The Game Awards were held on Thursday night. And what should’ve been a night to celebrate everything great in the industry we love was left with a black cloud hanging over it that was never addressed. Throughout the night, studios were praised and new games were shown by host and creator Geoff Keighley, but there was one thing about The Game Awards that bothered me and so many others.
No, I’m not talking about the fact that on a night meant to celebrate the games of the past 12 months, winners were given 30 seconds to talk and give thanks before being told to “wrap it up”.
I’m not even talking about the fact that so many awards were treated as throwaways so they can get back to things like Gonzo and a 10-minute segment for a Hideo Kojima game that is nowhere close to being released. All of which were egregious.
I’m talking about the fact that not once during what was a three-and-a-half-hour show were the mass layoffs in the industry addressed.
Despite many claiming 2023 to be the “best year ever for gaming”, for thousands of people, it has been anything but. As of writing, though official numbers aren’t available, nearly 10,000 people have been let go from studios and publishers this year alone. From quality assurance teams to artists to story writers and more, every single area of the industry has been hit hard. And what was said during the single largest gaming show of the year? Absolutely nothing.
No heartfelt message expressing sympathy. No appreciation for the work that they’ve done for the games that we’re supposedly being honored at the show. Not a damn thing.
But those studios, publishers, and owners were still paraded around and championed.
Look at Embracer Group. A company that has been laying off employees, shuttering studios, and promising more cuts all in the name of “restructuring” because they didn’t know how to manage their own money or, maybe, take pay away from executives. Were they mentioned for their mishandling of studios? Nope.
Bungie, which has fumbled Destiny 2 heavily over the last year-plus, was nominated for “Best Community Support” for Destiny 2 despite gutting most of its community engagement team earlier this year.
Again, Keighley said nothing.
And it’s not like he doesn’t know his platform and the reach he has. He’s been vocal about issues in the past such as the serious sexual harassment allegations at Activision Blizzard. He’s also gone after Konami when they wouldn’t let Kojima appear at the show back in 2015.
But now, with The Game Awards heading towards its 10th anniversary, it seems that it’s gotten too intertwined with the studios, publishers, and sponsors to do anything that might seem “controversial”.
The Game Awards proved that friendships with studios and keeping in the good graces of those with the money matter more than the actual people where the industry is their livelihood.
Keighley holds the biggest stage for gaming in today’s landscape. With that comes some responsibility to the industry he champions and tries to represent. Unfortunately, he and the entire team behind The Game Awards proved their cowardice on Thursday night, and why The Game Awards will continue to feel like nothing more than a marketing event for publishers.