Following The Game Awards in Los Angeles on December 8, 2023, it is clear that video games as an industry must be taken more seriously.

The medium now earns acclaim and attracts talent to rival other entertainment mediums, and The Game Awards is its attempt to stage its own Oscars-like ceremony.

But there are still teething problems. From an overwhelming number of ads to a brutally brief time limit for award recipients to make their winners’ speeches, these awards felt like another dry run for a still-fledgling industry that has not yet figured out what it wants to be.

A (relative) newcomer

Gaming is comparatively new compared to rival entertainment industries like movies and music. But reports suggest that it is worth more than both of these industries combined, following just behind TV and streaming. In its latest Predictions report, GlobalData forecasts that the gaming industry will be worth a staggering $470 billion by 2030.

Like any industry, the professionals working within it deserve recognition. The movie industry has the Oscars, music has the Grammys, and TV has the Emmys. Currently, the closest thing that the gaming industry has is The Game Awards.

A little respect

The man behind the awards, video game journalist Geoff Keighley, has talked about his intention to give the gaming industry something on a similar scale to the Oscars. And in numbers, it has dwarfed its inspiration. In 2022, The Game Awards drew 103 million viewers, thanks to streaming deals across multiple services. In comparison, the Academy Awards in the same year drew just 16.6 million from traditional broadcast television.

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In terms of big names, The Game Awards has long relied on major stars from other industries. Just this year, the awards saw appearances from actors Matthew McConaughey and Timothée Chalamet, whereas 2022 saw Al Pacino present an award. But this is where the problems begin. The Game Awards really likes its Hollywood stars, often to the detriment of actual video game talent.

A celebrity speaker may get two or three minutes to ramble and joke, whereas award winners only receive 30 seconds before they are gently encouraged by rising play-off music to vacate the stage. In several instances, winners were hurried off stage just as they gathered their thoughts and began thanking their colleagues. Or, in the case of Best Actor recipient Neil Newbon, in the middle of an impassioned statement about the importance of LGBT representation.

The Game Awards as an industry event

Also taking up valuable awards time are promotions and advertisements for upcoming games. This is where The Game Awards stands apart from other awards ceremonies. At its core, it is an advertising showcase. The awards themselves take up less than a quarter of the show, with hosts often running through ‘lesser’ awards at breakneck speed—in a move that feels entirely disrespectful to the developers the show supposedly celebrates. The rest of the show is a vehicle for trailers of upcoming games, akin to what industry show E3 would have done in years past.

Elsewhere, long portions of the show are devoted to interviews with gaming veterans on their upcoming releases. Industry icon Hideo Kojima and film director Jordan Peele received almost ten minutes to discuss their nebulous upcoming project, which is still a mystery.

For a ceremony that claims to represent the gaming industry, it was also disheartening for many that there was no mention of the thousands of layoffs seen over the last year.

The Game Awards: Champion of light or herald of darkness?

For better or worse, The Game Awards is the most prestigious ceremony in the gaming industry. And it can work as an excellent showcase to highlight the year’s gaming talent. The musical performances, in particular, help to shine a light on the hard work of the many musicians and songwriters working on games.

The show features an orchestra that plays a medley of songs from the year in gaming, while individual performances highlight how vital music is to the world of video games. Music from Final Fantasy, the upcoming Hellblade II, and Alan Wake 2 was featured throughout the night. The enthusiastic latter performance even saw the greatest hits compilation of Old Gods of Asgard (the fictional version of the real-life Finnish band Poets of the Fall) enter the iTunes global top 10 album charts.

Ultimately, it is difficult to see the parade of famous faces and indulgent interviews as anything other than a well-deserved pat on the back for an industry that has always struggled to gain mainstream recognition. But now that it has that, it must strip back the gimmicks and properly recognize the talent of hard-working developers instead of limiting their time in the spotlight to 30 short seconds.