and at times absolutely visceral. People are suspecting that whatever the real Game of the Year, Keighley could just choose to veto whatever is on the card or whatever is decided and just proclaim Death Stranding as the overall winner. It’s a possibility.
However, let’s be brutally honest – it would be the most critical mistake Keighley could ever make in his professional life.
We all know, deep down, that Death Stranding is not in fact Game of the Year. By any stretch of the imagination. Even those who think the game is actually pretty good will likely back us up here by pointing out that compared to games like, say, Astral Chain – Death Stranding is light on content and variety on the whole. That doesn’t make the game bad by any stretch, but when you’re celebrating true excellence in the industry – critical and consumer feedback is important in calibrating that end result, and this is something Death Stranding has by and large fallen down on.
For me, some idiot on a blog on the arse-end of The Internet, it can be about personal likes and dislikes since people like me don’t have to answer to anyone… except our own conscience I suppose. But for an Industry Panel, and an awards show built on the foundation of letting industry insiders come together to hash out an agreement on what is the best, there is more on the line, and being seen to be too obviously pandering to insiders and ignoring all the consumer stuff is a bad idea…
I’ll say it now – if Death Stranding wins Game of the Year at The Game Awards, the reaction will be brutal and merciless. No-one will take anything the show says or does seriously. It would damage the reputations of everyone involved to the point many simply wouldn’t show up anymore – and as for Geoff Keighley, a man already haunted by the spectre of a previous controversial idea and image, it would suggest the show is his own personal fifedom. It would suggest that he runs it only for nepotism and to hang around with famous games developers and industry figureheads. It would say clearly that this isn’t about the games – but about him.
This is why I, personally, don’t think Death Stranding will win.
Even if Keighley does genuinely believe that Death Stranding is one of the best games of the year, there’s personal and professional credibility on the line here. He must know that he cannot be seen to be making any dodgy deals to promote a product he has a personal and vested interest in.
It’s why I’m shocked he even agreed to be IN Death Stranding in the first place. That was a critical mistake that Geoff Keighley will probably rue the day he agreed to, particularly if his end-goal was to have Kojima on that stage accepting a Game of the Year award. He, and by token The Game Awards with how it has effectively praised and idolised Kojima over the past few years, are not just perilously close to the project – they’re all far too deep and far too attached for any claims of impartiality to have any real impact.
Death Stranding is a bizarre thing I do need to talk about before the year is out. I don’t hate it, even if I don’t love it, but that’s besides the point. Thing is, Kojima wants to now make movies. There are accusations that he’s taken advantage of Keighley’s industry connections and Sony’s money to leverage himself into a Hollywood Circle of powerful celebrities so that his movie-making ideas of the future are easier to accomplish.
And I personally don’t even have a problem with that. If that’s what has happened, good on him for knowing how to play the system to his own advantage. I’d applaud him and wish him well on his way to Box Office gold… at a time very few movies seem to be making their money back…
But as he heads for the Hollywood Hills, surrounded by wealth and celebrity beyond our wildest dreams, I doubt he’ll be in any real rush to ever return Keighley’s calls again. And in Kojima’s wake will lie the tattered remains of The Game Awards, and Geoff Keighley’s career.
As I said earlier, this feels like a very one-sided friendship. And Geoff Keighley might need to wake up and smell the coffee before everything he’s built is brought to ruin.