If the goal of the modern awards show is to make âmoments,â then The Game Awards 2022 certainly rose to the occasion â and then some. The Geoff Keighley-produced ceremony was among the showâs best overall efforts yet, packing in an excellent slate of reveals, some genuine surprises, and enough âWTFâ moments to make headlines even at mainstream publications that donât normally pay attention to the world of gaming.
While it may have been a particularly exciting show for fans and casual viewers, it was an uneven ceremony when it came to the actual awards. Rushed winner announcements and speeches took a back seat to flashy trailers over the course of the night. That certainly isnât new for the nine-year-old show, which has built its reputation on providing E3-calibur announcements, but awards felt like a noticeably low priority during the broadcast.
That dynamic made for a sometimes disappointing show that didnât always feel like it functioned as an industry celebration. Instead, it was a night engineered for social engagement â something that wound up being its Achilles heel by the nightâs bizarre finale.
If you tuned into The Game Awards 2022 just to see some new trailers, you likely walked away happy. Keighley was at his best as a curator this year, pulling together an impressive slew of trailers that somehow dodged leaks. A stunning Death Stranding 2 reveal and live appearance by creator Hideo Kojima created one of the showâs most hair-raising moments to date. I was in the Microsoft Theater for the ceremony, and the energy in the room was palpable; it felt historic.
That was far from the showâs only big âworld premiere,â though. A fantastic Armored Core VI: Fires of RubiconÂ debut had attendees screaming, Hades 2 shocked the crowd, and Final Fantasy XVI made for a much stronger closing reveal than Fast & Furious Crossroads or an Unreal Engine 5 tech demo based on The Matrix series. Even Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, which had its release date unceremoniously leaked before the show, got a massive reaction. No announcement had its thunder stolen, allowing the show to feel like a âcanât missâ spectacle.
Though the show would eventually sag in its middle (an awkward Crash Bandicoot segment made for its lowest point), fans seemed satisfied overall. When Geoff Keighley put out a Twitter poll after the ceremony asking viewers to grade the broadcast, players overwhelmingly responded with Aâs. If this was meant to be a night for fans, The Game Awards delivered.
If it was meant to be a night for developers, however, the ceremony left much to be desired. The night began promisingly enough with a large emphasis on the Best Performance award, presented by a rather confused Al Pacino. God of War Ragnarokâs Christopher Judge won and proceeded to deliver an emotional (though awkwardly long) speech that made the trophy feel like an important honor.
That feeling didnât last. An hour into the show, only a few statues were presented in between trailers. The winners that did wind up taking the stage to accept didnât get much time to do so. From where I was seated, I could see the central teleprompter, which began flashing âwrap it upâ messages almost instantaneously. A low point of the night came when Nintendoâs Doug Bowser came on stage to accept Best Action Game on behalf of Bayonetta 3. After giving a short introduction, he opened a prepared statement from developer PlatinumGames as the show flipped on music to nudge him offstage. It came off as a disrespectful moment for one of the showâs biggest categories.
The Game Awards generally seemed disinterested in handing out awards. Several categories were lumped into rapid-fire segments where five winners were called out in the span of a minute. The winners of those categories did not come on stage to accept their awards, nor was a second of footage from any game shown. If youâd never heard of Moss: Book 2 heading into the show, you certainly didnât leave knowing anything about it. The final twist of that knife came towards the end, where Keighley rushed through half a dozen of the showâs biggest categories, like Best RPG and Best Independent Game, in an instant and just as quickly tossed to a trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare IIâs new content.
The tension lies in the Game Awardsâ mission to be a show âfor the fans,â something that feels a bit at odds with the idea of an awards ceremony. Sure, itâs not always exciting to watch developers go up on stage to thank their teams and families, but thatâs not the point. Ceremonies like this are supposed to give the people who make art we love a moment to celebrate their wins. Itâs an honor to get to see passionate, sincere moments like that â even when they run too long.
Ironically, the showâs lowest moments were debatably the result of the showâs emphasis on fans. The first revolved around this yearâs controversial Players Choice category, which sparked a war between Sonic Frontiers and Genshin Impact fans. Both bases accused one another of trying to manipulate the showâs public poll, creating an ugly online discourse. Keighley acknowledged that during the show, noting that the team had to remove bots from the final results before announcing that Genshin Impact was victorious. The result elicited a wave of boos from the crowd, reducing the entire category to high school pettiness. Then there was the showâs bizarre finale.
The ceremony ended with Elden Ring developer FromSoftware taking the stage to accept Game of the Year. At the tail end, one of the people on stage took the microphone to thank his âreformed Orthodox Rabbi Bill Clinton.â Viewers were understandably puzzled. It turned out that the culprit wasnât a FromSoftware developer but a 15-year-old boy attending the show who simply walked up on stage alongside FromSoftware, evading any security. The whole situation left viewers to debate if it was a funny prank or an antimesenteric dog whistle. Either way, it was an unnerving security risk that came with the showâs return to a public format.
It was an almost poetic ending: The show ended with a fan overshadowing the people who we were supposed to be celebrating.
Though The Game Awards 2022 delivered a better-paced show full of exciting announcements, it’s certainly worth rethinking who the ceremony is actually for heading into its tenth year. Until it does, âBill Clinton kidâ will be as symbolic a moment for the Game Awards as Josef Faresâ show-defining Oscars rant.