The Game Awards are a tricky thing to discuss amongst gaming community members. Why? Some look forward to it every year and generally like it every year regardless of what happens, and then there are those who “wait and see what it’s like” and tend to think it’s a bloated and pandering mess. Finally, some think it needs to “go away” or have serious revisions to make it more like an awards show. Where do I fall in this? I’m in the second two categories depending on the year, and this year, I was REALLY bored during this show. I am seeing the reactions from others in the days since made me realize that I wasn’t alone in that feeling.
Every year, Geoff Keighley flexes his “gaming status muscles” and states that each show will be better than the last. Whether they are or not is debatable at best. And with the 2023 showcase, there were plenty of examples of what is wrong with the show and how Geoff Keighley isn’t interested in changing them “for the better.” Shall I prove it to you with some examples?
Problem #1 – It’s NOT An Awards Show!
As a certain Lannister would say, “A scandalous statement!” But it’s one I can back up with ease. Despite being called The Game Awards, do you know how much time is given to the actual awards and their winners? Don’t think of it in amounts of time (I’ll tell you that later!), but rather a percentage of the show. How much of a percentage did the award winners get to revel in their victory? 50% of the show? 40%? Keep going down! As IGN revealed…
One of the major criticisms of this year's #TheGameAwards is the short amount of time winning devs were given in their speeches, being told to "wrap it up" via the teleprompter after about one minute, with music being played shortly after that. https://t.co/lSCVFyEavc pic.twitter.com/ekPAiBBObU
— IGN (@IGN) December 9, 2023
Yep! 18%. The show was over three hours and thirty minutes long, and only 18% of that was for the actual awards and their winners. Doesn’t that seem wrong? Could you imagine if The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, Grammys, etc., did something like that? They’d be blasted to kingdom come and would immediately fix it the following year. But this is hardly an outlier. Every year, The Game Awards races through categories like they’re nothing just to get to the “world premieres” or certain other things. And if you REALLY want to know how bad it’s gotten, it’s constantly made fun of every year via Honest Game Trailers!
And that leads to the other problem here…
Problem #2 – What’s The Focus Here?
As I just showed, this “awards show” is hardly an award show. There was even an article I saw recently for another site that said that The Game Awards should just “drop the awards part” and become a “Winter E3,” and it does feel like that, doesn’t it? Even without them being called “world premieres” anymore (which I’ll get to), the focus doesn’t seem to be on the awards, and this year, things got even worse with the infamous “Please Wrap It Up” prompt.
Yes, no one wants Christopher Judge to keep talking about the award he won last year (and he was totally justified in that COD joke, btw), but to punish EVERYONE who got an award by limiting their speech to about a minute or less? That’s just wrong. And no, I’m not “overreacting” on this. I have proof of this, too. When Baldur’s Gate 3 won Game of the Year, which many agree was deserved, the team from Larian Studios had less than a minute to celebrate, and this tweet shows how they were told to “wrap it up” while they were in the middle of a key part of the speech:
at least there was plenty of time allocated to ads though https://t.co/0vhDnLzoI6
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) December 9, 2023
As you can tell, they were honoring a lost friend when that happened, and I can only imagine their feelings when they were told to “wrap it up.” Not to mention, that was the last and BIGGEST award of the night! They deserve to gloat, and that one guy even dressed up in armor! Give him his due!
Or how about Eiji Aonuma? He’s a LEGEND in the gaming world and needed an interpreter for his acceptance speech for Tears of the Kingdom winning best Action/Adventure title, and he was cut off and told to rush out! Or how about Sam Lake getting his speech drowned out by music?
Do you want to know who wasn’t drowned out by music or told to “wrap it up?” The celebrities who were brought in to make awkward speeches and jokes when they should’ve been the quickest to speak. I have no IDEA what Anthony Mackie was doing in his “rambling” where he was telling the crowd to “shut up” at points or talking about which one of them “looks good” and whatever. Sure, him announcing Twisted Metal Season 2, was totally worthy of the show. But him doing what came after? Not so much. That was time that could’ve been given to the award winners, which makes this show so awkward every year. Geoff Keighley keeps bringing in these celebs to ‘spice things up,’ and it rarely goes well. We all remember Al Pacino from last year, right? What was he even doing there?!?! And many vets of the game industry called the show out for this:
While #TheGameAwards ceremony is meant to celebrate the best games of the year, it's getting a lot of backlash for a perceived lack of respect for the developers that actually make said games. https://t.co/dW0hqwscKz pic.twitter.com/WGm2eVcJDZ
— IGN (@IGN) December 9, 2023
As for the “World Premieres,” how many of them do you actually remember? I mean it. How many meaningful ones did you see and legitimately get excited for? Blade is one I can think of, and I know many (including my boss here on The Outerhaven) were happy about Monster Hunter Wilds, but what else? God of War and Final Fantasy XVI DLC? Good picks, given their release dates, but what else?
You can’t think of too many, can you? But they filled up most of the show alongside the celebrities. Seeing The Old Gods of Asgard do the Alan Wake 2 musical number? Dope. Everyone loved that. Keep stuff like that, and focus on the ACTUAL STUFF people will enjoy and remember.
But when it comes to Geoff Keighley, that’s never a guarantee.
Problem #3 – Geoff Keighley’s Bias
I’m not afraid to say that I wanted to write this article because I read a piece called “Geoff Keighley Is A Coward” for what he didn’t do at The Game Awards. I was shocked by that wording, yet I understood what they meant when I read their logic. I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a “coward,” but his bias is oh-so evident in every single version of The Game Awards. It’s been evident for years that he’s been “kissing up” to certain developers and publishers, and you can go back many years to see great examples of this. This year was no different, sadly.
