The Game Awards Narrow Focus is a Disservice to Gaming

Gaming is a wonderful medium full of so many incredible and unique experiences. You wouldn’t know that however if you only saw gaming through the lens of The Game Awards. To act like The Game Awards are a real award show in the first place is a problem enough. For now, it’s the show with the most eyes on it. It increases in viewership every year and last year’s show had 85 million people watching. That’s 85 million people tuning in to a major event that claims to be a celebration of gaming and all the best games that were released in the past year. But if you look at the nominees, it’s only celebrating an extremely small amount of what gaming has to offer. That’s not only a disservice to gaming as a medium, it’s a disservice to the gamers watching.

There are 31 award categories at The Game Awards. 24 of those are dedicated to video games that were released in the past year. Out of those 24 categories, all but 8 of them are dominated by AAA releases. Of the 8 categories where the majority of the nominees are AA or indie games, only 1 is a major category. The others are either specifically for indie games or are niche categories. That’s not a celebration of gaming. It’s a statement that AAA games are superior to the rest. 

Of the 6 nominees for Game of the Year, only 1 of those isn’t a AAA game. That game is Stray. An indie game published by Annapurna which is the A24 of game publishers and heavily marketed by Sony as a PS5 exclusive. The only indie game to walk among the AAA games is the one with the marketing resources of a AAA game.

Award shows are a great way to give a spotlight to the best works of a given year regardless of scope. They’re a great resource for people watching to discover something amazing that they’ve never heard of. When the majority of the show is the biggest AAA games of the year all that shows viewers is that those are the only games that matter. Why should someone waste their time with an incredible game like Vampire Survivors when gaming’s biggest award show sells them the narrative that it’s not worth the time they could be playing the next AAA action-adventure Game of the Year?

Gaming is a time-consuming art form. It can take anywhere from 2 hours to 80 hours plus to complete a video game. The Game Awards voting panel obviously can’t play every game that comes out in a year but collectively they play more than the average gamer. It’s not feasible that super obscure games start getting nominated but there must be a better way. There are AA and indie games that receive a good amount of coverage and positive critical reception that still get left off in favor of AAA blockbusters. Cult of the Lamb has around the same critical reception as Stray with around the same amount of reviews and is only nominated in a single category whereas Stray is nominated in six. Why?

It isn’t just indie games that get the short end of the stick. Last year Forza Horizon 5 was one of the top-rated games on Metacritic. It was only nominated in 3 categories. Game of the Year wasn’t one of them. It was left off in favor of six action/adventure games. When the people who cover the game industry continuously place AAA blockbuster games in higher regard than any other type or genre of game, what does that say to gamers? It says these are the games you should care about the most. These are the apex of this art form. In an art form where much of the creativity and innovation comes from outside that space, it’s a bleak outlook.

Imagine if you were watching the Oscars and almost every category was dominated by summer blockbusters. Imagine if you were watching the Grammys and almost every category was dominated by a single genre. They would cease to be taken seriously. If you are going to seriously celebrate an art, you need to have a wider view of that art than just the biggest things. When people see only one type of that art honored then it gives the impression that it’s the pinnacle to which the rest of the art should aspire. In any medium that would be a fallacy but especially in one as wide-ranging as the art of gaming.

Gaming is a unique art. A fully interactive storytelling medium that offers a huge and eclectic variety of experiences. When the biggest gaming event in the industry claims to honor that art but focuses most of the spotlight on just one type of gaming experience, it should be considered a failure. In ignoring so much of what gaming has to offer, The Game Awards do a disservice to the gamers watching in and to gaming as art. 

Published by Matt Fresh

30% Water, 70% James Bond movies. Matt is a writer, gamer, film enthusiast & silly person. The winner of various fictitious awards, he's fluent in English & pop culture references.

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