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Opinion: The Game Awards 2022 Rocked, Actually

The Game Awards 2022

After two shows which didn’t justify all the hype, The Game Awards 2022 delivered not just awesome trailers, but also a proper high-profile awards ceremony.

 

It felt good to be back in business and coming out of the tail-end of the pandemic, but it felt even better to get a reminder of what the game industry can be when it comes together in a big way. The 2022 edition of the Geoff Keighley-led Game Awards was a banger and probably the best gaming show he and his team have put out so far. Have they finally “cracked the code” or was it just a fluke?

 

By now you’ve probably watched almost every big trailer from last Thursday and read about all the winners and snubs, so this ain’t a recap piece. Instead, I’ll try to briefly comment on what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved moving forward. But yeah, this show gave me a much-needed boost of positivity regarding in-person gaming events in the post-COVID world.

 

The Game Awards 2022 - Al Pacino and Christopher Judge

 

One of the biggest criticisms leveled against The Game Awards in past years was that not much attention was paid to the awards themselves. It’s easy to agree with that sentiment, but the reality is that funding such a big show without heavily relying on publicity and sponsorships (we haven’t reached the Oscars’ level of hype yet) must be a nightmare, so I guess it’s a tough balancing act. Thankfully, the 2022 edition of the ceremony managed to juggle exciting previews, quick plugs, and heartfelt acceptance speeches. Instead of forcing a consistent pace that has felt artificial in the past and often devolved into monotony, this year’s show was unpredictable and irregular, something that is arguably positive when you’ve got around three hours’ worth of content and awards to wade through.

 

As funny as the Twitter conversation surrounding Al Pacino’s unexpected (and lengthy) appearance as a presenter was, the reality is that it felt sincere and cool. There’s been an overreliance on Hollywood stars coming in for like one minute in the past, often obscuring the artists and workers behind the games winning the awards, and just being there to add some “prestige” to the whole endeavor when there’s plenty of people in the industry deserving of those moments. This time around, the Hollywood nobility were guests invited into a show that could stand on its own, but nonetheless were given enough time to talk around pre-written lines. Maybe Pacino’s introduction went on for too long, but it felt natural and refreshing, and his on-stage hug with Best Performance winner Christopher Judge (Kratos, God of War: Ragnarok) — who also hails from Hollywood — reminded me of the Academy Awards at their best.

 

Death Stranding 2

 

The Best Score (Bear McCreary, God of War: Ragnarok), Best Game Direction (Hidetaka Miyazaki & Yui Tanimura, Elden Ring), and Game of the Year (Elden Ring) awards were also allowed their fair share of on-stage glory, but we still blazed past the majority of statuettes, including Best Art Direction (Elden Ring) and many other categories that represent vital pillars of modern video games. I wouldn’t mind getting fewer trailers if that meant giving each winner more time. Even worse is the tradition of crossing a handful of awards off the list in the pre-show, which feels utterly gross towards the winners if we’re being real.

 

Another way of successfully weaving that big Hollywood energy in was having special guests such as Animal from the Muppets adding some silly comedy into the mix, jumping to Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig to introduce a Glass Onion x Among Us collab (yes, really), or unveiling Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding 2 with actor Léa Seydoux present in the audience. Even cooler was the tag-team of Troy Baker & Ashley Johnson alongside Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey discussing the upcoming The Last of Us HBO series and giving out the Best Action Game award. Again, the best path forward is to connect both industries instead of aspiring to do the same or borrowing clout from the seventh art. Other big moments in the same vein included Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League teasing Kevin Conroy’s final performance as the Batman, and the now-fixed RPG Cyberpunk 2077 recruiting Idris Elba for its upcoming Phantom Liberty expansion.

 

Armored Core VI

 

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a truly great Game Awards show without exciting looks into the future, and this edition delivered the goodies with meaty previews of not only big titles such as Star Wars Jedi: Survivor or Final Fantasy XVI, but also surprising indie projects like Hades II and Earthblade, among many others. While there have been some notable exceptions, current-gen hardware hasn’t really taken off with triple-A projects that squeeze the new consoles and beefy PCs consistently, mainly because of the impact the pandemic has had across the board, so it was great to finally witness a slew of announcements and updates on several big video games that are leaving last-gen machines behind. More surprising is the fact that many of them are targeting 2023 releases; even if delays into 2024 happen, we’ll be on the receiving end of a crazy post-bottleneck explosion of gaming next year. Prepare your wallets and adjust your calendars accordingly.

 

And if we’re talking personal favorites, I was blown away by the first (cinematic) look at Armored Core VI (pictured above), From Software’s next after more than a decade focusing on the Souls bloodline — fully expect this franchise to go from niche to massive mainstream hit with this new entry. I was also intrigued by the return of Ken Levine and ex-BioShock devs, titled Judas, and a stylish new Hellboy game (starring Lance Reddick) from the developers behind West of Dead, a game which, funnily enough, had Ron Perlman playing the main character. And of course, I can’t wait for Diablo IV, which is opening the gates of Hell next summer.

 

All in all, The Game Awards 2022 felt awesome to watch and, more importantly, acknowledged and elevated the medium’s best through its own strengths. I’m the first person surprised by such a marked improvement in just one year, but I’m also hoping for more about the artists and less about the hype machine. I know that’s a tough nut to crack with so much money involved, but we wouldn’t have seen many of this year’s refinements if we hadn’t been this vocal last year.

 

 



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