Before we begin…
Among the 26.2 million people who watched The Game Awards last year, almost 2 millions were Canadians; this number isn’t really a surprise considering that according to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 80% of Canadians view video games as mainstream entertainment and there is over 23 million Canadian gamers. More than a simple hobby, video games is an industry contributing to $3.7 billion to the Canadian economy; the great white north being home to some of the biggest studios, with esports fans packing stadiums, and Canadian top streamers signing multi-million dollars exclusivity deals with streaming platforms.
All these factors show there is a favorable environment in Canada for The Game Awards to be successful, the real prowess the show has achieved is to reach that potential audience and offered something compelling enough to keep them engaged. Please understand that this article is NOT about what the Junos or other awards ceremonies are doing wrong but about what The Game Awards are doing right.
A Brief History of The Game Awards
It’s difficult to talk about The Game Awards without mentioning Canadian game journalist, Geoff Keighley who has been the creative driving force behind gaming’s biggest night for a very long time; before The Game Awards, there were the Spike Video Game Awards which were endlessly lampooned by gamers for being cringeworthy and have brought ridicule to Keighly who was referred to as the Dorito Pope for years.
In order to realize his vision of what The Game Awards should be, Keighley had to take the risky decision to do it without traditional broadcasters and the massive compromises they would impose and partner with offer 40 streaming services worldwide to craft what he describes as “a show that celebrates the gaming industry but isn’t afraid to reinvent itself.”
1. More than just about the industry; it’s all about community
One of the greatest strength of The Game Awards is to bring together everyone passionate about the medium from the game designers and talents responsible for creating the games to the gamers playing them.
This philosophy goes beyond simple viewership; when it comes to the attribution of an award, if industry members have their say in the matter, once the nominees are announced, gamers can vote on The Game Awards website which deepens the engagement as every audience member suddenly has an active stake in the results.
Having the three console-manufacturing titans, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, standing together, on the stage, embodies this sense of community gathering.
2. Unapologetic when it comes to embracing its own quirkiness
The gaming community is one of the most inclusive, and diverse out there so it’s no surprise that the kind-hearted Dominique McLean would win the award for Best Esports Player in 2018 thanks to his performances.
SonicFox as he calls himself, didn’t win because he’s a gay, black, furry; he won because underneath his fursuit, he was 2018’s best fighting game player, the most dominant esports athlete in its category, and the victor of several EVO championships that year, so much so that even ESPN named him its player of the year.
Only at The Game Awards could the audience be graced by such a flamboyant yet emotional and quirky moment of triumph.
3. Celebrating the unsung creators who’ve defined the medium
Nintendo of America’s former president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime said: “The Game Awards represent a global opportunity to honor the past, present and future of our industry;” as such, one of the most heartwarming components of the show is to shine a spotlight on the creators time has forgotten or who never got the credit they are due.
When we’re talking about community; The Game Awards are very good at introducing younger generations of gamers to extraordinary creatives who they might have never heard of yet have had a tremendous influence on modern gaming and have inspired generations of game makers.
Until receiving the Industry Icon award in 2017, Carol Shaw was only remembered by a small number of older gamers passionate about gaming history.
4. A great showcase for the industry’s leading creators and titles
Geoff Keighley and his team are hand-selecting the games that will be featured and are working for months with developers and publishers to make them part of the show.
As always with The Game Awards, audience feedback is taken into account but also used to build hype for the event and the games shown; a few days ago a glimpse of the 2019 show program was shared on social media where it was revealed that 16 world premieres will be featured in-between the attribution of 23 awards.
Last year while the show was live, 8 of the 10 worldwide trending topics on Twitter were related to The Game Awards, including Ubisoft Montreal’s Far Cry: New Dawn.
5. How to keep the audience engaged between the awards
World Premieres are not only showcasing upcoming games but they’re are in integral part of an audience-centric strategy which consists of providing compelling content to keep the audience engaged in-between award announcements. This is why according to Variety, The Game Awards could be the future of all entertainment award shows.
The musical performances during the show are always songs or bands featured on video game soundtracks which make them relevant to gamers and are bonafide hits as a song attached to a popular game will be heard around the world nearly a billion times.
Last year, Casey and Ali Edwards’ performance was the perfect fit to re-energize the audience mid-show.
Bonus: Not being scared of self-deprecating humour
One of the most refreshing qualities of The Game Awards is not taking itself too seriously. The show has embraced being roasted for its silliness and became self-aware of its ability to create cringe moments.
In recent years, Conan O’Brien has encountered an incredible online success with its Clueless Gamer segment; he’s openly said that teenagers who stop him want to talk about the games he reviewed not the guests he had on his show. The humorous segments are so appreciated by gamers and appealing to advertisers that it is now contributing to finance Conan’s show.
This why Conan’s idiosyncratic opinion when it comes to the Game of the Year nominees is more than welcomed.