This year’s Game Awards ceremony faced backlash for its rushed handling of winning developers and excessive focus on advertisements and celebrity appearances. However, when reflecting on the current state of the Game Awards, it is important to acknowledge the progress made since the days of the Spike Video Game Awards. The Spike VGAs, which ran from 2003 to 2013, represent the nadir of both the gaming industry and popular culture as a whole. While the recent Game Awards still have room for improvement, comparing them to their notorious predecessors sheds light on how far the industry has come.
The Spike Video Game Awards of 2007, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, exemplified the excessive reliance on star power and questionable content that plagued the event. From the show’s opening jokes about STDs and Britney Spears to the presentation of the first award, “Hottest Newcomer,” by actors from MTV’s The Hills, the tone was set for an evening filled with awkwardness. The attendees included nearly every actress from The CW shows of the mid-2000s, as well as appearances by Tila Tequila, Criss Angel, and a musical performance by Kid Rock.
However, it was the climax of the show that caused the most controversy. As Ken Levine approached the stage to accept the Game of the Year award for BioShock, the ceremony was hijacked by the founders of the short-lived video game publisher Gamecock, who used the opportunity to promote their company, leaving Levine without a chance to speak. While this incident rightfully received criticism, the magnitude of the controversy overshadowed the other uncomfortable moments that occurred throughout the night.
Undoubtedly a low point in the history of video game awards, the 2007 Spike VGAs featured a degrading and objectifying approach towards women. At the beginning of the show, Samuel L. Jackson proudly announced that the winners in each category would be revealed by mostly-naked women covered in body paint. This reduction of women to mere props for revealing winners raises significant concerns about the industry’s treatment of women and its perception by the broader public.
Moreover, the presentation of the Game of the Year award further exemplified the crassness of the event. As Rachel Bilson uttered the phrase “And the winner is…,” the camera abruptly zoomed in on a woman’s breasts adorned with the BioShock logo. This spectacle was followed by a person in a full Big Daddy costume storming onto the stage. Ultimately, the evening concluded with Samuel L. Jackson praising the “prettiest envelopes in award show history” as the body-painted women returned to the stage.
Reflecting on this pivotal moment in the gaming industry’s history, it is important to recognize the growth and progress that has taken place since then. Ken Levine, once considered the poster boy for video game’s emergence as a serious medium, is no longer in the spotlight. Similarly, BioShock no longer holds the same status as the “thinking-person’s blockbuster.” The narrative of a growing industry experiencing temporary setbacks does not hold up when considering that the VGAs continued in a similar vein for several more years, featuring cheerleaders and minimal developer participation.
While the recent criticism towards the Game Awards is valid, it is essential to acknowledge the positive changes that have occurred. Comparing the Spike VGAs of 2007 to the present-day Game Awards highlights the industry’s progress in terms of professionalism and recognizing the developers’ achievements. The inescapable absurdity and cringe-inducing moments of the past should also serve as a reminder that they are not to be forgotten but learned from.
The evolution of video game awards, specifically comparing the Spike VGAs of 2007 to the Game Awards of today, provides valuable insights into the gaming industry’s growth and changing reputation. The excesses and controversies of the past should not be ignored but rather used as motivation to continue pushing for a more professional and inclusive approach in recognizing the achievements of game developers. It is crucial to remember the lessons of the past in order to shape a better future for the gaming industry.