Spike VGAs 2010: Less testicle jokes, still male-centric

The VGA "Video Game Awards" logo.

The Spike 2010 Video Game Awards were on tonight, and I watched it even though I knew it was going to be problematic.  Alex reviewed the 2009 VGAs last year, and while this year did contain less jokes about ‘balls’ and other male anatomy, it was not without its share of sexist representations of women and bad women jokes.

To start, all of the women on stage were clearly put there to look good and draw the male attention.  They were scantily dressed, but more problematic was the fact that the majority of them had no relevance to the gaming industry.  Even Neil Patrick Harris (the show’s host) had ties to video gaming, as he did the voiceover work for Spiderman in a game this year.  Denise Richards, AnnaLynne McCord, and Rachel Bilson were the female presenters that I can remember off the top of my head.  Of all the games that won, the developers who came up to accept the awards were all men.  Not a single female developer, though that shouldn’t surprise me. (Edit: Point redacted.  My DVR cut off the last 10 minutes of the show, and I missed the Game of the Year award, which was accepted by a female for Red Dead Redemption).

Neil Patrick Harris had a couple bits where he spouted off video game porn titles, like “World of Whorecraft”.  Most of them were fine, although I have to be honest that “Call of Booty: Pre-ops” pissed me off.  There was an awkward CGI scene in which Kratos from God of War III was shown being sensual with a barely-dressed woman before tossing her aside like a piece of trash.  And I noticed that 5+ minutes of the show was dedicated to presenting the award for Best Performance by a Human Male (won by Neil Patrick Harris), without even a mention of the female category.

When Rutina Wesley and Ryan Kwanten of True Blood came out to present the trailer for the new SSX snowboarding game, Rutina’s script consisted of her calling it “SEX” and talking about snowboarding in her underwear.  And finally, one of the presenters (I think it was Dane Cook) mentioned that good games are something we all can ‘jerk off to’.  You know, because we all have something to jerk.

Overall, the VGAs could have been worse.  However, I can’t help but wish they were on a network that wasn’t geared toward men.  I feel like I’m an outsider while I watch, which is ridiculous because I make games for a living.  There is nothing inclusive about the televised version of the VGAs, whether its due to its sexism or its lack of portrayal of gaming genres and platforms other than Xbox 360 and PS3.  Where were casual games, Wii games, social games, or handheld games?  The jokes were bad, the performers were lackluster, the overall show was just poor.  So far, these don’t feel like legitimate awards to me and the network has a long way to go if they want me to take the award show seriously.

Readers, did you watch?  This was in no means an exhaustive Border House takedown, so I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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25 Responses to Spike VGAs 2010: Less testicle jokes, still male-centric

  1. rho says:

    I didn’t watch it (wrong country, and don’t think I could have stomached it anyway) but I did see Felicia Day tweeting that she and Amy Okuda were mistaken for seat fillers on four separate occasions. Because obviously no women would be there because they actually had something to do with the games industry.

  2. kinelfire says:

    It might just be my sensitivity, but I find it a bit off-putting when a woman is referred to as ‘a female’. It’s a little dehumanising.

    Besides that, regarding the VGAs – /sigh

    Why won’t they just get it into their heads that being inclusive of 51% of the population will make them a ton more money?

  3. Bel says:

    Seconding the “a female” complaint. Dehumanizing or not it sounds decidedly clinical to refer to people just by their genders. Man and Woman are usually perfectly functional.

    Anyway – I’d like to see a real set of awards for the industry. This is kind of the equivalent of the MTV Teen Choice Awards or something like that.

  4. Chris says:

    Speaking as a guy, I can’t stand the VGAs.

    It comes off as a giant advertisement (which is what it is, really) and nothing more.

    Without a doubt it is geared toward younger men, but damn, it sure isn’t subtle.

  5. Brinstar says:

    They should just televise the Game Developers Conference Developers Choice Awards. Admittedly, the GDC Developers Choice Awards don’t have fanfare, and it’s generally kicked off by an industry keynote (which may be boring for general audiences), but at least the GDC Choice Awards as an event is taken more seriously, given that one’s professional peers vote on it. How are the Spike VGA winners chosen anyway?

  6. tekanji says:

    Thirding the “female” complaint.

