Monday, February 26, 2007


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?!?) 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 it?


PlayStation Museum said...

Well stated Dave. I for one don't watch the Oscars, and never will. Maybe if I lived on the west coast it would be different. I would rather watch Spike TV's video game awards. And you won't find me sitting at the kids' table eating ice cream, but you will find me at the bar pounding a few. Anyone want to join me in a toast to Jaffe's accomplishments?

Anonymous said...


Can't wait to play God of War 2 and Calling All Cars!

Have you played GOW2? How do you think Cory did? How much did you enjoy GOW2?

Anyway, you couldn't be more correct about the Oscars...Kratos should be nominated lol.

Take care.


derrickgott007 said...

Dave awesome take on the Oscars...I too agree that they are way to predictable...Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine?? More like Little Miss No Storyline...That movie was all let down. I think that your idea for the Interactive MMO game award set up would be cool as hell...I'm in if it ever happens!

Mongo said...

Calling out Oscar as dead is nice and accurate. I think the most telling figure is how well Ghost Rider, an utterly garbage movie, did this weekend. Film is dead, unless you're 12. All other fans of moving pictures can now look to television for their fix.

But David. In the game industry, we are at the kids table, and you're not helping.

Fucking disgusting bullshit like the threesome in GoW helps keep us firmly at that table. It's not because of the frank sexuality either - it's the juvenile nature of the treatment. "Ooooh, sexy with teh TWO GIRLZ!@$!$@" Context, repercussion-free sexy with empty-eyed fembots that wouldn't produce an erection in anyone who's ever gone under-the-shirt-over-the-bra makes us all look like fools. Except to 12 year olds.

It really cheapened what was the finest tribute to old-school arcade values ever made.

So don't pretend that we're ready for adulthood until we make games that are relevant to emotionally well balanced adults. Let's make a Deadwood, a Wire, or even a Survivor for christ's sake. Because action alone just doesn't cut it.

Anonymous said...

David,as always I enjoy your blog and comments. I think you've taken my sitting at the kids table remark in the wrong way. It was meant to illustrate that the qualities, and people who make our medium unique, fun, exciting and vibrant should be comfortable being who we are and that the "traditional envy" many of us had for being with the adults is mis-directed. I hope that within the span of this next generation, game players will be as interested in catching a piece of the Interactive Achievement Awards, whether via the web, a mobile or some other means as people are today in watching the Oscars.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that, David. With every year that passes, the Oscars are increasingly revealed to be the sham that they are: a skeletal monument to a foundering industry composed largely of a circle of self-important blowhards. Hollywood is a stagnant farce. Thank God for the people who care enough about cinema to buck the system.

mongo: Somehow I get the impression that you've forgotten how to have fun. Ghost Rider is a perfectly enjoyable movie if you don't walk into the theater with ridiculously inflated expectations. What reasonable person would expect more than a light bit of popcorn entertainment from a movie about a supernatural biker with a flaming skull for a head? I mean, hello? For my money it delivered exactly what was promised.

About God of War's threesome (ignoring your implication that frank sexuality is somehow wrong, as though that part of our natures ought to be quietly, shamefully swept into a dark corner and ignored): I have to wonder why you find a simple story device that emphasizes a certain aspect of a fictional character so terribly offensive. Has it not occurred to you that, just maybe, the threesome scene and optional minigame are a narrative statement rather than a perverse sideshow for your personal titillation? I believe Mr. Jaffe has alluded to this in multiple interviews.

It seems to me that you're superimposing your own inhibitions upon content that's no more explicit than many R-rated films, whose intended audience--allow me to point out--is the same as God of War's. If you're truly concerned about the cheapening of the game industry, your defamatory efforts would be better spent on the makers of truly overt examples of crass sexual exploitation like BMX XXX. God of War is a mature mythological fantasy whose sensational content is integral to the intentionally exaggerated nature of its setting and the characters who populate it. People who find no appeal in such subject matter need not apply.

David Doel said...

I agree completely. And I think it would be pretty cool if they were to air the awards live on IGN or Gamespot. Gamers would definitely tune in to see who the winners are and it would be an incredible event that message boards would be a blaze for.

-- David Doel

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Why do people associate the Oscars and awards? If there's anything the Oscars is first, it's an AWARD SHOW.

If you want meaningful awards, start with meaningful awards. Then once people start to appreciate the awards, the media will come by and want to cover it.

Awards shows came by because there were people there at these ceremonies that the public want to see. And they don't have to pay them! Name another way to get some Jack Nicholson airtime without paying him for it.

So, start with meaningful awards. Many other media have meaningful awards. Peabodys, Nebulas, Pulitzers. That'll prove you're not kids table stuff. Gaming isn't there yet, as you noted yourself when thanking Capcom for your GoW awards.

It's unlikely any game awards will reach the level of the Oscars show. Game awards go to producers and programmers. And the audience isn't that interested in producers and programmers. Masi Oka got on the Tonight Show a lot more times as an actor than as an effects programmer.

