The Oscars are this weekend, and the expected viewing rates are likely to drop once again this year. While a good amount of this has a lot to do with less and less people having traditional TV providers these days, including myself, I believe there are deeper reasons behind this as well. And it’s The Academy Awards dropping viewership that should give us gamers more confidence, both in our hobby and how we celebrate them.
First off let me come clean and state that this article is anecdotal, those looking for a complex years long study backed up with numbers and pie charts will be disappointed. But I do implore you to stick around anyway, as I find many of the topics brought up here to be worth discussing.
- Everyone Knows the Oscars are Out of Touch
Game Awards shows are not perfect, and they could be improved, but when I look at how out of touch the Academy Awards are with its audience it makes me proud to be a part of the gaming community. Not only has nearly every game awards show I've watched treated the medium with respect, but also celebrates all its best aspects. Of course, awards shows for games have their own problems. In a little bit I will propose a fix that I believe would elevate any awards show.
But first, let's ask the obvious question. Are people even interested in watching award-shows? I think the obvious answer is yes, since Millions of people tune in to watch the Grammy's and Oscars each year, people clearly care about them for one reason or another. But then why is viewership, mainly for the Academy, dropping all the time? I believe it has to do with what the awards are celebrating: films that usually don't get watched by many people. This is for a number of reasons. Less people go to the movies and all, but I think it has to do more with the style of film that the Academy celebrates. With some films, you watch the trailer and you can see it is obvious Oscar Bait. An example of pure Oscar Bait is Will Smith's new movie Concussion. Of course, there's a price you pay here: sometimes, those don't turn out to be good cinema experiences. And even when it does end up making a good, even great film, like Spotlight nobody goes to see it. So i don’t think people are tired of watching awards, the public is just tired of watching films with this particular tone. If you mashed up the trailers to the last few films that won best picture and showed it to someone who knew nothing about them, they would assume it's a trailer for one film.
- Game Awards Have Problems Too
Game awards have a bit of a different issue. It seems the more a game has sold, the more awards it is given. But then why doesn’t Call of Duty get Game of the Year every year? If awards are based more on how popular something is as opposed to its quality, well, people wouldn't watch the show. But as I discussed, if awards shows only award work that no one cares about, the viewership of the awards show will drop. This is because when people like something they always want to see it be given awards to justify their enjoyment of the product. Awards shows need to balance these two sides of the coin: How many people watched it/liked it and its quality.
The way works are picked and evaluated needs to be changed. This is true for both the Oscars and large video game awards shows. Each have serious problems with the pool of people who both pick and judge the work being awarded. It is well known that many people working for EA were highly involved in the discussion of what games would be nominated at the Game Awards the last two years. This has been problematic in the past, as Dragon Age has been Game of the Year during one of those times. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Oscars had similar issues, on top of the average age of their panelists being over 60. And maybe a more diverse group of individuals with different life experiences and tastes would greatly benefit such awards shows. But I still don’t think that would solve all the issues. I want to talk about one radical solution that I think would help a great deal.
- Should we wait a few years before we give awards to games?
Tradition is a huge thing in the film industry. Especially for the Oscars. So as great as it would be for them to only ward films every couple of years, I don't see that ever happening, again because of the types of people running them. But game awards shows are still growing and forming into something they change every year. So finding a way to incorporate radical changes like this wouldn’t be as difficult.