Notes and Analysis on the Spike 2012 VGAs
1:50 – Note Reading
13:30 – Analysis Conclusion
I’m going to analyze the the Spike VGAs. Unlike the still image I analyzed of Geoff
Keighley’s Dewritogate. I won’t go into minute details. This is going to be more of a play
by play where I tell you what happens and what I think is trying to be communicated to
the viewer at each step
I’ve watched it once before without taking notes and doing it a second time at length for
this break down. A little background though before we start. Spike TV which originally
began as TNN was a station that aired little worth mentioning than wrestling, most
successful of all was your standard soap opera meets wrestling type programs like the
WWE. In 2003 it changed its name to Spike TV hot on the heels of G4’s success which
launched the previous year. All keen to work this “gamer” demographic that appeared
ripe for exploitation and marketing. In an effort to appear like a hip and young network
they adopted the new name and even tried to put in a block of edgy, adult animation that
The 2012 Spike VGAs was hosted by Sam Jackson or as some people know him “The
Snakes on a Plane guy” or the “The black hitman in Pulp Fiction that says Fuck a lot”.
Unfortunately it’s an accurate description in this case, because despite Sam Jackson’s
talent that’s what he’s been reduced to in hosting the show.
With the show being more than an hour long, I’m going to offer just my notes with time
break downs. These won’t be full conclusions and it will even sound disjointed as these
are little more than just spontaneous thoughts. Most of these will just be the starts of
ideas you can run with or evaluate for validity in your own analysis.
Opening – Promotional video from the satirists at South Park. South Park crapped all
over EA sports and the larger game industry in general in past. Video pokes fun at the
Hobbit to promote their game “The Stick of Truth”. Cartman introduces Sam Jackson.
1:51 Flash series of quotes from Jackson’s movies. Most of which are violent or contain
swearing, Sam Jackson appears and reads from a cue card as he celebrates how great he
is. Camera cuts to shots of beautiful young people to suggest these are the people who
love video games and attend the award show.
4:50 – South Park Stick of Truth Trailer. Some cut scenes and some gameplay.
7:06 – Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Danai Gurira uncomfortably present best shooter.
Working off popularity of Walking Dead tv show, cast members selected are the younger
cooler characters. Scripted dialog explains video games train us to use guns.
Carl not shown. Too young to be considered cool.
8:35 – Gearbox accepts the award for Borderlands 2.
9:45 – Adam Scott, from Parks and Recreation. Has nothing to do with video games.
Reads off lines with moderate snark and introduces Kojima’s …I mean Morgen’s
10:51 – The Phantom Pain trailer. Cut scenes. Despite lack of UI, most likely features
gameplay in scripted segments.
13:48 – Demonstration of how little writers know of video games, Jackson to explains the
utility of a character is to be shot in the face. He then introduces the category for best
character, assumingly meaning that these character’s are being evaluated for ballistic
cranial absorbency. Corrects misunderstanding. Elaborates that these are memorable
characters with depth, personality and “all around bad-asst-ness”. Followed Master Chief
clip demonstrating he’s a nominee.
Over use of words like bad-ass, awesome and other obscenities feels familiar.
15:41 – Skit over simplifies everything to do with back end operations of video games.
Cliffy B, seemingly only video game related person is there for a few seconds until he’s
Skit furthers the public masturbation of Sam Jackson by introducing theme of making
games better, cooler and more bad ass by inserting him like a mary sue into video games
with “Sam Jackson” mode.
17:34 – Sam Jackson in The Walking Dead by Telltale
18:18 – Sam introduces music from the Game of the Year nominees. Compares video
games to movies. Orchestra lead by Assassins Creed 3 composter Lorne Balfe. Plays a
medley of select songs from those games creating a tasteful moment. Orchestrated music
and orchestras generally perceived as something for old or pretentious people. Orchestra
fashion seem to make heavier use of black than formal and alternative fashions; leather
and latex. Primarily the female performers. Youthful edge? Entire segment spins on its
head when the little girl doing vocals for Dishonered appears to be wearing something
raided from a Hot Topic. Motorcycle gloves.
