Spike Video Game Awards ditches award show staples

Above, a scene from "The Last of Us," a flesh-eating survival drama for the PlayStation 3. (Photo credit: Naughty Dog)

Above, a scene from “The Last of Us,” a flesh-eating survival drama for the PlayStation 3. (Photo credit: Naughty Dog)

AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — It’s not exactly game over for the Spike Video Game Awards.

With no red carpet, no podium, no television broadcast and no commercial breaks, Spike is forgoing with all the trappings of a typical awards show for Saturday’s 11th annual ceremony honoring the year’s best video games by doing away with the ceremony part altogether, instead opting for a casual affair streaming live from a space in downtown Los Angeles.

The network owned by Viacom Inc. is morphing the VGAs into an event called VGX — with the letter X representing the next generation of gaming. There will still be awards to game designers, but this year’s winners have been told in advance if they’ve triumphed and been asked to create a pre-taped acceptance speech in the form of a viral video.

The VGAs, which in the past featured appearances by celebs with only tenuous connections to gaming, have long suffered from lambasting by gamers and low ratings. With the next-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 released last month, Spike similarly felt the need to switch things up. However, the evolving media landscape had more to do with the switcheroo.

“After last year’s show and organizing the VGAs the past 10 years, we re-examined everything,” said Casey Patterson, the executive vice president at Viacom in charge of VGX. “Honestly, the people who gamers really wanted to see, the heroes who are winning these awards and making these games, had 30 seconds of airtime to say thank you then they’d be gone.”

VGX is being billed as an all-day, digital “gaming binge,” though the live-stream will run three hours — longer than past VGAs, on par with traditional awards shows — and feature viewer interaction via Twitter, announcements about new games, demonstrations and previews of upcoming titles like “Titanfall,” ”The Witcher 3,” ”Quantum Break” and “The Division.”

“To be honest, it’s terrifying for someone like myself who is used to making big events with lots of celebrities, beautiful sets, pyro and all the toys that come with it,” said Patterson, who previously produced such events as the Scream, Guys Choice and TV Land awards. “We’re really walking the walk. It used to be that producers were in a vacuum.”

Despite all the changes to the show’s 10-year-old format, VGX won’t be completely devoid of celebs: “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker will be on hand to tease their long-delayed game “South Park: The Stick of Truth,” while A$SAP Rocky, Jay Rock, Tyler, The Creator and other artists will perform music from “Grand Theft Auto V.”

Patterson expects VGX to be seen by far more viewers than it ever was on traditional TV because show will be streamed not only across such Viacom sites as ComedyCentral.com, MTV.com and BET.com but also through Hulu and Yahoo, as well as on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Twitch. A condensed version of the show will air Monday night on Spike.

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