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The Other Academy Awards


Last month the Academy announced their award nominees, but you likely didn't hear about it. Later this month, they'll host a red-carpet award show, but chances are you won't be watching.

While the Academy Awards features all of the fanfare and glitz that Hollywood can muster packed into a single night, this Academy's award show for video games doesn't get quite the same attention.

The Interactive Achievement Awards still has a red carpet, and does feature one Hollywood star, but the show won't be televised or garner the same sort of attention as the Oscars that it quietly proceeds.

The Achievement Awards is one of three separate video game award shows held each year. No video game show has managed to lay claim to the popularity of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Oscars, that despite the growing ubiquity of video games.

Martin Rae, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences which puts on the Achievement Awards, says he thinks that's partly due to a lack of understanding among the people who so cherish games.

"We are a relatively young industry," he said. "As an industry we are all still working to educate the fans about the importance of honoring the artistic achievements of their favorite gamemakers. These honors preserve the creative legacy and drive future aspirations. The more attention we bring to the industry, the better."

The Achievement Awards is hosted each year during a gathering of developers and publishers in Las Vegas. Like the other Academy's awards, this set of awards is selected by members of an academy made up of experts in the field. Actor Jay Mohr has hosted the show since 2006, but it's not televised.

Nor are the Game Developers Choice Awards, which are held each March in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference. Awards are voted on by game developers.

Meggan Scavio, director of the conference, says that while getting broader mainstream attention is important, it can't come at the cost of compromising the show.

"We've spoken with a number of networks about broadcasting the awards ceremony," Scavio said. "I think the fans would really enjoy knowing more about the people who made the games they love."

Because the show is unwilling to "compromise on the presentation format" they haven't been able to land a broadcaster.

"I'm not going to give up on our rule of only inviting game developers as hosts," she said. "Actors host acting awards. Game developers host game development awards. That will not change and unfortunately, broadcast networks aren't ready to program content like that."

The end-of-year SpikeTV Video Game Awards delivers a show that puts not just the game makers up on stage, but also movie and television actors as presenters and hosts. The awards are voted on by a collection of game journalists, including some at Vox Games, and is aired on SpikeTV.

"Currently the VGAs is the only live televised awards show that airs globally and celebrates this important medium," said Casey Patterson, executive producer for the awards. "The VGA awards are the biggest night of the year for the gaming industry. We celebrate the best games of the year and preview the future with world premieres and announcements."

The show has garnered a fair bit of criticism from some gamers, developers and game journalists who have said the VGAs pander to a lowbrow audience and is too commercial.

"The (VGA) awards are just not where the development community wants them to be," Scavio says.

Patterson says the goal of the VGA's isn't to become the next Academy Awards, or to mimic any other award show.

"Our goal (is to) create a unique experience that celebrate a dynamic new form of entertainment," he said. "Elements like world premieres, breaking news and augmented reality are what makes the most sense for gamers. Spike has invested in this space for a decade and is committed to finding a model that works for the industry and viewers."

Patterson added that the network has "big plans" for this December's airing, the 10th anniversary for the show.

But Rae and Scavio think that there will one day be an award show for video games that rival the popular Academy Awards. It's just going to take some time, they say.

Rae points out that video games and the awards that celebrate them are relatively new; give them another ten or 20 years and both Academy's will garner the same amount of attention. Scavio adds that the industry itself still has some growing to do.

"In some regards, we still have to convince the industry to take itself seriously before we can ask anyone else to," Scavio said. "Revenue does not a great game make. The entertainment, and dare I say art, that this industry creates is not confined to a smattering of huge titles released each year, just as the film industry is not all big budget movies. For every Avatar there is a The Hurt Locker. For every Call of Duty there is a Portal. These are things that capture hearts. We just need to do a better job of getting those stories out there."

Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding editor News Editor of Vox Games.

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