The Game Awards (TGAs) was spectacular this year – but not for the reason you might expect. You see, if you are tuning into the TGAs for the awards, you’re doing it wrong. No, the real reason you should tune in is for the adverts and sponsorships, also known – in the words of Geoff Keighley – as ‘integrated marketing’.
This year, there were some strong contenders in this unofficial category, including Facebook (sponsor of gamers’ mental health) and Pokémon Go (keen on promoting its ‘Wooper Watch’). But without question, the best advert (or should I say ‘world premiere’?) was the announcement that Master Chief – from the Halo series – is coming to Fortnite, joining a number of other cross-brand characters such as The Mandalorian himself and Daryl and Michonne from The Walking Dead. Truly, what a time to be alive.
But wait, there is more that late-stage capitalism had to offer to us humble consumers during the TGAs 2020. The masters at Epic announced they are also bringing the Blood Gulch to Fortnite (available in the Creative Mode), and Red vs. Blue made an appearance in the promotional video as well. Oh joy!
If it wasn’t obvious, I am of course being sarcastic. I’m not a huge fan of award shows, as they seem more like a way for industries to gratify themselves than to celebrate the best of the arts. Besides, there is almost always controversy about the voting and selection process – but that is a topic for another time.
The most egregious problem concerning the TGAs is one I’ve already alluded to: the advertising and sponsorships
I’m not against sponsorship deals – after all, award shows are expensive, especially the TGAs, which is independently run by Geoff Keighley and co., so it is only fair that they use advertising to cover the costs. On top of that, Keighley has a special place in my heart for the determination he has shown in ensuring the TGAs keeps running, even after it was dropped by television channels. He has also striven to prove to the world that video games are as deserving of attention and praise and as equal as the other arts.
Unfortunately, these positives are not enough, as the TGAs goes above and beyond with its bombardment of adverts. I would wager that more than half of the content shown at the awards this year was advertising, from both gaming and non-gaming brands. Most viewers might be content with trailers showing new elements that are to be added in existing games. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (I still can’t overstate enough what a ridiculous name that is) and – despite my contempt for the game – Fortnite are cases in point of this. What does cross the line for me, however, is having Facebook sponsorships shoved down my throat. No, I will not take a pic with the TGAs filter on Instagram, and no, I will not believe Facebook is an ethical company only because it ‘cares’ about mental health.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that life is precious, and I refuse to let it be wasted by watching one long advertising montage just so Geoff Keighley can take a flight to the Bahamas – or, more realistically, so that all the money earned can be paid to the movie stars making a 30-second appearance at the awards, rallied to the cause only because the video game industry lacks the confidence to stand on its own two feet. Maybe it’s time to take the marketing beast away and allow us to actually enjoy the, you know, awards?