Thursday, November 18, 2010

VGA Awards - my 2 cents

So Spike TV announced their nominations for this years VGA awards.

The VGA Awards are growing in pop culture prominence and its great to see a televised event that gives recognition to the people who create videogames.  I think that the VGA's can play an important role in helping promote our medium as an important and valuable cultural force.

But I find the categories a bit of a mixed bag. 

Should we really be creating awards categories according to a game genre or a platform?  Why do we give an award for a game that isn't even out yet? (most anticipated game) and do we really need multiple categories for people doing voice over for games? 

I believe the VGA's could do a better job of calibrating the categories to recognize artistic merit, creativity and innovation, as well as give props to individual contributors in the fields of art, design and engineering.

Here are some awards categories that I would love to see in future VGA's.

Best Art Direction

Replace 'graphics' category with this one.  Graphics is such a generic term that to me is a holdover from the days when technology advances were the primary factor in determining the artistic merits of a game. 

We should reward artistic merit based on artistic vision.  For example, if I was voting I would give the award to Limbo this year, for creating such a uniquely beautiful, atmospheric and stylistic visual game.

Innovation In Design
It would be great to see an award that recognized the risk taking inherent in pioneering a new gameplay mechanic or mode that truly helped push the medium of games forward. 

An example for me would be last years game Demon's Soul, with it's implementation of the ability to see other player's footprints and messages when playing single player.

Technical Achievement Award
An award to a Technical Director, engineering team or programmer that created something groundbreaking or supremely well executed in engineering. 

As someone that is technically challenged at the best of times, I don't feel suitably qualified to reference a specific game here!, but I'd say that Kinect is a truly innovative piece of hardware that offers a (flawed but groundbreaking) glimpse of the future.

Most Engaging Narrative
It's disappointing there is not even a writing category in the VGA's, but as well as writing, I think an award for narrative would be a worthy category.  Because of our unique interactive nature, games engage the player in an emotional journey by co-opting and unleashing our own internal narratives. 

Well crafted games tap into our own imagination and allow us to expand and create our own dialogs about the experience we are having.  Last year, my experience playing Far Cry 2 took me on an internal journey into the Heart of Africa, that had me thinking about the political and social history of that continent, whereas playing Costume Quest this year connected me with the imagination and sense of wonder that a child has and reminded me of my own child fantasies and self-constructed mythologies from my youth.  Both experiences engaged me at a deep level.

These are just a few categories that could help the VGA awards reward true accomplishments in our field.  I'm sure there are many others.  What would you add?

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