The Game Awards and The History of Video Game Award Shows | NowThis Nerd

– Hi everyone, I'm Moose, and like many of you, I just need to have my pop culture preferences validated by a big flashy awards show (applause) (beep) But when it comes to video games, we've never really recognized one ceremony as the end-all be-all for accolades

As The Game Awards enters its sixth year, we wanted to look at the various attempts to give games their own Oscars, and see why The Game Awards has the best chance of succeeding When was the first televised video game awards show? Why did Spike TV's embarrassing experiment last for so long? And how did the current game awards earn legitimacy from day one? This is how we got to The Game Awards For years, games were seen a simple toys and distractions – You really think you're ready for all that? – I'm ready, I'm ready! – But as we recognized them as a bold new form of art, the next logical step was celebrating it The first awards for excellence in gaming date back to the early eighties, like the defunct Arcade Awards, and the Golden Joysticks, which are still ongoing

'Resident Evil 2' just won Game of the Year last month But as far as big, flashy, televised ceremonies go, we'd have to wait until 1994, for, and I swear this is the actual, official title: – [Announcer] Cybermania '94: The Ultimate Gamer Awards on TBS – Cool! – This is great! By 1994, the 4th generation of video game consoles was in full stride, and the PC had finally come into its own as a mainstream, accessible option So what better way to celebrate than to have a big, splashy awards ceremony, hosted by Leslie Nielsen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas? (laughs) – Well, good evening! And welcome to the first live interactive awards show in television history, Cybermania '94! (applause and cheers) – [Moose] Broadcast on TBS from beautiful Universal Studios Hollywood, Cybermania might look weird and lame today, but this was all extremely hip for 1994 It's kind of like a Z-list carnie version of the VMAs, though to be fair, some future stars did show up, like Sarah Chalke, Will Arnett, Hillary Swank and Matthew Perry, all at the stage in their careers where they clearly couldn't say no to their agents But generally, the presenters just kinda seemed confused to be there (applause) – Hey

– The biggest sin of Cybermania, however, more egregious than blowing up a computer in a fake Hillary Clinton's face, more disturbing than whatever this man is trying to do inside this giant balloon, were the awards themselves See, in 1994, Japan was still absolutely crushing it in both quality and commercial success, but you wouldn't know it from watching Cybermania The highlighted games were pretty much all Western-developed The only Japanese game that won was Capcom's Game Gear port of 'Aladdin,' which, by the way, beat all-time classics like 'Link's Awakening' and 'Donkey Kong '94' for Best Handheld Game 'Super Metroid,' which belongs on the Mount Rushmore of gaming, was only nominated for one category, Best Action/Adventure, which it lost to 'Doom,' which in no way is an adventure game

(upbeat music) – You might wonder what I'm doing here (beep) – More baffling is Cybermania's insistence on pushing CD-ROM as the next evolution in gaming Remember 'Myst?' Sure you do, it was great! Remember 'The Wacky World of Miniature Golf' or 'Escape From Cyber City?' (footsteps) (ominous music) (portal closes) – The industry was all-in on games as a multimedia experience, churning out dozens of forgotten bombs with grainy video and pre-rendered graphics, and they're all extremely over-represented at Cybermania – Hey, you! Get back to work, or I'll take out my can opener! (laughs) – Now, to be fair, the Overall Best Game award was actually voted on by viewers, who could either call a hotline at 99 cents a pop, or log into Prodigy and cast their ballot there And the winner for Game of the Year 1994, beating out 'Doom,' 'Myst,' 'NBA Jam' and 'Super Street Fighter II'

– The Best Overall Game award goes to – 'Mortal Kombat' – Whooppee! (applause) – A game that released in 1992 (upbeat music) The sequel was already in arcades when the first game won Game of the Year! Look, Cybermania is best viewed as a curiosity, a time capsule of the pre-Playstation era where we didn't know how games were gonna evolve It only lasted one more year, and its organizers, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science, went on to establish the DICE awards in 1997, one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry today, but without any of the theatricality or pageantry of the big, flashy awards show Cybermania is garish and weird, (electronic pop music) blatantly commercialized with a ridiculous ratio of ads to accolades, but hey, so are the current Game Awards

That's just part of doing business, something their founder Geoff Keighley knows a lot about 14-year-old Geoff got his start in the games press with Cybermania, writing one-liners for announcer William Shatner, setting him on a lifelong quest to create an awards show that gamers could actually be proud of Today, he's closer than ever to pulling it off, but it took a bumpy road to get there So let's talk about the Spike Video Game Awards (warcries and blades banging) (blood gushing) Remember Spike TV? It's The Paramount Network now, but back in the day, it was a TV channel by dudes, for dudes, all about the wonders of dude-dom

So what better home to celebrate the medium embraced by all ages, genders, races and creeds, than a TV station exclusively devoted to the Maxim crowd? – [Announcer] Guys, do you want some action? (thuds, whip wooshing, crash) – Wow! – [Announcer] Enjoy a bit of comedy? (makes rooster call) – [Announcer] Only on Spike TV, the first network for men! – It's not like there was a channel entirely centered around games at the time or anything! (sighs) The first Spike Video Game Awards aired on December 4th, 2003, and the footage is pretty hard to find, but what we can tell you is that it was hosted by world famous die-hard gamer, David Spade, (crickets) – Singing and catching are two different things, big boy! – And that, in a field where 'The Wind Waker' and 'GTA: Vice City' were nominated, the Game of the Year award went to 'Madden – [Announcer] NFL 2004 – Pow, pow, pow! (catapult springs) (wails) (ominous ocarina tune) – Now, I'm not knocking Madden, millions of people play them every year, my brother plays it Your brother plays it

