This past Saturday Spike TV sponsored the 2013 Video Game Awards which is now rather inexplicably branded as the VGX Awards because everyone knows adding an “X” to the end of things instantly makes them cooler and more extreme and not at all gives an impression that an eleven year old was in charge of them. In a bizarre move Spike decided to not air the program on the TV as they previously have and instead broadcasted it on the internet and various gaming and phone devices. However the media medium change is the tamest of the award show’s downgrades. Claiming to have created this as an initiative to revitalize the show, the lackluster and spur-of-the-moment hosting just ended up belittling and demeaning the developers that worked to make the nominated games while also regressing the development of the professional industry as a whole. However I was particularly perturbed by how the VGXs seemed to make a mockery of the gaming community, further perpetuating that gamers are immature and, even worse, continuing to encourage it as a closed, unwelcoming, and ignorant group.
There’s a lot to discuss when it comes to the faults of the VGXs. Joe Hale, the host, was largely unprofessional. In addition to clearly making it up as he went, he insulted the developers of the various games on display or being recognized. He stole the focus, interrupted those he was interviewing and just generally set the tone as unprofessional and juvenile. With Hale as the cornerstone the show mocked the fans who were genuinely invested in the event and, even more so, those working to create the games by denying the art of game making equal recognition or respect as a medium.
While I was certainly concerned at the VGX’s attempt to suck away the professionalism, what was more concerning was the fallback on problematic comments or themes. Of course offensive jokes flew around at the expense of “non-traditional” gamers. There were multiple sexist jokes. I didn’t keep track of them per say but there was a lot of the usual dribble at the expense of women gamers. Hale stated “if you don’t see a game at the VGX it, like the female orgasm, doesn’t exist.” The worst by far was a transphobic joke that occurred right at the very start of the program and immediately set the tone of what was to come. It involved Hale insinuating that Wario had not “undergone sex reassignment surgery” which, needless to say, is demeaning to and makes a mockery of transgender people.
This all is, unfortunately, not new and I apologize if I am a tad bit redundant for what follows. However much like the rightful backlash towards Seth McFarlane when he hosted the (award show), the offensive themes in the VGX need to be called out, critiqued, and condemned. This is especially important given the publicity and size of the event; even though it wasn’t actually on TV this year it was still widely circulated. Letting these messages get broadcasted and technically endorsed only results in further relaying that these themes are widely held sentiments of the gaming community and clearly offends the members of those targeted groups who do game. Both messages ultimately result in the mindset that this is okay and further makes the gaming sphere an exclusionary one. Letting “jokes” like these get perpetuated, especially on such a level as this, not only makes their offensive ideas more ingrained but also insults the intelligence of the community and gives fuel to the online trolls. We cannot continue to allow this to represent us and add to an already hostile environment, especially if we want to have any hope of banishing these prejudices from the general community as well.