It's no secret that over the years, Spike TV's Video Game Awards show slowly lost favor with video game fanatics. The glitsy gala of celebrities mixed with leaders on the gaming front took on an oil and water type of appeal. The groans of disatisfaction didn't fall on deaf ears though. Executive Producer/Executive Vice-President of Viacom Entertainment, Casey Patterson has taken all the feedback from the video games community and has completely torn down and rebuilt the event from the ground up.
Casey spoke with Complex about the show's new format and what the team has learned in order to create a show that will resonate with gamers as much as possible. Less celebrity fluff and more gaming stuff is the new approach and it looks like Casey is on to something.
Spike started doing an awards show for video games before it became such a mainstream darling. What was it that led you guys to take a chance on it?
It's interesting because i was among the first few people hired to develop this network for men. Before it had a name and any of that, we were looking at the initial research and were trying to find our place in the wold. We were looking at the demographic of young adult guys and what they were really spending their time doing, what was important and what was next for them. The power of video games in their lives was undeniable as far as how passionate they were about them to the amount of time they spent playing. It felt like if we were going to go for that demographic, this would be the next big thing. MTV Networks was the ahead of the curve with music videos front, the captured the people behind and in front of the camera and honored what they did. It was an art form and we feel the same way about video games.
In the last few years, we've heard that we were trying too hard to make it look like everyone else's award show. Gamers are not like everyone else and that's not what they want to see.
When we started the Spike TV Video Game Awards, we felt that all of these creative people of the community making video games deserved to be honored in the same way as people who make music and movies. We approached it from the same kind of format; a two-hour TV special with awards and celebrities and for a while during the early years, celebrites were really jumping into the space. That was sort of the trend at the time. We felt like the format fit but over time we've seen that it's not neccessarily a celebrity format. Gaming has their own stars and the video games community doesn't need big celebrities to voice these games and they've created their own superstars. The two-hour Hollywood awards show format just didn't seem to fit anymore. What we heard from gamers over and over through the years was—in kinder language—stop, don't feel like you need to put celebrities up there for celebrity's sake. That's how they felt, they wanted to see the games, breaking news and more world premieres. They've waited all year to see their gaming heroes who get very little time to talk about their games in the mainstream. Before, we'd open up an envelope and they would run up say "thank you" for 30 seconds or less and be gone. We've heard from gamers that that's not what they want; they want to hear them talk about their games, how and why they made them and see more in-depth looks and demos with roundtable discussions. Before we were in a place where this needed a 3D experience where gamers could interact, and it was very flat and one-dimensional.
Now with the birth of the new consoles and digital being where it is, it's a really exciting time for this show. It can be put on all digitaly over all platforms and demographics—MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Spike—everywhere there's a natural audience and be interactive. This will be a small step towards that with it being the first year of the consoles, but in time, this will be the first show you can fully interact with. It's the first show like this that you can actually play and gamers can be in control of it to some degree. You have to begin somewhere and we felt like this was the exact time to start.
What exactly do you mean by interaction?
This year, the idea is to change the format. It's to do away with the Hollywood award show and all the trappings that go along with it. We're putting it on the digital platforms to stream for all the demo[graphics] across the company. It's going to be a smaller setting in a studio environment where we can have real discussions and talent can stop by. When I say talent, it could be Matt Stone and Trey Parker coming by and show the new South Park game. They can really spend time with us and instead of 60 seconds, they can have 10 minutes. They can talk about the game, go in-depth and demo it. This new format gives us time to do that with the core audience. It's more tearing down the TV awards show, putting the programming where it naturally belongs and setting it up for full interactivity in years to come. The technology isn't quite there yet, but it's almost at the tipping point. So after 10 years, this is the year to take it off TV, set it up here and lay a great foundation for the very exciting years ahead.
Will it just be chatrooms, Twitter feeds and stuff like that?
We haven't announced what each platform is doing yet, but everyone is taking the stream and they will all have their own interface and plans around it. I don't know if I can make this claim yet but given the partners like Hulu, Yahoo, MTV, BET, Xbox, Spike, PlayStation and Comedy Central, I think the reach will be bigger than television. The show is finally living where it naturally and organically belongs.