On the Spike Videogame Awards

14 Dec

The Spike VGAs have me pretty depressed.  Not so much for the obvious reasons, but because a few things have become apparent.

Firstly, both gamers and developers pay attention to the show.  When Jeff Green claimed the VGAs espoused the “dudebro” culture of tits, guns and Mountain Dew, I’m not sure it can be entirely refuted.  Because along with the vision of the unwashed, anti-social, book-smart lock-key kid the stereotype exists for a reason.

While it’s true that, as Green notes, gaming has become multicultural and multigenerational he forgets one key thing — most of us are nerds of some breed or degree.  Just because your mother started playing Bejeweled and Halo is popular with the football team doesn’t change that fact.

I’m all for attacking the popped-collar roots of SpikeTV, but I think it’s only pragmatic to mention that there are those among us who would prefer to be percieved as sociable lunkheads rather than nerdy conossieurs.  As comics writer Matt Fraction said in an issue of Comic Foundry, “You reach this age where you discover your genitalia, and how fun it is to have other people touch it – and at that crucible point you decide, am I a lifer, or am I done with comics?”  It’s hard to blame people for trying to conform.

The second revelation was more menacing.  As Leigh Alexander puts forth (to the sort of people that would read videogame blogs): “We spend a lot of time saying ‘video games aren’t like this’ and yet the stereotypes persist. Maybe video games are like this, and we’re a vocal minority. Isn’t that a terrifying thought?”

A Twitter follower, who probably falls into or just below Spike’s target demographic, made it clear to me that he enjoyed the show: “Okay, so it’s hardly perfect but it’s good TV. And a good excuse to show off game trailers.”

Surely a good portion of the world’s gamers are not part of the gaming hive mind (or at least operate under the “they’re just games” mindset).  They don’t know or care what PAX is, they don’t visit forums or listen to podcasts or read reviews, and they don’t know or care what goes into game development.  I know that when I watched the first VGA show, I was watching it thinking that this proved gaming was real — that it had a foothold in reality.  I mean, it was on t.v. — was it not legitimized by that very fact?

That realization scares me.  As awkward and strange I am as a person when compared to the status quo (or status bro if you will), I still await the day when talking about games is equated with esoteric discussion about film or literature rather than being conversational suicide.  Sure, it would still be nerdy — but it would carry with it an air of knowledge rather than one that suggests you’re an immature, un-cultured manchild.

But film has something we can never have.  We can become mainstream, but we can never present society with role models.  No matter if the Emmy’s are flawed, it’s prestigious because the stars are there.  And whether the awards are relevant or not, you must admit that most of the actors carry with them an air of professional class.  You can go ahead and mock both award shows, but you can only be embarrassed by one.  When Spike invites Dane Cook and My Chemical Romance to the show it certainly says something — “These are your role models, right?  This is what gamers want.”  It chills me to the fucking bone to think that they could be right.

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