At the opening of last night’s 2023 edition of The Game Awards, host Geoff Keighley hyped the event as an evening “to recognize outstanding creative work in games in 2023.” But as the night went on, the luminaries who were being awarded for their “outstanding creative work” seemed like they weren’t given much time to actually speak about said work.
Read More: Everything We Saw At The Game Awards 2023
The Game Awards is held at the end of every year, ostensibly to celebrate and award the labor that goes into the video games we spend countless hours enjoying. As at most awards shows, it’s customary for winners to give a bit of a speech, thanking those who helped make their game, and thus the award, possible. But this year it felt like time was cut short for most developers. Some have speculated that The Game Awards was worried someone might mention the serious labor issues facing the industry, or yet scarier, the current conflict in Gaza, thus inviting that most dreaded of phenomena: controversy. Whatever the reason, it was a night that always felt too out of time for the people it was ostensibly supposed to be about.
Throughout the night, orchestral music floated in very soon after most award winners began speaking. That might be a good policy for keeping such a stacked event moving, but when you consider just how much time was devoted to celebrities, muppets, and conversations with high-profile developers like Hideo Kojima (who Aftermath estimates gobbled up as much time as 13.5 of the night’s truncated winner speeches would have), it’s not hard to feel like The Game Awards failed to prioritize its time well. And many awards, probably most, went without anyone coming up on stage at all, getting just quick, cursory-feeling readouts of the winners from Keighley or his cohost before it was time to cut to another ad break, announce a new game, or invite a celebrity onstage.
After a year of constant, highly public layoffs across the industry, ushering developers offstage while granting celebrities all the time they could ask for feels uniquely out of step. Running large events relying on commercial support is no easy task, but surely there must be a better way to schedule things out so that, in Keighley’s own words, we can actually “recognize outstanding creative work.”
Attendees report a large, ominous teleprompter message reading “Please Wrap It Up,”” which as Javiera Cordero pointed out on Twitter (presently known as “X”), was even on display while people from Larian Studios tried to talk about what developing the game meant to them while they accepted the most prestigious award of the night: Game of the Year.
The speech of Larian’s Swen Vincke brought tears to the eyes of his team members in the audience. He talked about what Baldur’s Gate 3 meant to the team, how it was the team’s pandemic project and how they lost Jim Southworth, lead cinematic artist on Baldur’s Gate 3, to cancer just last month. This was easily one of the most human moments in the nearly four-hour onslaught of non-stop commercialism, but hey, Please Wrap It Up, right?
Another odd moment came when CD Projekt Red took home the award for Best Ongoing Game after being introduced by actor Anthony Mackie, who spent a chunk of time bantering with the audience (to everyone’s confusion) and plugging season two of Twisted Metal on Peacock. But when Gabriel Amatangelo and Paweł Sasko actually got on stage to collect their award, they were given scant time before the music started up.
This morning, Geoff Keighley himself recognized that, “while no one was cut off,” the music indeed felt like it came in too quickly.
But, as Axios’ Stephen Totilo shared, it’s not like the “wrap it up music” was automated. “I can confirm” he wrote on Twitter, “there was manual control of when to start the 30-second countdown to the ‘please wrap it up’ sign, manual control of when to make it flash. Was tweakable.”
Celebrities are entertaining and ads do pay the bills necessary to keep a show running, but hopefully future Game Awards shows will allocate developers as much time as Gonzo the muppet was given to talk about the work they and their teams put in to earn their recognition. Give folks time to enjoy their deserved moment in the spotlight, or else let’s just call The Game Awards what it is: Winter E3.