21:52 – Sam introduces the newest break through in nerd and gamer sub-cultural
commodification. Alison Haislip who’s demonstrated she has no clue what she’s talking
about when it comes to things “nerd” introduces Zachary Levi who’s she’s is working for
in this production, Levi uses show as a vehicle for promoting his “brand”.
Won’t mention what its called. This is an advertisement and the only way to render an
advertisement ineffective is to ignore it.
Levi demonstrates himself to be shaping up to be something of a male Felicia Day. Has
had similar roles as her. Played a nerd/gamer in a program. His was on TV. Both voiced a
Fallout New Vegas companion. Exception between the two is that Day is used as a
moderately attractive face for cameras Levi is taking it a step further. The humiliating act
of being tea bagged on cable TV must not have been effective in promoting his brand.
23:06 – Connor’s video for Character of the Year award.
23:42 – Sam talks more. Explains how the VGAs felt X Box users’ input was only one
used for skit, demonstrating a clear bias in the shows production and the kind of
demographic they want to paint all gamers out. Further proof of exclusionary visions by
24:23 – Trailer for Last of Us introduced. Gustvao Santaolalla playing a small piece from
25:17 – Last of Us Trailer. Mostly cut scenes. Very few instances of gameplay,
apparently heavily scripted.
27:01 – Jack Osborne, of the reality show fame “The Osbournes”. Nothing to do with
video games introduce new Castlevania trailer.
27:25 – Castlevania 2 Lord of Shadow trailer. Looks to be all cutscenes.
29:06 – Sam Jackson mode in Halo 4
31:09 – Claptrap character of the year video.
32:12 –Jessica Alba airily tries to prove she’s somehow related to video games.
Introduces Dark Souls 2 trailer.
33:07 – Dark Souls 2 trailer. All cutscenes.
35:12 – Alba introduces best action adventure game. Dishonored wins.
38:00- Jackson plugs the “double screen” experience that’s part of Levi’s brand. Haislip
talks to someone from game trailers and a guy from Kotaku about the world premieres.
39:13 – Character of the year video for Mendez (I think.) from CoD Blops 2.
40:00 – Talks about war sim games. Gives a sober thanks to the troops actually at war.
Introduces Linkin Park because they apparently had a song in Medal of Honor:
40:25 – Linkin Park performs “Castle of Glass” from said game.
44:00 – Jackson introduces the Best Independent game award.
45:37- Journey wins Best Independent game of the year. Worth mentioning that of all
four games up for nomination Journey was the only one working under contract with
Sony. Thatgamecompany likely received comparatively larger financial backing as a
46:50 – Sam Jackson in Mode in Angry Birds. No comment necessary.
47:40 – Car commercial product placement. Car can also be downloaded in Gran
49:30 – Marlon Wayans attempts to be funny while plugging upcoming movie.
Introduces Snoop Dog…I mean Snoop Lion. I don’t think I need to go into detail about
he’s become the media agreed upon rapper they like to plaster everywhere.
51:36 – After promoting his career change, dubs himself king of reggae. Then plugs
Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Introduces Assassin’s Creed 3: The Tyranny of King
52:11 – Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny of King Washington teaser. Not a trailer as it
shows no game play or cutscenes
54:00 – Character of the Year clip for Commander Shepherd. Not so much a video as it is
acommercial promoting ME3’s online multi-player. Online multiplayer of ME3 allows
consumer to buy items with real money to expedite unlock process.
54:40 – Levi appears. Calls everyone nerds repeatedly. Repetition aids in conditioned
behavior. Continues to try and promote commodification. Introduces Gears of War
56:07 – Gears of War trailer shows cutscenes. No gameplay. Heavy warning horn type
sounds play in trailer. This audio cue has become recently popular. Appeals to the
reptilian brain as a way to alert viewers.
57:31 – Kojima looks confused as they mention his name, he probably doesn’t know
what they’re saying. Camera flanks him from the left.
58:07 – Sam Jackson mode in Dishonored.
59:15 – Camilla Luddington, new voice of Lara Croft comes out and talks about how
there weren’t many female role models in video games. Most likely damage control over
the alleged sexism in recent press. Luddington is wearing the weird shiny black fashion
the orchestra was wearing prior. Might be to try and put an “edge” to her foreign accent
in case it’s typified as “old world” like orchestrated music. Might be reading too into it.
