The Game Awards 2020 showcase has reached its breakeven point more records this year and had no shortage of surprise revelations and guests. We recently sat down with the man behind it, Geoff Keighley, to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes at a storefront this size and some of the aftermath that comes with it.
The gaming community is never without controversy, and the Game Awards are not without it. Last year, a conversation around the showcase involved a perceived personal bias towards Death Stranding; this year it is The Last of Us Part II, both in terms of awards won and developer Naughty Dog’s approach to crunch.
Speaking with Keighley, I asked what he thought of the recent conversation centered on the sequel to Last of Us and how audiences may perceive his sweep as a ‘celebration of the crisis’.
“Yeah. Look, I mean, this is a healthy debate and discussion,” he says. “All the awards, I remain somewhat separate from, as people know last year from Death Stranding, where we left the media, of which Game Informant is a member of the jury, select the nominees and then help select the winners. He later adds, regarding the subject of the Kojima Productions title, “That’s what happened last year with Death Stranding, right?” That I faked it for Kojima and gave it away [Death Stranding] all these applications. And I just have to be very clear that I’m too close to the industry, because I work on world premieres, I work on sponsorships, and I just try to stay completely separate from that. ”
When it comes to The Last of Us Part II, however, the topic then moves on to the awarding of candidates. There are a few aspects of this year’s showcase that come to mind regarding fan push-back: What role does the subculture surrounding a game play in its consideration? Are the rewards “rigged”? Regarding that last point, Keighley says, “It’s really a somewhat polarizing game, which I think is part of its appeal to some people, isn’t it? Is it really controversial. in a year with Breath of the Wild it’s sort of unanimous, right? People are like, “This game is really amazing and deserves to be celebrated this year.” There were games like Half-Life: Alyx where it’s one of my favorite game of the year. It wasn’t even nominated for game of the year. So it depends each year on what happens. “
“But I think what I’m going to say about Last of Us is that we are giving our Players Voice award, which is voted one hundred percent by the fans, and that starts with 30 games, and the last two games that got the most votes. were, you know, The Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us. So it’s not that the fans aren’t out there. And I think sometimes it is. obviously controversial. I see all the “The Game Awards is rigged” talk and all that other comments online. And sure enough people can say it – they can say whatever they want – but there is no evidence to back it up. I think there are a lot of fans out there who really care about this game. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, the critics are against what the fans think.” And a certain percentage of fans, which if you look at our player voice, that’s why we’re doing this, that’s one hundred percent voted by fans, and Last of Us came in second behind Ghost of Tsushima. Obviously there are a lot of them. fans there.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to naturally assume that there was some fixing or that I was paid by Neil Druckmann. It’s so absurd, but people are allowed to have that opinion if they want to. There is no basis of truth around all of that. Stuff, sure, but, you know people are passionate about games and this industry, and I think it’s great to voice your opinion on it. this topic. And there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with who wins the category. It’s like, “It’s the opinion of the people who voted that this is what they think is the best. game of the year. “I understand our show is so big now and so important that people really care about the winners. So I’d rather have that passion than just the apathy around the show and not caring about the winners. So it’s a healthy debate, and yes, we’ve certainly seen a lot of it. “
Earlier this year, numerous reports erupted regarding the culture around Naughty Dog. “Crunch” is an aspect of work culture that impacts many industries, including games. Naughty Dog was just one of many notable studios coming under fire for reports of mismanagement and stress placed on developers in order to meet deadlines. With this conversation regarding the Last of Us Part II studio that erupted earlier this year, many wondered if a show celebrating the games should be “rewarding” titles that succeed on the back of the reported crunch.
“The second point about zeitgeists around game and studio and culture is a healthy conversation to have,” Keighley says. “It’s a tough thing to really figure out how to judge that on the rewards side of things like how does a game become ineligible, or how that factor in the vote? You know, I think it’s totally fair to discussing these things., to have these conversations, these press articles on this stuff. I’m sure that takes into account the perception that people have of a game, both from the audience’s point of view and from the audience. jury And that’s part of the process.
“So I think it’s fair to discuss. It’s hard for me, though, to think on the show side of how we’re starting to factor that into our eligibility criteria for the games. It becomes a slippery slope, right? Because then doing it you look at the diversity of studios and decide, “Well, this game is eligible, this game is not eligible? So we tend to just say:” Everything is eligible, “and it is up to the voting body to decide how these elements are taken into account in their voting and decision-making.”
He adds, “It’s just difficult because something like crackles is obviously a problem in the gaming industry, but I’m not sure how we can sort of look at the whole industry objectively and determine if a game should be eligible or not, or should be knocked down because that game had issues or other issues with the studio, so I’m open to discussion, but not sure if we’re at a point where we can really understand how to approach but we are open to ideas and comments from people on this. “
As for the big debate from the previous show, Death Stranding had a shockingly disproportionate showcase presence, both opening the show with a musical debut and across all award categories. Due to Keighley’s known friendship with Hideo Kojima and his role in the game itself, many believed that the bias was present everywhere The Game Awards 2019 and the line between celebration and personal whims has been crossed. “I’m really interested in feedback on all levels like I said,” says Keighley. “And yes, sometimes it’s disappointing when people say, ‘This is rigged. I went through this last year with Death Stranding, where there was some sort of perceived controversy that I had rigged the nominations for Kojima. And it hurt me personally because it’s just not who I am and how we run things. And I think then when, eventually, Death Stranding didn’t win the game of the year, people were like, ‘Okay, I guess it wasn’t all corrupt.’ “
There is also a nuance to these conversations which are often lacking in the limited number of Twitter characters. One noted difference is The Last of Us compared to where CD Projekt Red is today. “The Last of Us conversation is different from, say, the Cyberpunk conversation that’s going on right now, where it’s kind of like, you know, there are technical issues and challenges with that. The Last of Us , I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s perfectly designed as some kind of story experience.It’s just that people worry about the character choices and storylines in this game. And look, I have my own opinions on that too, but there’s no doubt that there is a lot of craftsmanship that went into creating this game. “
“Because the show is my brand, you know, I produce it, I host it, like you said, inevitably it’s like, ‘Oh, Geoff picked this out for the game of the year. ‘ I get all of that in my feed from, like, “How could you select The Last of Us as the Game of the Year?” And it’s like I didn’t choose The Last of Us as the Game of the Year. This is the group of people who have the power to do it. And this separation of church and state is important, but you make a great point that people just assume Somehow. another, like you said, I’m making all of those selections. And yes, I would probably choose differently from the panel on some categories. And that’s right. “
Going further, he highlighted his personal choice for GOTY, adding: “I was personally disappointed when Alyx was not nominated for Game of the Year. I still have to separate myself from the nominees and winners because which I didn’t say at all. So when we see the results, they are what they are. “
As the show continues to grow and the gaming community itself continues to expand, there will be more and more hits and misses along the way. The conversation around celebrating the games is important, but this year has been a vital time for our industry when it comes to the darker aspects of life. Crunch, abuse, assault; many truths have been revealed and these issues will permeate any ceremony to celebrate this community we love.
To learn more about what goes into making a show of this caliber, you can check out our full interview here. A video version can also be seen at the top of the article.