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Opinion: After a decade, The Game Awards is an award show to be proud of

For the past decade or so, Geoff Keighley's video game award shows have had something of a checkered history. During the early Spike TV days, they were downright embarrassing to watch, riddled with ridiculous forced humor segments and shoehorned guest spots from fad stars, like the cast of The Jersey Shore. When they moved towards the online space, there were still growing pains, whether it was the unrefined format or the mocking tone of one Joel McHale. For most of its entire history and regardless of what title it took for that year, The Game Awards made fans cringe and brought out the MST3K in just about every member of the gaming media.

Last night was different. The Game Awards that Keighley had always envisioned came to pass. It was a high-quality, crisply produced affair that highlighted the best in the video game world. And if writers (myself included) could take time out of past years to mercilessly mock these shows and how they turned out, then it would be unfair to allow this year to pass without crediting Keighley for finally making The Game Awards a show worth caring about.

The format was the height of simplicity. Bring up presenters to give awards to developers and artists for their work, reveal some never-before-seen footage of upcoming games, and in-between, make sure and honor some of the truly great names for their work. There's nothing complex or bombastic about it, but it was the kind of respectable presentation that one would expect from award shows of any other medium. In fact, Keighley's Game Awards one-upped those efforts by making this show quick. The pace moved quickly, there were few dead spots, everything was organized practically to the minute, leading to a simple, two-hour presentation. Compared to other award shows that drag on for hours and revel in self-importance, this was a refreshing change of pace.

Much of The Game Awards' excellence can be credited to the dawn of new media. Under Spike TV's thumb, the VGA award show format was completely undermined by the meddling network. It fell to the idea for catching "what's hip" and forcing "what's cool" on viewers. People like Snoop Dogg? Let's make him a guest host! Would the cast of the latest Hollywood CGI schlockfest like to hock their wares? Boom! Make them presenters! Are they related to gaming in any way? Who cares? That was the attitude of the Spike TV era and even after the award show was moved to online streaming, the goal seemed to be to pitch it as an idea worthy of television. Hence, why viewers wound up with Joel McHale, who practically mocked half the nominees to their faces.

Last year started the trend of something different. With Twitch and YouTube, the Game Awards no longer needed television. Gaming audiences would make the effort to watch. Keighly no longer needed to bow to network pressure, because the show was now his to do with as he pleased. Last year was the test run. This year was the coming out party and the result was the respectable award show presentation that the gaming community deserves. The focus was on games, the people that make games, the new media stars that play games, and the celebrities that were there took pride in the work they've done with games. (Kiefer Sutherland, notwithstanding.) And in-between that, there were a couple of great musical acts, culminating with deadmau5, with a special gaming music mix that sent the crowd home happy.

And of course, the memorable moments were truly just that. The tribute to the late Satoru Iwata was among the most touching from any single source, culminating with a beautiful video package set over Pearl Jam's "Man of the Hour" and a heartfelt eulogy from Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. The sudden reveal that Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima was contractually blocked by Konami from attending the show to accept his well-deserved award led to a subdued, but absolutely fiery diatribe from Keighley that both rallied anyone watching behind Kojima and vilified Konami in epic fashion. It was Keighley at his most passionate, a side of the man that there hasn't been enough of in recent years, in my opinion. And it cemented him as a true ambassador between the gaming public and the developers that create some of the greatest games of our time.

Then there was Kinda Funny's Greg Miller, winner of the Trending Gamer Award, whose salute to both the gamer and the game developer was one of the absolute highlights of the show.

We all know that making a game is not a glamorous life. It is long hours. It's time away from your family. And no matter what, when the game's out, someone on the internet is going to be mean to it. I'm sure it comes down everyday, somebody says "Is this worth it?" And I want you to know that, on behalf of the millions of lives that you change, it is worth it. Thank you for making games! I would not be the person, WE would not be the people that we are today, if it wasn't for video games. So thank you, each and every one of you that does this, makes video games. Thank you for your art and know that we are forever in your debt.

That single acceptance speech encapsulates everything wonderful about video games and it also sums up The Game Awards 2015 in a nutshell. It was a celebration of everything great about gaming, with minimal filler and nonsense. And after over a decade of facepalms, flushed faces, and gritted teeth, it feels good to have an award show to be proud of and one that honors the true best about video games.

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