Pete Davison: The Industry that Won’t Grow Up

Posted on October 26, 2011 by

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Here in the UK, it’s the Games Media Awards this evening. an event run by trade publication MCV — arguably one of the biggest and most reliable sources of industry news in the business. The awards ceremony should be a great honour for those nominated — national recognition for the work you do is something which should be celebrated, and the tireless hours of work that those who work for various publications and websites put inshould be rewarded with something like this.

Unfortunately, for me at least, there’s something of a problem: the way these awards are being marketed, particularly on Twitter. Doubtless someone somewhere along the way has been looking at the eternally-bizarre Betfair Poker account and decided that they’d try to do their own “self aware Twitter account” thing for the GMAs. There’s crude humour, promises of “industry boobs” (which — ha ha — turn out to be images of male nipples from a feature on the UFC personal trainer game that came out a while back) and generally very little discussion of the reason the awards actually exist — the games media and the good work they do.

In the last 24 hours, the GMAs Twitter account has encouraged everyone to turn up to the awards ceremony nude, noted that “if by this time tomorrow we’re not unprofessionally drunk, we’re doing something wrong” and publicly ridiculed anyone who decided to speak out against the attitude on display. For me, that doesn’t instil me with a particularly large degree of confidence in the credibility of the awards, however big the sponsors are — and they’re pretty big.

I’m not saying the awards and the way they’re promoted should be po-faced and boring — far from it. But I’d much rather see the industry’s achievements being celebrated than puerile jokes better suited to the playground — great stuff gets written every day, yet in 24 hours of tweets leading up to the announcement of the award winners, precisely one tweet (itself a retweet from a reputable journalist on MCV) called attention to a good piece of work published online. The rest promised boobs, nudity and drunkenness. And while I don’t doubt there will be plenty of drinking at the GMAs ceremony tonight, to revel in it quite so much on the official account seems… I don’t know, inappropriate.

The problem is partly that gaming itself is stuck in a curious cultural position somewhere betwixt “creative medium”, “kids’ toys” and “big business”. The disparate elements aren’t always entirely compatible with one another, and it can often lead to accusations of the industry being “immature” — an argument lent weight by the number of games that fulfil childish (and usually stereotypically male) fantasies such as playing soldiers, flying spaceships and killing monsters.

But the thing is, the industry as a whole does seem very much to want to grow up. The very existence of ceremonies like the BAFTAs for games and even the GMAs themselves suggest that the industry and those who work in it do so desperately want to be taken seriously, to be seen as a worthwhile part of society rather than being regarded in the Daily Mail light of “destroying childhood” and the like. Unfortunately for those people who think talking about boobs and drunkenness on the official account for an awards ceremony is the right thing to do, that means knowing when to turn off the smut and turn on the professionalism — because if you don’t, it simply undermines everything you’re trying to do for the industry and destroys your credibility.

Sadly, though, from what I have seen, I appear to be in a minority in feeling this way — worse, by posting this, it’s entirely possible I’m opening myself up to public ridicule by the account in question itself. Still, if that does happen I think it will prove my point rather aptly.

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Posted in: Pete Davison