The Game Awards 2022 are airing this week and if previous broadcasts are any indicator, viewers will be in for a pretty wild ride. Compared to other mediums, the premier awards show for video games is notorious for being as strange as possible. Where the Oscars might have one watercooler moment every couple of shows, The Game Awards will have five or six a year. That is, when it can find time to hand out the awards themselves. To honor the strangeness of Geoff Keighley’s passion project, we’ve collected our top ten surreal moments across the years of The Game Awards.
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Surprise, it’s Vin Diesel! (2019)
The Game Awards has had a long and weird relationship with Hollywood that definitely doesn’t have anything to do with Geoff Keighley’s parents being members of the MPAA Academy. These weird overlaps often create awkward presentations during the Awards, but nothing takes the cake quite like the surprise (their word, not mine) appearance of Vin Diesel in 2019. Things kick off with fellow Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez debuting a look at Fast and Furious Crossroads; a game that honestly didn’t look like much to write home about. Everyone involved seems to have felt the same, because Rodriguez would then call her costar up to the stage to take things to the awkward zone.
There’s so much to unpack in a relatively short time: Diesel reacting to something off stage we can’t see that “tempts” him, his instinctive leaning over the microphone, him and Rodriguez doing their best “how do you do, fellow gamers” bit even as they likely do indeed play video games, and immediately ignoring the trailer for the average looking game they just showed by reminding people to go see Fast 9, a movie that definitely came out at the intended time.
What really takes this from just awkward to surreal though is that these two would then go on to announce the Game of the Year award to close out the show. That’s right, Fast and Furious Crossroads was the final “world premiere” trailer of the 2019 awards, leaving the award for Game of the Year being awarded not by game industry icons or even by an actor in one of the games nominated but by a couple of cameos. This event left a weird feeling with everyone, overshadowing the surprise upset winner of the award, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. [Travis Hymas]
Untiled Muppet Game (2019)
Speaking of weird media connections, appearances from the Muppets have been a recurring event over the past few Game Awards. No one has ever been able to really explain why Kermit’s friends want to come hang out with gamers, but we got close with their 2019 appearance. Making a reference to the extremely memeable Untiled Goose Game, Benson Honeydew and trusty assistant Beaker reveal the “Untitled Beaker Game” which is really just Goose Game but with a Muppet. Not a bad pitch, honestly, even if the lead-in stuck in lobby joke falls so flat you could hear a pin drop.
Then, the bit keeps going, becoming even less game focused and more like a traditional Muppets bit. That means it’s funny to see the two lab rats chasing a Muppet-ized Untitled Goose around the stage to get the winner card for that year’s “Games for Impact;” but it’s also making an already bloated show run even longer. Then, it turns out the entire thing was in service of a pun on the name of the winner, Gris, which begs to question what the hell were the Muppets going to do if one of the other games had won instead. [Travis Hymas]
The Elden Ring Pot Friend (2021)
As From-soft clan was full steam ahead on the hype train for Elden Ring for a few years at this point, most people, myself included only knew a couple keywords for it: Dark Souls written by George R. R. Martin. I’m not really sure whether the people who ran The Game Awards knew anything else either because it’s not clear they knew a lovecraftian “Pot Friend” with arms and legs would crawl out to accept the Most Anticipated Game Award and reveal a new Elden Ring trailer. Keighley awkwardly accepts a note from this awkward wobbling critter and can someone please tell me if this thing is a main character? Is it just a random NPC they thought was cute? Will Geoff’s Pot Friend return this year? This game has been out all year and I am still out of the loop. [Evan Griffin]
“Best” Performance (2014)
The inaugural Game Awards has even more edges than the modern incarnation of the show, in more ways than one. It’s almost charming, with the side podium, extremely 2000s era logo, and standing room in front of the stage like a concert. But a truly surreal moment from this first show came with the “Best Performance Award,” which actually only gets more bizarre as it goes on. Double Fine head Tim Shaffer takes the stage and promptly makes a dick joke – and that’s just the beginning.
