Whenever you get Geoff Keighley talking about The Game Awards, whether it’s in the pre-show with fellow Spike TV alumni Kyle Bosman or with various outlets in the mainstream press, he’s always upselling the show’s increasing success. The Game Awards is the massive annual event that Keighley and his team created to celebrate video games.
This year’s awards show continued to be subject of meaningful criticism across the board. In spite of that, this year’s show grew by 202 percent, an increase described by Keighley as “off the charts.” With 11.5 million individual streams, triple the use of the show’s hashtag compared to the previous year and twice as many tweets about the event, The Game Awards 2017 was the most talked about show the night it aired.
“There are probably a lot of factors at play,” Keighley told Polygon. In my opinion, those factors include some uniquely viral moments, such as A Way Out creator Josef Fares’ off-script “fuck the Oscars” rant, a great musical performance from The Game Awards Orchestra and genuinely surprising game reveals.
But ultimately, what matters most to Keighley is the show’s brand identity as an awards ceremony rather than “another E3 keynote.” That’s in sharp contrast to the aforementioned criticisms, which hold that game announcements take a disproportionate amount of air time on The Game Awards in relation to the actual awards.
So while game announcements helped drive engagement and eyeballs, Keighley insists that he’d like to correct that balance. “Of course we'd love to have big breaking news like this year in future years, but that's really based on what the game companies have ready to share. I'd also like to find a way to add in a couple more award presentations during the show — we maybe had one or two too many premieres.”
Of course, sometimes having more presenters on stage increases the odds of some weird, wonderful and strange moments, such as that “fuck Oscars” moment. “Josef is passionate and a friend — I have a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Keighley told Polygon. “His comments sort of overshadowed the game, which is a shame, but it certainly got everyone talking,” he admitted.
Fares clarified some days later to Polygon that his comments were meant to address the specter of cultural inferiority that looms over games culture. “It’s not that I have anything against [the] Oscars,” Fares said. “But there’s a lot of talk about, like, you know, ‘This is like the Oscars.’ Like, the Oscars, the Game Awards, ‘we’re trying to be like the Oscars.’ I’m like, come on, man.”
Keighley re-affirmed Fares’ intent. “As for comparisons to The Oscars, I know where Josef is coming from — games are a huge force on the entertainment landscape, yet they don't get the respect they deserve,” said Keighley. “In many ways we don't need to be the ‘Oscars of gaming’ or to draw that comparison to the Oscars for validation or legitimacy.”