I Was Going To Dunk On The Game Awards, But This Year’s Show Made Me Too Happy

I started writing a piece this evening about how The Game Awards doesn’t quite do it for me – no awards ceremony ever has. To be honest, I couldn’t really give a shit about these types of events. The Oscars? I’ll look up who won the following morning and maybe feign interest for a few seconds. The Grammys? Nah. The Game Awards? Same deal – I’ll watch it for the trailers, but I’m not too fussed about who wins what. Loads of the games I like weren’t even nominated for anything, so my investment in each category is pretty forced, if not completely non-existent.

But this year’s Game Awards were different, for me. From the impeccable performances of stellar musicians like Eddie Vedder and Lyn Inaizumi, to the heartening response of the Among Us team to the announcement that they had won Best Multiplayer game, this year’s ceremony was special in a year where I think we all really needed it. Even Vin Diesel’s ridiculous appearance in Ark 2… It made me smile! This wasn’t like any Game Awards show I’ve ever seen before, and I really feel that it’s important to commend the remarkable work of the team who put it together.

Here’s what I was going to complain about: I think the fact that the games industry constantly tries to legitimize itself in relation to other forms of media is pretty stupid. I understand Keanu Reeves being announced as a presenter because he’s an actor in one of the biggest games of the year. Tom Holland also sort of makes sense because he’s acting in the upcoming Uncharted film. But Christopher Nolan? Come on. “Let’s go Chris,” Geoff I imagine Geoff whispering. “You’ve been banging on about Tenet for 25 minutes, just give the fucking award to The Last of Us 2, thanks.” Nah, Chris is gonna continue to bang on about how he’s mates with literal lords for a bit.

I still don’t quite understand why these roles haven’t gone to people who actually work in games. If we’re so obsessed with defining our industry against ones that have existed for far longer, consider that this isn’t what happens at the Oscars or the Grammys. We don’t see Ikumi Nakamura handing out the award for Best Film, or Hideo Kojima reading out the winner of Best Rap Album. So why are random actors and the Swedish Chef off of The Muppets presenting The Game Awards in 2020? It’s genuinely more than a little bit absurd.

But now I’m like, you know what? Who gives a shit? I don’t really care about that anymore, because tonight was wholesome, heartening, and genuinely refreshing. 2020 has been shit! But wow, this year’s Game Awards managed to pay more than due diligence to the remarkable teams who launched wonderful games this year. I was smiling like a big idiot the entire way through, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m grateful I stayed up until stupid o’clock to tune into this wonderful show.

I really want to focus on Eddie Vedder and Lyn Inaizumi for a second. I think, with Eddie Vedder in particular, the most special bit obviously has to do with the fact that The Last of Us Part 2 features a Pearl Jam tune. Early in the game, Joel sings Future Days to Ellie – it’s a phenomenally touching track that’s evocative of all kind of emotions, from nostalgic longing to to sincere hope. It’s slow, and melodic, and unequivocally moving, and that’s exactly what I’m on about when I say that Eddie Vedder helped to make The Game Awards 2020 such a lovely and enjoyable event.

Inaizumi, meanwhile, put on a show and a half. I couldn’t believe the charisma she exhibited – Last Surprise is an upbeat song regardless of what version you listen to, but I had no idea one singer could make it so much better by sheer, unadulterated talent and enthusiasm. I stood up out of my chair and did a little bit of a dance – it was incredible!

You see, I usually don’t really care about who wins what award. I’m so happy for all of the devs who are nominated for them. But for me, as a viewer, I’m far more interested in celebrating the most evocative parts of this year’s games by focusing on their most memorable moments – their most significant and lasting impacts. Watching Eddie Vedder perform today was much more of a testament to The Last of Us Part 2’s emotional successes than any award ever could be. It’s celebrating the art that went into the game by placing said art front and centre in a raw and charged live performance. It’s a testament to the beauty and skill that went into developing a game of that caliber, a touching tribute to the feelings we felt when we played it, and the real, tangible sentiments we feel again as we listen back to one if its most enduring and poignant sequences now. At the same time, Inaizumi perfectly captured that singular vitality imbued in Persona. It’s so different to the somber hum of a track life Future Days, but no less special, no less artistic – no less immensely affecting.

But also, watching people ring in via video call, seeing teams congregating together wearing masks and holding up a phone with one of their colleagues who couldn’t make it… This is what I, personally, believe events like this should aspire to be. The music, the acceptance speeches, the sheer, unquantifiable effort that’s gone into staging a remote show of this scale. These all add up to create what I reckon are much more true and eloquent testimonies to what made this year’s games genuinely special experiences. I don’t really care all that much about what an actor with nothing to do with games pulls out of an envelope. But I do think that watching someone perform the art that made a game uniquely touching and powerfully impassioned is a worthy celebration of it. I can see the delight in the eyes of the people who received, not just an award, but a fucking win in a year when it’s so hard to feel like things are worthwhile. I hope, if we learn anything from this year in games, it’s to consciously place a massive emphasis on the remarkable people that set them aside from anything else. Next year the rewards might not be remote – but I sincerely hope the essence of this year’s event is carried over, because I have never seen anything like this, and I want to see so much more of it.

 

Tonight’s Game Awards were the best I’ve seen to date. I hope future years follow suit and focus on the powerful artistic messages that make these games so worthwhile in the first place, and highlight the amazingly talented people behind them. 2020 may have been fucking rubbish – but do you know what? The Game Awards 2020 weren’t. They’ve made me excited for next year, and that’s a lot more than I can say about the vast majority of other things this year.

Read next: I Finally Found The Witcher Easter Egg In Cyberpunk 2077 – And No, Not The One With Ciri On A Magazine

  • TheGamer Originals
  • Persona
  • The Game Awards
  • The Last Of Us Part 2
  • Among Us

Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.

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