Video Games: Where are our ‘Oscars’?

Why we need awards and some of the problems that they present.

video by Extra Credits, weekly in depth videos on video games by the people that make them

Video Games: Where are our ‘Oscars’?

Video games, like all mediums of entertainment and art, started out being frowned upon or looked down on by most people, but as every medium evolves it becomes more and more respected and widespread in its appeal until eventually it receives enough appeal that prestigious awards are given.

From the Golden Globes, Oscars, and BAFTA’s to the Grammys, Emmys, and SAG awards it feels like every art form has an award or awards that honor the people who dedicate their lives to a medium and their accomplishments.

Video games, however, have not had this kind of recognition, despite being the world’s single largest form of entertainment. As of today 59% of Americans are estimated to play video games and about 1.2 billion people around the world enjoy the medium.  And yet we have no centrally respected form of awarding the medium that remains so important and endearing to so many.  Instead we have dozens if not hundreds of different websites and award shows that dilute the importance of awards.

Undeniably the Oscars are a huge reason as to why films evolved into more of an art form over the years as more and more studios greenlight films that they didn’t expect to make much money at the box office in order to win awards. These small golden men are responsible in part for the success of films like Taxi Driver, The Godfather, and Goodfellas; classics among their medium.

the last of us
The Last of Us is a modern classic on the PS3 and PS4

So why don’t video games have their own form of the Oscars?

Certainly many people have noticed this gap and have tried to fill in the space, but with so many websites offering their own awards, it dilutes what should be a unified and celebrated occasion. But because awards look good on the back of a box most of the companies that make and publish video games don’t feel much of a need to have a single award show with more prestige. This is something that needs to end in order to help recognize in a better way the efforts of men and women in the game industry and to ensure more unique and artistic video games with bigger budgets.

But if we had a major award to give to games what would be the categories? Games as a medium are the only form of art that is often exclusive to one console or company, making the fact that anyone that doesn’t have a WiiU can’t play some of the nominees for game of the year. This would be a major issue when awarding games on the behalf of the fans. Should exclusives get their own category for game of the year? Should every console get their own game of the year, and if so can the same game win on two different consoles? These and numerous other questions that must be answered before any real progress can be made.

shadow of the collosus
The PS2 classic Shadow of the Colossus

But one thing is for certain in my mind, that these awards are necessary for the games industry. We need more games like Shadow of the Colossus and the Last of Us to help pave the way for real big budget games that we can truly hold up as an art form.

Now I am not saying for a second that the mindless fun games or games that don’t strive to be art should not or will not exist, because they most certainly have a place in this world, but I am saying that we need to allow art a place on the shelves along with our Marios and Haloes just like how The Godfather and movies like it deserve to be sold in the same store as Spider-man.