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Please Stop Comparing The Oscars And The Game Awards

It’s that time of year again, folks. Geoff Keighley just released the viewer figures for The Game Awards, and once again everyone is talking about the Oscars. Please, I’m begging you this time, we need to stop. Apart from both being award shows, the two events have very little in common, and it betrays our ignorance of other media and our neediness to be taken seriously as a medium.

The Game Awards enjoyed its best night ever, breaking 100 million viewers for the first time. The Oscars meanwhile has been steadily falling from 43 million in 2014 to just ten million last year, though this year’s did receive a small bump up to 15 million. The Game Awards is clearly ‘winning’ if that’s your metric, but then that isn’t the metric the Oscars or anyone associated with it uses. The shows are completely different in terms of purpose, tone, and audience, and the comparison only exists so TGA can ‘win’.

It’s a little like me holding a turnip-growing competition in my neighbourhood, but without telling any of my neighbours. Then I knock on all of their doors later in the year to brag about having the winning turnip. The Oscars does not know The Game Awards exists.

Before we even get into the numerous ways they differ, even though it is watched live by fewer people, the Oscars still commands a bigger audience. Everybody in the world knew that Will Smith slapped Chris Rock last year. But even though it was watched live by almost seven times as many people, does anyone outside the immediate circle of gamers know about the Bill Clinton kid?

The Oscars would love 100 million viewers, I’m sure, but it doesn’t seem to be the primary aim. It’s hard to watch around the world, has not embraced streaming, and sees itself as a more insular celebration. It’s not a popularity contest but a question of prestige. This year’s Best Picture roster is likely to be the most crowd pleasing in a long time, and still people who watch six movies a year will complain that there’s no Doctor Strange. And what the hell is a Triangle of Sadness anyway?!

The Game Awards is far more weighted by popularity. Though popularity, prestige, and quality combined in a trifecta this year as the foundation-shaking Elden Ring scooped the top prize at TGA, but every year it goes to the flashiest, most expensive game rather than any thought being given to quality. It’s rare that you get shocks at TGA because the biggest game is always going to win. The most popular game of the year is usually pretty good, so no one ever complains, but we never consider elevating our best, only pointing to those already at the top.

Quick question – what won Best Narrative at The Game Awards? You were one of the 100 million who watched it, right? So this should be easy, but for many of you it won’t be. Here’s an easier one then – which trailer were you most excited for?

This is why the Oscars and The Game Awards are entirely different beasts. TGA is an advertisement reel with awards slotted in there. Even more insulting than the trailers, which at least form part of the show, TGA also comes with ad breaks, even though it makes millions from the trailers, has low production values, and goes out online without network pressure to have commercial breaks. The Oscars has no adverts, and all the winners get to have their moment. Though the Oscars has struggled to get its host right recently (either Lady Gaga or the trio of Martin, Short, and Gomez would fix this), it is a ceremony with reverence for movies. TGA is a ceremony that loves games. They’re not the same.

The Oscars want to pay tribute to the craft that goes into movies, to celebrate individual brilliance and team performance, and to cheer on the industry. It’s self-indulgent and far from perfect, which might be the only thing it has in common with TGA at all. Meanwhile, The Game Awards wants to excite us and crank up the hype, which is why smaller awards are rushed through before the show even starts, and why trailers dominate the stage, not people.

We seem to have misunderstood, perhaps wilfully, what Josef Fares meant when he famously yelled “fuck the Oscars!” into the mic. It was never a ‘fuck you, we win’ statement, it was a ‘fuck that, I don’t care’ statement. As Fares himself has stated, he had recently read TGA being called ‘the Oscars of gaming’ and, seeing what so many cannot, recognised that the two were very different and wanted gaming to outgrow its inferiority complex. So please, I’m begging you, fuck the Oscars.

I’m pleased for Keighley and the team at TGA is still growing. I’m not a major fan of the hurried awards, indulgent world premieres, or rushing Christopher Judge off stage during his passionate speech, but it’s clearly a popular format. I think it could be fine-tuned, and Keighley’s claim that a shorter ceremony would mean fewer viewers (always an odd claim) has been proven incorrect, but I think gaming needs a ceremony like this. It just doesn’t need to ‘beat’ the Oscars. It never will.

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