Monday, February 26, 2007
OSCAR IS DEAD!
Last week, an article ran in the LA Times about the Interactive Arts and Sciences awards ceremony. GOD OF WAR won a shit ton of those great awards last year and they mentioned me in the piece; talked a bit about my experiences with the show.
The gist was that the Academy want(ed) the awards to be serious and important like the Oscars but that maybe we- as an industry- are not really the kinds of folks to appreciate or participate in such an event. As the head of the academy put it, maybe we simply need to be sitting at the kids table and eating ice cream.
Now I like Joseph Olin (head of AIAS) alot; very nice guy who works his ass off to make AIAS the stellar org. that it is. The DICE conference he oversees is the highlight of the year for most of us game makers. His is a thankless job and even so, the man gives it all he's got. I am very proud he represents us.
But I take issue with his 'ice cream/kid's table' statement because it can be read as an implication that the Oscars are BETTER and more NOBLE than our awards; that the people who populate the movie business are more mature than we are.
Bullshit, Joe. They are not more mature; they are just more full of themselves. I LOVE the fact that game makers are real people who don't fall for the bullshit of the Oscars.
Hell, did you SEE the Oscars last night?
Hell, for me, watching yesterday's Oscars was a pretty eye opening experience. I TIVO it these days, watching the red carpet arrivals around 2 hours after the show starts airing. This gives me enough TIVO buffer to skip past commercials, boring dance numbers, speeches from folks that- while I appreciate their accomplishments and contributions- don't really interest me all that much. By the time I'm watching someone get the BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY award, the live show has concluded in real time. Just gotta make sure to stay off the net and not answer the phone during the last hour so the surprises are not spoiled for me.
Not that there are any surprises anymore.
But it's not because there are no twists and turns from time to time (I mean, who the hell saw the best pic for CRASH coming last year?!?)...but there are no genuine surprises because the Oscars get less and less relevant as the years go by. Hard to be surprised by something you don't really care about.
As a movie loving, wanna be director kid, the Oscars were everything to me. Me and my other film loving buddies from Alabama (all 2 of them!) woke up at 5:30am - each and every year- to see the announcment of the nominations; at lunch, we argued over who would win and why; we made sure to see all but the most boring looking flicks that were up for the best picture. It was our Super Bowl and World Series rolled into one. Yep, there we were: awkward as hell movie geeks sitting in the cafeteria bitching (loudly!) about Spielberg getting snubbed for directing THE COLOR PURPLE, while the movie itself was nominated in all the other categories. Well, as you can imagine, we were HITS with the ladies.
So yeah, the Oscars used to mean something to me. But now, while the Oscars are still kind of cool, they are mostly lame and silly and pretentious.
And sure, some of it's because I'm older. But I think most of it is because the veil has been lifted on the 'glamor' and 'glitz' of the lives of these so called beautiful people.
Because of the internet and because of the tabloid shows and mags, the stars are revealed to be just human. Hell, in some cases, they are revealed to be humans with some pretty serious flaws.
And because of the internet and the sites like AINT IT COOL NEWS and BOX OFFICE MOJO; and some revealing behind the scene docs on some of the DVDS, the film making process is no longer all that magical either. It looks like work now, because it is work. Fun work at times, to be sure, but still a job that needs to get done. And a job that serves the corporate masters that now own pretty much every one of the studios and who clearly care much more about the bottom line than the artistic outcome.
So to watch these folks on Oscar cast talk about how IMPORTANT the movies are and, thus, how IMPORTANT they are, is just silly. To watch Jack Nicolson 'holding court' once again, and hear folks from the stage make 'in awe' comments to him as if he were Don Corleone is just embarassing. To watch ANOTHER fucking too-long montage that digs back into the 100 years of CINEMA to show us film clips from movies only kids at USC CINEMA school care about, while some overblown, wanna-be inspirational orchestral score blasts away (or worse, the fucking music from THE NATURAL...what the hell is with that song?!?)...it all just feels like bullshit. Calculated bullshit. Maybe at a time, it mattered. But now, the magic is gone. Is it just me?
I don't think so, as the viewership for the Oscars is in freefall and has been- give or a take a few special case scenarios- for years.
I think Joe's desire for us to be taken seriously is a good one. We work hard, make great products (at times), we affect the culture in a significant way, and we are NOT jokes; we are not children. We are working adults who care about what we do.
But to try to craft an awards show, or to even DESIRE to craft an awards show BASED on the Oscars, when the Oscars itself (not to mention award shows in general) is a tired old horse that needs to be put out to pasture, is a mistake.
I've bitched for years that game awards need to be done online; done as an MMO weekend like THE BURNING MAN festival, but for games. In a giant virtual world where you can wander the landscape, chatingt with famous game makers who are walking around, go to speeches by these avatars and play new demos of the up comming games and/or play demos of the nominated games; and then go to the main stage and vote in real time for your fave game of the year...and then see how the pubic votes stack up to the academy votes.
This model or not, the idea is that sure, giving out awards to celebrate your biz is the way to go. Why not? It's good for the makers and the consumers. But why are we tailoring it off the dying model that is the Oscars. Heck, even the once hip MTV MOVIE AWARDS is now losing viewers and looking old school.
There is just something old/wrong/dying about award shows. It's a model that just does not work anymore. People are too aware of the process to buy into looking at the creators of the process as anything other than...well, just people.
We need to embrace the very tech that we are celebrating! We need to take our awards online because THAT is where the fans will meet us; that is where the folks will care. That is where people will WANT to see Lord British give a speech upon being inducted into the Academy Hall of Fame; that is where people will WANT to see the game gods walking a red carpet (albeit a virtual one) and get the chance to chat with them in real time.
And hell,if that doesn't work for you, do a real awards show but air the thing on GAMESPOT or IGN or one of the other big game sites. Air it in real time, allow for fans to watch and participate in real time with voting and comments and chatting with the winners,etc...I mean, game fans WOULD want to see Tim Schafer and Ueada and Miyamoto walking the carpet...sure it's not as lucrative as say, airing it on ABC, but hell, it's not lucrative NOW. At least if you put it out there to the fans who care, you could charge for commercial time and make some dough that way AND you'd prob. get a bit more of a mature show as we'd all know we were on camera and would want to do more than sit around and shoot the shit with buddies we have not seen in years in between awards- or even while getting awards-which is what we do now.
So while we are building the virtual awards show, let's start airing the live one on a gaming site. Isn't this a no brainer?!?
I am so honored and glad we got awards for God of War. I recall my first nomination for TWISTED METAL:BLACK level design with much pride. And I would love to think the new downloadable games we are doing will have a place- if we provide great product- at an awards ceremony in the future. I'm down with awards. I think Joe and I see eye to eye on that.
I just think it's time to let go of the past and embrace...hell, to CREATE Awards 2.0.
Who's with me?
ps. yes, yes I know the whole 'pay to be a member/Capcom' issue is still alive and kicking. Please be aware that THAT issue has nothing to do with my views expressed in THIS post. That's a whole other can of worms but for the record, I agree with Joe that dues are a normal part of any academy and there is no reason we should be different. I would support a sliding scale if some pub simply can't afford it but I don't think the fee to join AIAS is THAT steep...is it?