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Opinion: Finding The Good In VGX

Let’s be blunt. VGX wasn’t terribly good, and the choices made left a lot to be desired. I have no idea what the “Loiter Squad” is or who gave them microphones. I don’t know why Joel McHale was chosen. I don’t know what a Smosh or a Pewdiepie is, and I don’t care to find out.

All of that said, the new format has a lot of potential. I hope this isn’t the last year of VGX, but rather one we can look back on in a few years to admire the growth. To that end, I have a few thoughts about things that can help the format be more fully realized.

Decide on a target audience
This year was a marked shift away from the glitz of VGAs gone by. Instead of a packed theatre, the setting was more intimate. More time was spent with developers, and the world exclusive reveals often had more meat on the bone. 

Unfortunately, in between the interviews and demos were awkward, unfunny, and insulting “viral” videos. Worse was the group called “Loiter Squad” that kept getting airtime despite being able to string together a single interesting thought. Instead of that dead air, short videos with a rundown of off-screen awards would have been great.

If this new format is really targeted at the Internet hate squad, give them less to hate. Provide content that is interesting and engaging that doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator.

Dump the lame co-host
Geoff Keighley is a knowledgable and likable person, and he doesn’t need a Hollywood face to help him. Geoff spends every day talking with industry personalities. He knows the questions to ask, and he’s proven that he can elicit good information.

If the production team really wants to put someone alongside Geoff, it should be someone from the gaming industry. It should be someone who can have a casual conversation with peers that reveals more about process and design. We shouldn’t need a body on stage that doesn’t know (or, worse, pretends not to know) the first thing about the medium.

Celebrate the winners, don’t just hand them a statuette
I really enjoyed the interview segments, but the focus on the future seems a little odd for an awards show. So much emphasis is placed on titles that haven’t come out or, worse, are barely entering development.

Instead, the couch time could be spent on miniature post-mortem opportunities. Conversations with the developers behind the winners could give those teams a chance to share interesting development stories.

I don’t think the show should (or even can) abandon the world premiere trailers. But if Reggie Fils-Aime’s appearance or the awkwardness of the conversation with Randy Pitchford show anything, it’s that you can never predict how much a developer is willing to say when a game is months (or years) from release.

Fill the house
One of the big changes from previous years was the nearly empty set at the event. There was no crowd to offer thunderous applause, and the presentation of the Game of the Year award felt anemic. 

Either the crew needs to be on hand to generate applause, or they need to bring in a talk-show sized audience. Without the cheers and clapping, the awards felt hollow. Additionally, identifying who is accepting the awards would have gone a long way. I wish I knew who was on stage on behalf of Rockstar, for instance.

I truly hope that this isn’t the last year of VGX. The core of the show is moving in the right direction. It just needs to be refocused for the target audience that’s already watching.

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