To start with: yes, The Game Awards 2023 is in my bad books already for keeping me up until 4am for work. Secondly, it’s in my bad books — yet again — for the event’s biggest continual crime: failing to actually provide a spotlight on the talented, passionate game developers who make the titles it’s so effortlessly piggybacking off.
The Game Awards 2023 is the show’s most egregious “celebration” yet. Sure, we saw new reveals for games such as Jurassic Park Survival (woo, dinosaurs) and Hello Games’ ambitious new planet-sized multiplayer game Light No Fire, but amidst all the celebrity cameos and Samsung Z Flip sponsorships, Geoff Keighley’s overly flashy awards show doesn’t give two shits about game developers.
Following a horrid year for the game’s industry, where thousands upon thousands of devs have been laid off to maximise profit, The Game Awards had a chance to actually provide a meaningful message to gamers about the lives of people who actually create games. As real game developers protested outside the awards ceremony to have their voices heard, their award-winning colleagues had just 30 seconds a piece to make a statement before being shuffled off for the next celebrity cameo.
It’s common knowledge now that Geoff Keighley’s rapid-fire awards ceremony leaves no room for game developers, performance artists or writers. This year, God of War’s iconic Kratos voice actor Christopher Judge was reduced to make jokes about how much time he took up last year. However, Avengers actor Anthony Mackey was allowed to take up five minutes ranting about some chud in the audience laughing while he promoted the second season of Twisted Metal, a show no one who plays video games actually watched.
The Game Awards 2023 gave even its Game of the Year winner, Baldur’s Gate 3’s Larian Studios, under a minute to accept their award. As CEO Swen Vincke, donned in his unforgettable suit of armour, discussed the developers who passed during the COVID pandemic, the teleprompter flashed: “PLEASE WRAP IT UP.”
Nevertheless, host Geoff Keighley’s favouritism for the celebrity still has time to shine. Sure, why doesn’t fifth favourite Barbie actor Simu Liu take up minutes talking about his broken foot and how much he likes StarCraft (a dormant series that isn’t coming back)? Remedy’s Sam Lake gets twenty seconds to praise the hundreds of hard working developers who lovingly crafted passion project Alan Wake 2. Get out of here, Sam! Ken #2 is talking about a dead RTS series!
Even within the world of game development, Keighley’s favoritism is rampant. The Game Award’s hosts object of desire Hideo Kojima is allowed a seven minute segment alongside Get Out director Jordan Peele to discuss his new horror game-not-a-game OD, an Xbox exclusive title starring Sophia Lillis. This segment is treated with gravitas, importance and a sense that it’s truly taking gaming to the next level. On the other hand, Sean Murray’s reveal of Light No Fire and its ambitious plan to create an actual planet-sized world to explore is almost ridiculed, almost as if Keighley is saying: “I know what you’re thinking, gamers! These guys again?”
Between the video game announcements, the celebrity cameos and the adverts for Samsung phones and Old Spice, The Game Awards 2023 fails spectacularly at actually being an awards ceremony. Instead of platforming developers and highlighting the positive — and negative — aspects of the industry, it’s just an extremely expensive ad reel and a chance for Geoff Keighley to show us that he’s real great friends with Hideo Kojima and you’re not, loser.
The actual awards at The Game Awards 2023 felt like a checklist of chores to go through while PR firms spun up lavish trailers for their big upcoming games. It’s not a celebration of video games anymore, even if it was only masquerading as the before, it’s the monkey‘s paw curling; it’s a way to get you personally involved in seeing your favourite game win something while your wallet opens up and your money is snatched away. The Game Awards 2023 is the games industry’s biggest bait and switch yet, and unfortunately I’ll probably have to watch the next one for work.