But it's not exactly pushing boundaries or aiming for artistic achievement (grunts painfully) (beep) – Unlike Cybermania, Spike's game awards would endure for a decade, with a string of hosts including Snoop Dogg, Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Shazaam's Zachary Levi, and the cream of the crop, mwah, Samuel L Jackson, who hosted a record 5 times – Can you dig it? (cheers) – Unfortunately, even Nick Fury couldn't elevate the Spike Awards out of their embarrassing mediocrity Every year, they seemed to double down on what the so-called gamer demographic craved, while the games themselves took the backseat

Did we really need live, on-stage tea-baggings whenever a speech ran long? Was it absolutely necessary to establish an award for Cybervixen of the Year, then award it to Alyx Vance from 'Half-Life 2,' one of the only strong female characters in an era where babes like Bloodrayne reigned supreme? (sigh) As the years went on, the actual awards on this ostensible awards show took a backseat to awkward sketches and musical numbers In 2011, only three awards were actually given out on stage, which certainly confused Mark Hamill and Tara Strong, who were nominated for their 'Arkham' voice acting, attended the show, and sat through the whole thing in lousy seats, even though their category was never mentioned The ladmag vibe of the Spike Awards might have worked in 2003, but as time passed, the gamer stereotype they cynically perpetuated grew thin, as the industry slowly realized that people other than cartoonish, Monster-chugging frat bros played video games In 2013, Spike tried to right the ship by rebranding the show as VGX, which stood for Nothing, really – And I know you're all wondering what VGX means It's the next-gen, next-level version of the VGAs The VG stands for video games, and the X stands for Xenu, the one true god

Over to you, Geoff! – They took it off the air and onto streaming platforms like Twitch and Youtube, which was a fairly forward-thinking move, that was completely derailed by host Joel McHale, who's normally a very funny person, but maybe you shouldn't host a show celebrating video games, when you have nothing but contempt for them, the people who play them, or the people who make them – Yeah, so far, it's been the greatest year in games ever, right? – It has been a pretty good year– – It has to have been – A lot of great nominees we're actually gonna announce Game of the Year very soon – Yeah – The cringe-worthy ceremony was clearly the last straw for Geoff Keighley, the producer who got his start with Cybermania, and joined the Spike Awards in 2006

Keighley was the face of a lot of humiliating shilling in this era, leading to his infamous nickname, the "Doritos Pope" But he split from Spike with what remained of his integrity, to spearhead The Game Awards After the embarrassing disaster that was VGX, Keighley jumped ship to hang his own shingle on an awards show he could truly call his own He partnered with Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and most of the major publishers, to fund and establish The Game Awards in 2014 Much like the VGX, Keighley's Game Awards eschewed traditional TV services for streaming platforms, allowing them access to a far vaster audience

Now, if you're starting a brand new awards show, the first thing you gotta do is establish your legitimacy, your gamer credibility, and Frank Drebin and John Madden weren't going to cut it What would cut it is, I don't know, say Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aounuma personally revealing the exclusive first look at 'Zelda: Breath of the Wild's' gameplay? It was huge! It instantly cemented The Game Awards as a must-watch experience From Hideo Kojima's banishment and triumphant return, to spotlighting the business's unsung heroes and underrepresented talent, the Game Awards actually feel like they're about the games industry, not what a bunch of condescending suits in a smoky conference room imagine how gamers are like The cringe factor is still there but it's been dialed back, and the celebs they snag seem a little more genuine than Carmen Electra or Mike Tyson, who never even played 'Punch Out,' his own iconic game, until 2013 Yes, there are still awkward moments where they speed through a bunch of winners and just kinda hand them trophies off stage, and yes there's still plenty of advertising, although thankfully, the Gilette Robot Man is no longer welcome

But all those endless trailers and announcements are kinda what get people to watch I mean, everyone complains about the Oscars, but I bet a lot more folks would stay tuned if they dropped the new Star Wars trailer during the ceremony Look, we've come a long way since Cybermania '94 and whatever the hell Spike was, and while The Game Awards may never be as classy as the Oscars, maybe they shouldn't be? – Okay, can you swear here? – You can swear if it's funny enough – Okay, (beep) the Oscars, you know? (laughs) (beep) the Oscars, (beep) you! – I mean, how would you fix The Game Awards? Make them more boring? Show an in-memoriam montage of all the studios put out of business by massive publishers? Games aren't movies They're not a 100-year-old medium that's been studied for a century

They're their own unique beast And Geoff Keighley's Game Awards may just be the best representation of our weird, wonderful pastime (applause) – And again, please give it up for every creator And that is creators of games, creators of movies, creators of comic books, creators of every single thing that enriches our lives, that makes us believe that magic is real All right, I love you all

(applause)

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