In this nomination pool were long standing professional voice actors Adam Harrington (for The Wolf Among Us), Melissa Hutchinson (for season two of The Walking Dead), and even Troy Baker (for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War). Yet, after an incredibly cringe-inducing ramble from the nominee announcer eventually just deciding to say the nomination was for “lots-o-voices,” the award went to Trey Parker – the South Park guy, for South Park: The Stick of Truth.
See, what really makes this so surreal is hindsight. Regardless of your feelings on South Park or Parker himself, it’s a bit odd that the first Game Award for Performance went to, effectively, a TV show. Especially when compared to the aforementioned talents and Troy Baker, all for games that have aged pretty well comparatively. On the other hand, hindsight is 20/20 and things could have been worse – the fifth nomination was actually Kevin Spacey. Yes, we almost had “Game Award Winner Kevin Spacey.” [Travis Hymas]
The Final Trending Gamer (2017)
The “Trending Gamer” award had been a bit of a joke among watchers of the Awards since its inception. Being one of the fan vote based awards, Trending Gamer had always been based exclusively on popularity. That does somewhat make sense, based on the name. The award did absolutely wear out its welcome though in 2017, if only though the sheer dissonance of the nominations.
Somehow, Keighley and his team allowed a ballot containing a games media veteran in Andrea Rene, accessibility advocate Steven Spohn, speedrunner and second accessibility advocate HalfCoordinated, and likely the two biggest streamers in 2017 go to a fan-based vote. Shroud could have very easily taken it in other years too, but while it may be hard to recall because Twitch banished him to the Shadow Realm, Dr. Disrespect was everywhere in 2017. The battle was lost before it had even begun, highlighted during the presentation of the award by Keighley himself explaining who the other nominees were, while the enthusiasts in the audience cheered for the Doc at the first syllable of his name. So, there he was, in a color coordinated suit, character wig, and gamer headset accepting the award moments later, on the back of his sheer popularity. Disrespect uncharacteristically thanked those fans and his wife, who he referred to as “Nurse Disrespect.”
Exactly a week later, the Doc went on a hiatus after revealing he had “been unfaithful” to his wife. They don’t give this award out anymore, replacing it with “Content Creator of the Year,” for “making a positive or important impact on the community.” [Travis Hymas]
Breath of the Conference Room (2014)
Easily the biggest “get” for the inaugural Game Awards was the first look at the (at the time) newest title in The Legend of Zelda on the Wii U. Up to this point, no one had any concrete idea on what was going on behind Nintendo’s vaunted doors and those who had bought a Wii U hoping for the best were salivating. Nintendo did deliver a relatively sizable look at the game, but in a very Nintendo kind of way. Likely due to the nature of the Wii U gamepad, the decision was made to stage a video with Shigeru Miyamoto and producer Eiji Aonuma in what looks like a conference room with a display TV.
The next several minutes would cut between the two looking at the TV and a camera over Aonuma’s shoulder with the gamepad. The demo felt more like a touch-base meeting between the two men as Aonuma detailed the nuances that were being explored, but much of the game hadn’t yet been filled in so a lot of it is Link just kind of walking around. A stark contrast to the usual bombast of the TGA “world premieres,” but that doesn’t stop folks in the audience trying their best to hoot and holler at the smallest of things. One fun thing to look back on is Miyamoto asking if the game really would come out the next year (2015) when he realized the size of the map only for Aonuma to catch him right back with the progress of what would be Star Fox Zero. Both men affirmed the games would release in 2015. Neither game released in 2015. [Travis Hymas]
Kojima Barred From Attending (2015)
Konami really went out of their way to set themselves apart as the true supervillains in the gaming space for 2015 on the release of Metal Gear Solid V. The wildly over budget game got Kojima ousted from the company and from the franchise he had developed for nearly 30 years; with the release of this final chapter his name was unceremoniously stripped from the box art. A lot of rumors and controversy swirled around this game, least of all disappointing fans with its parsed down story content. What takes the cake was the culmination in The Game Awards where actor Kiefer Sutherland accepts on his behalf, followed by a stumbling monologue from Keighley about Konami’s lawyers barring Kojima from attending the event as boos and hisses rise up through the auditorium. Geoff laments his friend watching with millions of people thousands of miles away, and then followed by a bizarre musical performance from Kojima’s girlfriend, and lead actor in the game, Stephanie Jooston.
