Live this Saturday, Spike TV will hand out the Eighth Annual Video Game Awards in an event that has become known for being packed with game trailer premiers, industry stars both real and fictional, and tons of hype. We talked to long time industry denizen and Executive Producer of the VGAs, Geoff Keighley, who is also the host of GameTrailers TV and Executive in Charge of Publisher Relations for Spike TV about this year’s show and if the VGAs aim for seriousness or spectacle, or if they have to be either.
Newsarama: You've had just about every job in gaming journalism, how did working with Spike TV to do the VGAs come about?
Geoff Keighley: I started with Spike about five years ago to help create a weekly video game show called Game Head (now GameTrailers TV). Over the years I naturally became more and more involved in the VGAs, as it's one of our biggest network initiatives all year. Now I'm lucky enough to work in front of the camera but also behind the scenes to help Spike run our video game business. I truly believe that Spike is the #1 network for video game programming, both on-air and online. The VGAs is a massive investment we make every year in the gaming business, and we're happy to do it because gaming is a focus for the network.
Nrama: This is the eighth year of the awards, a lifetime in the gaming world, do you think its relative longevity imbued the award with any cache among developers and publishers?
Keighley: When I walk into any game developer one of the first things I see in the lobby are their VGA award statues. So I think that's a good sign!
Nrama: Do you feel that the VGAs need to compete with some of the older gaming awards like the IAAs, or can it now stand on its own?
Keighley: We're very happy with the VGAs and their place in the gaming industry. The show airs in over 175 countries and territories around the world and this year we have Hamish Hamilton, the director of the Oscars, helming the show. Not only do we recognize the best games of the year but we also world premiere the hottest games of the future. So you get a sneak preview of where gaming is going next.
Nrama: Neil Patrick Harris was announced as the host this week, how has it been working with him?
Keighley: I'm really excited to have Neil Patrick Harris host the show. He's exactly the kind of host we want for the VGAs. He's funny, hip, and feels like "one of us." We've been working on some hilarious moments that I know are going to be all over the internet after they happen live on Saturday night.
Nrama: How would you gauge his knowledge of the industry?
Keighley: Neil is a big gamer and has starred in a bunch of games over the years like Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard. He really respects the industry and gamers love the NPH. He's a perfect host for the show.
Nrama: If a member of the general public with only a passing understanding of the industry were to watch the VGAs this year, what impression do you think they would come away with about gamers and gaming?
Keighley: We've re-invented the VGAs this year with a new vision. I think non-gamers will gain a new respect for the narrative potential of games and the artistry that goes into creating them. There will also be an amazing sense of energy in the room. This is a business that only grows bigger every year and our set for the show is something that's never before been attempted on television using augmented reality. It's pretty spectacular.
Nrama: Some gamers, like serious fans of any media, can tend to be dismissive or even hostile to PR hype and sensationalism, why should those gamers watch the VGAs?
Keighley: The VGAs are a chance to celebrate the best games of the year and get a glimpse at the future of gaming. We let the games speak for themselves at the VGAs with new footage and information that premieres for the first time at the show. Gamers can be the judge of what's new and hot - we're just creating a platform to share that information with the world.
Nrama: What do you say to criticism that the nominating and winner selection criteria are not stringent enough, and can you explain the process?
Keighley: The VGA nominations are voted on by a panel of industry journalists from all the top publications including Entertainment Weekly, Game Informer, 1UP, Kotaku, Joystiq, USA Today and GameTrailers. Gamers are a passionate bunch so they always have their favorites which may not be included, but it's hard to argue with our nominees for Game of the Year.
Nrama: Batman: Arkham City was announced at the show last year, can fans expect to see any more of that game or any other games in the works?
Keighley: Definitely. Viewers will see a brand-new trailer for Batman: Arkham City this weekend at the VGAs and you'll meet a new villain for the first time. We also have world premieres of Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, the big Sony game for 2011, plus a Gears of War announcement and some other surprises we aren't talking about in advance of the show.
The 2010 Video Game Awards will premiere live from Los Angeles on Spike TV Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.Will you be watching this year?