For example, remember the Hideo Kojima segment? Kojima and Keighley are basically BFFs; they don’t try to hide it. It was one thing when Keighley defended Kojima after his wrongful firing from Konami. We could all support him on that. But at this year’s show, he gave Kojima, his interpreter, and Jordan Peele (with Keighley on stage) all the time they wanted to talk about “OD,” his next upcoming title. Take a look at the teaser trailer:
…not much to go off of, but Kojima got nearly ten minutes to talk about “what it was” and “what it could be” and how it would “defy the genre” and more. Almost everyone admitted that he didn’t need ten minutes to talk about a game with a teaser like this. Jordan Peele and Keighley weren’t afraid to “heap on the praise” of Kojima’s skills and such throughout that very LONG session.
That ten minutes could’ve been…wait for it…given to the award winners! But instead, it was given to this game, which has no gameplay to look at, no release date, and so on. Why? Because Keighley is BFFs with Kojima, pure and simple.
And that doesn’t even touch upon the ads. While it’s fair that there are ads at The Game Awards due to the cost of running such a show, the ads at times were not just LONG but rather disingenuous to what was happening both at the show and within the gaming community. The best case of this from this year’s show was the weirdly placed Starfield ad.
Coming into 2023, everyone wondered if this was the “GOTY frontrunner,” and as the ad “happily showed,” it was “beloved by critics.” But if you look at the game’s Steam page and other numbers, you’ll see that gamers became QUICKLY disillusioned with the title and called Bethesda out on it. Then, Bethesda went onto places like Steam to “rebut” those negative reviews and basically told the gamers that they were “wrong to view things this way.” They weren’t nominated for GOTY and didn’t win a single award, and yet Bethesda was able to put that self-gratifying ad at the show. Coincidence? I think not.
But easily, the worst thing Geoff Keighley continues to do is ignore the problems with his show and does the “dog in a fiery room” meme by saying, “This is fine.” Don’t believe me? Here’s his tweet on the “please wrap it up” situation:
By the way – I do agree that the music was played too fast for award winners this year, and I asked our team to relax that rule as the show went on. While no one was actually cut off, it’s something to address going forward.
— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) December 8, 2023
…sure, Geoff, no one was cut off…except for all the videos of people SHOWING that they were cut off and told to ‘wrap it up.’ I kid you not. I saw someone quote this tweet a few days ago, and it had the “context block” where it noted how people cited this statement as false! If you look at the comments of Keighley’s tweet, you’ll see that people called him out on his “no one was actually cut off” statement, too.
But if I wanted to go deeper here, there’s one thing that Keighley also does that shows his bias. That thing is how he portrays the gaming industry. Multiple times during The Game Awards this year, he cited it as an “epic year for gaming” and gave reasons why. But as you all likely know, 2023 was also a HORRIBLE year for the gaming industry in certain other ways. Where should I start? Should I mention the numerous games that were rushed out to try and make money while the devs denied there were things wrong with them? Like Redfall, Call of Duty Modern Warfare III, and beyond?
Or perhaps I should talk about all the layoffs and “corporate restructuring” that went on throughout the year, including in places like Bioware, The Embracer Group, and Bungie? On that last one, Bungie was nominated for “best community support” despite laying off people in that division and NOT being the best in community support as per players! Heck, a gaming company I previously worked for via Volition shut down this year!
But did Geoff Keighley mention that? No. Not even once. But others were more than happy to bring it up for him:
— Geo Gaming (@_Geotherma) December 8, 2023
And let’s not forget that the last time Keighley tried to address issues within the gaming industry, like the harassment suit at Activision Blizzard, he gave a small speech about it and rushed right into another “world premiere” without a second thought. Why? Because that was clearly more important to him and “his show.”
Yes, the gaming community is a great place to be at times, and this year was a HUGE year for big and small games. But there’s another side to that coin, and for Keighley to focus on trivial things like talking with muppets or bringing out whatever A-list celebrity he can to “boost views” versus honoring those who lost their job and had a TERRIBLE year is very telling.
But easily, the worst part of The Game Awards…is its length.
Problem #4 – The Show Is TOO DANG LONG!!!!
Fun fact: When the other members of The Outerhaven and I were in our Discord getting ready for the show, the official YouTube channel for The Game Awards said it would start at 6:15 PM CST. It didn’t start until 6:30 PM CST and didn’t END until AFTER 10 PM CST! That’s over three hours and thirty minutes worth of content…and you want to know how that all broke down? Someone on Twitter was happy to do that:
I feel like this is what needs to be addressed, or at least change the name because the Video Game AWARDS have lost the plot. pic.twitter.com/xANevRGAgs
— Kyle Simcox (@AGhostlySpydr) December 9, 2023
It says a lot that it was that long, and the winners were just 10 minutes long; presenters for those awards were 2.5 longer, and the gaming trailers were basically 90 minutes!
This show shouldn’t be longer than two hours, yet it’s a slog to get through every year. And the best part? Keighley said over a decade ago that the show would never be close to four hours, and MOCKED award winners getting 4-minute acceptance speeches for that very reason. Here’s the proof:
— Geo Gaming (@_Geotherma) December 9, 2023
I’m not saying that The Game Awards should stop. They serve a purpose in a typically “down period” in gaming and can serve a “greater purpose” if the show is retooled correctly. But right now? It’s nothing more than a show that features the people Geoff Keighley likes, a judging panel that doesn’t always “get the right winners and nominees, a cavalcade of celebs that have us wondering why they’re there in the first place outside of clout, and so on.
Yes, this is just my opinion on things. But if you look at all the tweets I’ve gathered and you look up some more yourselves, you’ll see that these thoughts aren’t solely my own.
Do I think The Game Awards will be better next year? Not really. Not unless a big movement is done to ensure it’s changed. And by that, I mean beyond “removing the world premiere card,” Geoff Keighley.