Compared to the normal Game Awards situation, this entire exchange feels rightfully off. For at least this moment, Keighley lets down the presenter façade and stands up to one of the corporations he often must court to keep this show going. It’s a show of solidarity that would be great to see from him and his productions more often and not just for his incredibly well connected personal friend. Even so, for those not in the know, the whole thing was just weird, but at least gaming’s favorite auteur got his Industry Icon Award the next year. [Evan Griffin]
Persona 5’s Joker invited to Smash (2018)
This one was weird for a few reasons. Firstly, the night this presentation aired was also the night Nintendo fans the world over were awaiting the moment Super Smash Bros. Ultimate went online. This, plus the fact that the awards show was still relatively new at announcing things like DLC. Given that, it was pretty wild when the stadium went pitch dark like the time the 49er’s Super Bowl was seemingly crashed by Tom Hardy’s Bane. But instead of being told to seize Gotham, the Phantom Thieves chattered about the Microsoft Theater, and a reel began which revealed Persona 5’s Joker, at the peak of the game’s least cringe popularity, and in his hand an invitation letter to Smash. This first DLC character was the first of many to literally break the internet, and not many moments in Game Awards history, or in Smash Brothers presentation history, would come close to this. [Evan Griffin]
“F*ck the Oscars!” (2018)
Josef Fares would make himself forever known with this rant that preceded his first full video game, A Way Out. Whist waxing philosophy on his passion for video games and the gaming industry, he enthusiastically compares the superiority of The Game Awards to the Academy Awards, rousing the crowd and raising a middle finger to the camera.
This genuinely unscripted moment continues beyond the iconic line t as Geoff tries to wrangle the passion exploding from the man’s excitement of the whole situation – which is a stark contrast to the same man’s voice over of the trailer that plays right after. But it worked. John Romero will be famous for taking out a full page ad to advertise DaiKatana and claim he’ll “Make you his Bitch.” Josef Fares will go down in history as the man who said “Fuck the Oscars.” This is video games. [Evan Griffin]
The Schick HydroBot (2016)
This list could have been twice as long as it is now, and The Game Awards will likely continue to produce more surreal moments in the future. However, only one event can truly take the crown of the most surreal moment in the entire history of The Game Awards: the Schick HydroBot. HydroBot was an ad campaign created by the razor company Schick, including a full mascot costume comprising of a general robotic look and a gigantic disposable razor blade head – with no face. The poor person stuck in this costume was then paraded around to mug for the camera while respected professionals like Kyle Bosman read Schick ad copy in between all the other commercials. The grotesque costume was an instantaneous meme, and it just kept coming back throughout the show. They even included a “monumental battle” between the HydroBot and another razor/robot hybrid apparently created by Mortal Kombat co-creator John Tobias, but what played was clearly just a slapdash animation commissioned by Schick’s PR.
While TGA has definitely adapted its ad strategy in the aftermath of this, the HydroBot remains like a lingering shadow over the production. It’s not hard to see why: the HydroBot obliterated the tenuous divide between the tribute to the history and future of the games industry that Geoff Keighley claims TGA is and the firehose of advertisement that it often turns out to be. Even more, this Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure looking nightmare betrays Keighley’s most noble aspirations. John Tobias probably has better things to do than be involved with this ad, Kyle Bosman definitely does, and it’s extremely telling what everyone involved thinks the audience that The Game Awards ultimately is: young and easily impressionable cis men. Not since Keighley was photographed in front of all those Doritos was so much of the game industry’s nonsense laid bare. [Travis Hymas]
Featured image via The Game Awards & Discord inc.