As a result of speaking at the London Games Summit, I was invited to last week’s Bafta Video Games Awards (at least, I think that was the reason). While Perplex City hadn’t been nominated, I figured that I really couldn’t turn down the invitation, if not for politeness’ sake, for the free drink and potentially interesting people.
The Awards were held in a very impressive venue, the Roundhouse, by Chalk Farm Road in north London. No expense had been spared in order to push the glitz factor to max, and almost everyone had heeded the instruction of black tie dress – everyone being 95% male. I suppose there might have been some female game designers or programmers there, but it didn’t seem like it. In any case, I didn’t think there were too many male game designers or programmers either – PR, media and marketing types had more than their fair share of the tickets, and there was plenty of European-style kissing and non-game related networking going on.
I don’t particularly have anything against European-style kissing or networking, but let’s face it, it really has little to do with video games. In fact, the whole event felt like it had been shoehorned into the normal Bafta awards mould, which are of course for film and television. Everyone was trying hard to be cool, but the MC (Vernon Kay) and the presenters (Andy Serkis, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, etc) really had nothing to do with video games at all. If they had anything to say about video games, which most didn’t, it was normally a joke. Nothing wrong with a joke, but there’s also nothing wrong with saying something intelligent.
In fact, Colin Salmon, an actor in the James Bond movies, got the biggest cheer of all when he said he’d been in two (sadly not very good) video game movies and said that he thought it was a wonderful thing for the industry that it had been recognised by Bafta. I’m pretty sure that was the only serious thing said by a presenter, which was pretty sad. On reflection, I really have no idea why the organisers didn’t try to get more video game related figures to present awards. I suppose the reason is because the people watching on E4 wouldn’t recognise them, but let’s face it, the only people who are going to watch the Bafta Video Games Awards are going to be pretty serious games fans.
As for the awards themselves, I didn’t have any major problems. I didn’t agree with many of the judgements, but that’ll always happen. However, it was interesting to note that the Best Game winner was Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. I’ve never played the game – I have no idea whether it’s good or not. I’ll probably never play the game, or anything like it. I’d wager that most people would say the same. And that’s a sad thing for the winner of the Best Game award.
Over dessert, my mind drifted over to the Oscars. Say what you like about them, but the nominees for the Best Film award are usually all very, very good, and while their appeal might not be universal, it’s certainly much broader than Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. The jokes and jibes from the MC, the niche appeal of the games, the skewed occupations of the guests – it points to the fact that video games simply don’t have the cultural weight and appeal as television or movies, and that apart from the fact that they all share a ‘moving image’ (as said by the head of Bafta) they’re fundamentally very different entities. MTV doesn’t make its guests dress up, and the Booker Prize is comfortable with being different.
Perhaps the video games industry will grow into the Bafta mould, if it successfully broadens its appeal and creates games that everyone can appreciate and enjoy (cf. IMDB top 100). But for now, that’s not what the video games industry is, and I don’t see the point of pretending. The energetic throngs at the Penny Arcade Expo, or the earnest programmers and game designers at GDC – for me, they represent what the games industry is now.