Developers blast the celeb-laden Game Awards as 'an embarrassing indictment of a segment of the industry desperate for validation… with little respect for the devs'

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 07: Actors Aaron Moten, Ella Purnell, and Walton Goggins speak onstage during "Fallout" Cast and Creator at The Game Awards at Peacock Theater on December 07, 2023 in Los Angeles, California.
(Image credit: Anna Webber/Getty Images for Prime Video)
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10:40 am PT: After this article was published, Game Awards producer and host Geoff Keighley responded to criticism of the acceptance speech time limit on X. "By the way - I do agree that the music was played too fast for award winners this year, and I asked our team to relax that rule as the show went on," said Keighley. "While no one was actually cut off, it's something to address going forward."

The Game Awards have been and gone, turning the PC Gamer homepage into something like the deranged Instagram feed of someone obsessed with Sam Lake and Swen Vincke, but it's left plenty to discuss—and criticise—in its wake. 

In particular, the show has come under fire for the short time allotted to acceptance speeches and celebrations of nominated games, with some devs rankling at celebrities getting seemingly limitless time to ramble while game makers were told to "Please wrap it up" after barely half a minute.

Plenty of devs have taken to Twitter to voice their criticisms of the show, perhaps none more pointedly than Obsidian's studio design director Josh Sawyer (who you know from Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity, and Pentiment), who wrote "This year’s The Game Awards is an embarrassing indictment of a segment of the industry desperate for validation via star power with little respect for the devs it’s supposedly honoring."

Blistering stuff, but Sawyer was far from the only dev to take issue. Rami Ismail—of Luftrausers and Nuclear Throne fame—wrote that he had "a hard time reconciling playing Sam Lake off the stage after 30 seconds, or the publisher representing COCOON's devs after the same, but having a many minutes-long Kojima bit for a game that has literally nothing to show yet," adding "That felt wrong, genuinely." 

The show began playing Lake off during his acceptance of the Best Narrative award for Alan Wake 2 after about a minute (although Axios reporter Stephen Totilo reports that award recipients got the now-notorious "Please wrap it up" sign after 30 seconds), while Kojima and collaborator Jordan Peele got about six and a half minutes to chat OD on stage with Keighley.

There were plenty of other dev comments along the same lines. Firaxis narrative director Cat Manning sarcastically remarked that they "love doing prolonged unfunny bits rather than listening to game devs talk about their work." Another, Arbitrary Metric's Jessica Harvey, tweeted that it's "great how the game awards are treating the award winners like they're an inconvenience getting in the way of all the paid ads." 

Some drew attention to the tastelessness of throwing up the "Please wrap it up" autocue while Larian's Swen Vincke was talking about team members who had died over the course of Baldur's Gate 3's development. Though, to be fair, that's more a case of the automatic timer hitting 0 at a distinctly unfortunate time. Still, the timer could presumably have been delayed by production.

Others just got existential: indie dev Antonio Freyre was prompted to ask themself "What am I doing with my time here on Earth" as they found themself "clapping at a bunch of ads, watching a bunch of executives gloat while Hollywood celebs read from a script like robots."

Frankly? I think they have a point. To me, The Game Awards has always felt like an event torn between two poles: On the one hand, it's a glitzy, E3-style marketing blitz where people with long titles at big corporations get on-stage and implore you to please get excited for their next thing. 

On the other, it's meant to be a prestigious, Oscars-style event about celebrating the craft and art of videogames. It strikes me that those two aspects of the show will never exist harmoniously and, as VGU.TV's Emmett Watkins Jr. noted, the more the former dominates the latter, the less likely moments like the acceptance speech for That Dragon, Cancer become. Perhaps it's better to separate out our awards shows from our trailer reels: or maybe, if the industry at large doesn't like what Keighley's doing, it needs to think about what it can offer as an alternative.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.