    This is some of what I said on the matter in a post I made on sexist language:

    You wouldn’t typicaly say “I am a female,” (you are a female what? person? bat? fruitfly?) but rather “I am a woman,” and not just because it’s grammatically ambiguous. There’s a reason why, outside of a scientific arena, we don’t commonly refer to people as “the male” or “the female” — it’s dehumanizing. Because the most common usage of “female” and “male” are as adjectives, using them as nouns serves to remove the human element (ala. “the gay”, “the black”, “the transsexual”). With “male” and “female”, this is further reinforced by the setting we do see the words used as nouns in, which is to say in reference to animals.

    I didn’t see the VGAs (wrong country for me as well, not to mention that the little I HAVE seen of past ones hasn’t made me want to see it again), but nothing I’ve heard about this year’s show makes me feel that the games industry is anywhere closer to trying to get games and the industry taken seriously by non-gamers. *sigh*

  7. Jamie says:

    The only reason I’m even aware of the VGA’s is because they end up showing a whole bunch of trailers around that time which I find fun to watch (Though none have been anything over then pre-rendered, non game-play movie fests) And I’m remarkably glad I couldn’t watch the award show, it sounds incredibly cringe worthy.

  8. Gospel X says:

    There is a good thing as well as a bad thing regarding the show’s being on Spike TV. The bad thing is that the channel is lad culture entertainment, so you can only expect crude humor and an attempt retard the maturity of males in their 20’s. The good thing is that the channel is generally disregarded by anyone outside of the demographic due to its immaturity and lack of any real content. Top that off with the fact that most of us know that awards shows are meaningless and the whole thing will be forgotten in a month or less.

  9. Matthew says:

    Beyond all of the horrible sexism and general dudebro trappings of the VGAs, I just wish that gamers had a classy and cool affair for grownups that just gave out awards (and gave them out to deserving games).

    Seriously, any gaming awards show that barely recognizes the sheer undeniable greatness of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is completely broken.

  10. Cuppycake says:

    To those of you who pointed out my use of the word “female”, thank you for letting me know. I will remember this in my future posts. I wasn’t aware that the term was offensive in any way.

  11. Maverynthia says:

    (Edit: Point redacted. My DVR cut off the last 10 minutes of the show, and I missed the Game of the Year award, which was accepted by a female for Red Dead Redemption).

    Fourthing the “female” comment when you stated the others were accepted by “men”.

    Honestly I don’t give any credence to the VGAs. From what I saw, they don’t even highlight the best games. I’ve even heard of some “dudebro”s commenting that a good game didn’t get it’s deserved props on the show. They only do the most popular or the most sexist games to give awards too, which cuts out all the games that have innovation and actual story.
    I haven’t seen the awards, but from the titles I’ve heard of, they also don’t give out a lot of awards to RPGs, JRPGs and other games that might have an effeminate hero. Did Dragon Age ever get an award? I hear that’s pretty popular, all my friends play it.

  12. Fifth on the female comment. It’s an adjective and only makes sense in terms like “female performer” like when you used “male performer.”

    Speaking as a white, middle class, man whom this is supposed to be directed towards, they aren’t funny. I laughed once through the whole thing and it was the visual joke of NBA 2k11. You could tell even the developers were uncomfortable listening to this. Thing is I like award shows, good award shows. I tune in every year for the Oscars. Even something half as decent would be preferable.

    A bit of advice, you don’t have to be comedic in an award show. There are other emotions. Plus you suck at comedy.

  13. Cuppycake says:

    Okay everyone, the point is taken about using the word “female”. There is no need to “fifth”, “sixth” and “twelfth” the point. ;)

  14. “Best Performance by a Human Male”? Is the award really called that? If so, human as opposed to what? Robot male? Orang-utan male?

  15. silver1881 says:

    I watched it for the new game premieres, and I knew that it would piss me off going into it, especially since it’s on SpikeTV. I can only conclude that they picked their presenters out of a hat. Granted, there aren’t a lot of high-profile women who are associated with games, but most of the men who presented aren’t either. What connection does, for example, Dane Cook have to gaming, except that he probably plays Halo with his bros sometimes?
    The Kratos thing was disgusting, and I COULD NOT BELIEVE that they televised best male performance but not best female performance. That said, I think everyone knows that these awards don’t mean anything. The same 5 or 6 games are up for every award, and I doubt anyone takes them seriously. (I hope.)

