Another predictable BAFTAs makes us ask once again: what’s the point?

What, really, is the point of video game award shows such as the BAFTAs? With the most recent video game BAFTAs at the time of writing awarded on the evening of March 30, 2023, this question raises its head once again, as there was not a single surprise among either the nominees or the eventual winners. In fact, the whole thing may as well have just been a copy-paste job of The Game Awards from 2022, since there was so much common ground.

The trouble with shows like this is not necessarily that the nominees and eventual winners are undeserving of the praise that they get — but that the entire show is inevitably a missed opportunity to showcase the incredible diversity of the modern gaming scene as it exists on the worldwide stage. The BAFTAs had a great opportunity to showcase some games other than God of War, Horizon, Elden Ring and the like — and yet they, predictably, took the safe, easy option of celebrating games that have already had a motorway’s worth of column inches devoted to them over the last year.

BAFTAs: God of War
If they’re going to reuse nominations, I’m going to reuse screenshots

Not only that, but even the few smaller-scale indie games that put in an appearance in the BAFTAs were predictable, safe choices, too. Stray. Tunic. Vampire Survivors. Even I Was A Teenage Exocolonist, which was a pleasant surprise to see in The Game Awards, felt like a cynical copy-paste inclusion in the BAFTAs.

Again, nothing wrong with any of those games — but everyone already knows they’re good. Everyone has been talking about them for the past year. Myriad articles have been written about them over the past year. Giving them yet more awards just feels redundant. And there are so many good indie games released every year — hell, every week — that it should not be difficult to come up with a completely new shortlist for a new awards ceremony.

This is where that big question comes from, then: what is the point of high-profile video game award shows like the BAFTAs? If it’s to celebrate things that are already universally agreed to be good and/or popular (often emphasis on the latter) then they’re completely redundant and useless. If it’s to showcase how wonderfully broad the gaming industry is today — which it is — then they completely fail to do so.

BAFTAs: I was a teenage exocolonist
See? This is easy

A big problem with that diversity aspect is the almost complete omission of games from certain parts of the world. Notably, Japanese games tend not to get much of a look in to either The Game Awards or the BAFTAs — the safe, predictable options of Elden Ring and Final Fantasy XIV notwithstanding. This doesn’t help the perception of Japanese games as being somehow “inferior” to big-budget western titles, even when there are many examples of Japanese titles that are much more interesting in terms of both mechanics and aesthetics.

One could perhaps argue that these specific award ceremonies are supposed to be celebrating more “local” achievements, but if that’s the case then what are the aforementioned Elden Ring and Final Fantasy XIV doing in there in the first place? And why aren’t The Game Awards celebrating only American titles, while the BAFTAs only celebrate British (or at least European) games? That distinction alone would make the two shows immediately more interesting and worthwhile because it would lead to different lineups of games for each, rather than one feeling like a copy of the other.

But no. This conversation happens around every awards ceremony — as, indeed, it did around The Game Awards last year — and nothing ever changes, because ultimately it’s all about the money. These shows aren’t really about the games at all. They’re about the business of making games. The Game Awards in particular has been more about the exclusive trailers and reveals for several years, and the BAFTAs, while not quite as high profile, feel just as cynical right now.

BAFTAs: Vampire Survivors

So my advice to everyone remains the same as it always has been: if you’ve found a game that you enjoy, that you genuinely love and that you wish more people would talk about — then be the one who starts that conversation. Talk about that game you love to friends and family. Share your experiences online in blog posts, videos and screenshots.

High-profile awards like the BAFTAs are, these days, meaningless and worthless. Today, there’s no better celebration of a worthwhile gaming experience than honestly, earnestly, passionately enthusing about it to anyone who will listen. And so that’s certainly what we intend to keep doing here on Rice Digital — we invite you to join us.

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Pete Davison
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