60:00 – Tomb Raider survivor Trailer accompanied by orchestra. Orchestra is dressed in
black again, at least some females performers aren’t wearing typical formal clothes as
expected of an orchestra. Trailer is mostly cut scenes. Some parts appear to be gameplay
but look scripted.
63:00 – Claptrap wins character of the year. No further comment needed.
65:00 – Sam Jackson Mode, Minecraft. Doesn’t uses Notch’s ugly player models. Miner
is dressed like Bob but doesn’t have his stubble also speaks with a lisp. Possibly gay?
Displays positive demeanor, presents him opposite the swearing, violent edginess
Jackson and video games are portrayed as. VGAs surprisingly aware people are sick of
66:00 – Jack Black comes out in a pseudo-trench coat and Kyle Gas appears to have just
gotten out of bed. They present Game of the Decade.
69:00 – Half Life 2 wins Game of the Decade. Award probably was made up to give
further credentials to the program after the utter debacle of last year.
70:00 – Johnny Gillecky introduces the first in episodic DLC for Halo 4. Appears
nervous. Appears to say Dong instead of Dawn. Possible start of trend to re-brand DLC
as “episodes.” This started most notable with Half Life, maybe earlier. Likely taking cues
from success of The Walking Dead by Telltale. Need to follow future marketing of DLC
to see if this becomes a pattern.
71:00 – Trailer for Spartan Ops DLC. Cutscenes. No gameplay.
72:00 – Ken Levine comes out to promote Bioshock Infinite. Also seem slightly nervous.
He presents it as if it was a game pitch for backing or to press. Probably not use to live
audiences. Over emphatic smile when he finishes talking, shows signs of relief it’s over.
73:00 – Bioshock Infinite trailer. Mostly gameplay. Moderately scripted for mostly the
use DeWitt’s rail riding apparatus and the introduction of the Handyman.
75:30 – Sam Jackson mode in Call of Duty Black Ops 2.
76:12 – Zoe Zaldana introduces game of the year.
77:00 – Walking Dead wins game of the year. Announcer shares that Telltale also wins
Studio of the Year. What other awards are rewarded but not mentioned?
79:00 – Tenacious D plays a song talking about themselves.
84:00 – Program end.
So what do we take away from all this. It’s a commodification of a sub-cultural. A
number of people in media, broadcasting, advertising, etc, have made the simple
connection of; video games are played by young people so this must be something we
treat like other young people programs, and in that vein of thinking follow through by
targeting the insecurity of youth.
“Are we pretty or handsome enough?” “Am I cool or seen as a likeable person?” As a
young person you want to be desired. You want to demonstrate you’re a poignant, unique
individual that people will like. The need to be validated by others is something typically
abandoned by someone as they get older. In age we come to understand our
insignificance and folly of our pride.
The Spike VGAs is an advertisement and like the most effective advertisements it preys
on a person’s insecurity to strike them at the core of our more animal nature. Video
games themselves empower the individual and allow for fantasy fulfillment of many
kinds and this advertisement is trying to keep in step with it to effectively rebrand not
only what a gamer is but what’s acceptable on multiple levels.
I was disappointed when a number of Users tried to rationalize they were watching it for
the trailers. Some even went as far as to say “But Dark Souls 2!” You didn’t know it
would be Dark Souls 2. All you knew was that it was teased to be something big and in
allowing yourself to be emotionally manipulated; you were swept up into the excitement.
You might have watched it or spoke about it and in the process, supported it.
There was no shortage of reporters and bloggers there that were dying to pass word to the
rest of the world outside that over produced circus. It only takes one person to
communicate an idea and the internet can take that single idea unimaginably farther. I
didn’t watch it until much later after and was still able to hear all about the only thing
worth while, the trailers, and even see those I was interested in.
As I said before, the only way to combat an advertisement is to completely ignore it.
Even talking about it and giving it negative attention can help it. I know I’m doing that
now, but I think it’s probably been long enough since then that it’s out of people’s
Don’t stop asking why. Don’t stop thinking critically and be wary of the influence of
your own emotions.
Until next time.
————-FEATURED MUSIC ARTIST:———————–
“Signal Received” and “Flipside” by Mr.Monitor