  16. Sam says:

    To be fair straight men don’t like the VGA’s either, in fact I doubt anyone watch’s it for anything other than to see how awful it is. This is what the mainstream press thinks of it:
    (Probably sexist comments through it but I haven’t checked):

    http://www.joystiq.com/2010/12/11/spike-vgas-2010-the-liveblog/

  17. Jonathan says:

    I hope you’ll take comfort in the fact that my regular gaming community holds the whole thing in utter contempt. One of the staff volunteered to watch it and post highlights, but if it wasn’t for the teased game announcements, it wouldn’t get watched at all. Someone asked who the organisers think actually plays games, which I think sums the ridiculous affair up nicely.

    The VGAs are a perfect example of one of my pet hates; the horrendous stereotyping of male gamers by men involved with the games industry.

  18. Mantheos says:

    MASS EFFECT 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! “I don’t have anything to say to you. I call the guards and…” *Punches Eclipse Merc out of window* “How about goodbye?”

    YAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! ME <3 ME

  19. Mantheos says:

    Ok. Since I got that out of the way, Bioware’s reveal was the only reason I watched it. I stopped watching after that. I thought it was way too vulgar in general. As for sexist, definitely. Michael Chiklis picking Maria Menounos up to show off his super strength for his tv show nearly showed everyone what was underneath her dress. I am a straight man and I think Maria Menounos is attractive (and to be fair she did ask him to pick her up). But I think things like that are degrading to women. People in general/non-gamers can have a negative impression of gamers, and the VGA awards, from what I saw, did not contribute positively to the reputation of gamers.

  20. Twyst says:

    I really really hated the part where they did the “Those we have lost this year” and it consisted of “Look at this naked chick” and “This woman was a prostitute”. It was so terrible. I dont understand why Dane Cook was there, talking about broing out with the “human male” nominees.

  21. Ikan says:

    I never watch these shows because they are such FAIL. I think I might have watched the very first year these awards were on, was utterly disgusted after the first 10 minutes, then switched it off. I’ve never tuned in to this pile of garbage since. It’s a complete embarrassment to the industry, and reinforces the stereotype that gaming is just for braindead, perverted white male nerds who make lame jokes about women.

    I bet a lot of people don’t watch these awards, even pervy nerds, because otherwise they wouldn’t be trying so hard to pull in viewership via all these game reveals like Mass Effect 3 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, et al.

    But thankfully we have the internet, so I can skip these stupid awards, wait an hour, and then watch all these trailers online without all the infuriating jokes. Just reading your summary angers me.

    Spike TV, you fail again. I’m pretty sure a lot of men are embarrassed by this stupid channel, too.

  22. Ikan says:

    Addendum:

    Just read through some of the comments, and it’s nice to see a lot of members of the “targeted audience” find these awards to be trash, too. Amen.

  23. Deviija says:

    The VGAs is a hive of button pressing, sexism, and crude behavior (at the expense or degradation of ladies/lady characters). In fact, I’m surprised Neil Patrick Harris is hosting since he’s a gay man (and many online social aspects of gaming are very homophobic). Anyway, I only turned the show on to see a few of the ‘big reveal’ trailers — and even then I was really turned off and disgusted by some of the things I saw.

    For example, when the hostess asks this lad, “Trash talking is a big part of gaming, isn’t it?” And he basically goes into how trash talking is a huge part of gaming and the gaming community, and how one of his insults was about threatening to cut another player’s mother’s head off during a game. Yeah… that is NOT the kind of behavior to encourage within online gaming and the community. Also, I was miffed that he painted everyone in one generalization — that trash talking a huge part of gaming. It isn’t. Maybe online multiplayer gaming, or competitive gaming, if that, but not ALL gaming.

    Kudos to the hostess for getting the last word in and saying that ‘yes, threats about killing family is off-limits.’ Much to his annoyed look.

  24. Jonathan says:

    Could you elaborate on “many online social aspects of gaming are very homophobic” please? I’m assuming that you just mean that there are a lot of homophobic slurs thrown around online, but if you mean something else, I’m interested in hearing what.

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