Don't assume that just because your show doesn't air in primetime on network TV that people don't appreciate what you do. I can't wait to play GoW2.

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Anonymous said...

The Oscars were on TV? I must have missed it. Kidding aside it's not something I care much about, at least not the cerimony part of it, just the award and who got what. I got it all off the net and opened myself 3 hours game time.

I do agree with the statement that the gaming scene needs to grow up though...I don't think it's how the publishers and developers are intending it to be, but how some reporters and Mag.s are presenting it. When I read my Son's EGM and PSM I feel as it was written for a 12 year old. When I go to some game sites, it's more about hype and fanboyism than presenting the entertainment for what it is.

You want to note a trend...look at Tech TV since G4 aquired it...I used to love Tech TV, now I can't stomach to watch G4. It's 15 yo locker room humor. It's fanizzle my nizzle....can YOU FEEL ME!

Anonymous said...

Different industries, different wants.

Regardless of how the Oscar's devolved into a pile of self-congratulatory back-patting, I do agree with Mongo in part.

MONGO: "So don't pretend that we're ready for adulthood until we make games that are relevant to emotionally well balanced adults. Let's make a Deadwood, a Wire, or even a Survivor for christ's sake. Because action alone just doesn't cut it."

If the game industry is looking for respect (that it rightly deserves), it's going to have to buck up and dress the part at times. Impressions define reality and the impression the industry continues to deliver is one that's less than mature.

In many ways, the game industry is as much "Hollywood" as any movie studio in on the block.

Anonymous said...

[…] David Jaffe, the creator of God of War, recently wrote a lengthy rant about his disappointment with the Oscars, drawing parallels with game award shows. Hidden in his post are some really thought-provoking ideas on how to improve them. […]

Kellee said...

I think the most culturally significant aspect to the Oscars, and what I hope one day the AIAS awards will provide, is the "teaching" aspect of it. People wouldn't even know why there SHOULD be a Best Director or Best Editing Award if they had no idea what those people did. The Oscars show still is a great way to teach people about what exactly it means to make a movie, and why the heck we are gathering together to honor them.

Games right now are suffering from a lack of understanding. Nobody knows what a Technical Director does, so why should they be honored? (Not that they are, but hopefully one day this will be an award). I would like to see an awards show that also helps people outside the industry understand a bit more about what we do.

Anonymous said...

I dont think they should give oscars to game makers its stupid,games dont hold respect if anything there nothing more then the intrest of a 3 yr old.Game makers such as your self and games are totaly inmature.

Anonymous said...

Jaffe, I couldn't agree more with you. That said, I will keep this short and sweet. I don't know if you have the time to read all the comments, but plain and effing simple, thank you for making the two best video games ever created (GOW & GOW2). Having played the first GOW from beginning to end over twenty times (I am really actually not joking) and having played the demo for GOW2 now about 12 times from beginning to end, I am nearly finished beating GOW1 in my week-long warmup session in preparation for GOW2 falling into my claws in three short days. I plan to play it on Hard all the way through-thus the training session. In any case, THANK YOU for finally making a game about Ancient Greece, the best possible time period and subject matter to make a game from. Can't wait for 3.

Anonymous said...

Video games, especially those that incarnate mythic legends so essential to the intellectual and personal development of mankind as a species, have leapt past movies as interactive, immersive personal re-experiencing of times long gone past and times yet to come. To the other poster who said video games were for 3-year olds, that must mean there are a lot of 3-year olds smarter than you.

Anonymous said...

The "3 year old" comment leaves me fuming. Ignorance is so hard to expose when people wave it like a flag for you.

For those who wont bother reading, or are incapable of sitting through medical studies, the important part...
Past video game play in excess of 3 h/wk correlated with 37% fewer errors (P<.02) and 27% faster completion (P<.03). Overall Top Gun score (time and errors) was 33% better (P<.005) for video game players and 42% better (P<.01) if they played more than 3 h/wk. Current video game players made 32% fewer errors (P=.04), performed 24% faster (P<.04), and scored 26% better overall (time and errors) (P<.005) than their nonplaying colleagues. When comparing demonstrated video gaming skills, those in the top tertile made 47% fewer errors, performed 39% faster, and scored 41% better (P<.001 for all) on the overall Top Gun score. Regression analysis also indicated that video game skill and past video game experience are significant predictors of demonstrated laparoscopic skills.

Conclusions Video game skill correlates with laparoscopic surgical skills. Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery. Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons.

I'd rather have a surgeon who spends his relaxation time on a console than drinking on the golf course.

If you disagree with Medical data, and still steadfastly consider this an anomaly. turn on Discovery channel, find the show "futureweapons" when you get to the show regarding the new generations of remote-controlled weaponry, you can plainly see the use of both adapted Playstation and X-box controllers as the interfaces for these prototypes.

With our Military's tactics and forces evolving, remote control through familiar interfaces are skills of rapidly growing importance.

Hardly the domain of 3-year olds.

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