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

failed horribly.

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

Phantom Pain.

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

the game.

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

Turismo 5.

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

Gungam Style.

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.


“Signal Received” and “Flipside” by Mr.Monitor