The Game Awards Eligibility Period Needs to Change

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Since its inauguration in 2014, The Game Awards has provided the gaming community the type of stage and spotlight typically only reserved for cinema and music. Whether you agree or not, gaming as a medium has (for the most part) felt liked it was looked down upon or judged. As if there were anything bad to happen, video games were an easy target for blame. There was not enough universal praise for games. Thanks to creator and host Geoff Keighley, this annual awards show presents a time for widespread appreciation and recognition.

But times change. And so too must The Game Awards.

For an unspecific reason, The Game Awards period of eligibility ends on November 15. If a game releases after the November cutoff, it’ll be eligible for the following year’s show. This is a major flow in Keighley’s design that I hope gets fixed soon. Under these current guidelines, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, which released on November 15, 2019 (the cutoff date), was not eligible for the 2019 show. Instead, Respawn’s title finds itself fighting amongst other more recent titles in an attempt to rekindle good publicity over a year of its release. Fallen Order was an amazing original Star Wars single player adventure that’ll certainly result in a new line of specialized games, and yet, didn’t have its proper time to shine.

Now, there’s something interesting about the 2019 Game of the Year nominees. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was yet another victim of the seemingly early cutoff date. Super Smash released December 7, 2018, thus pushing it’s Game Awards eligibility to 2019. If Keighly implemented a full calendar year period of eligibility, Super Smash may have replaced either Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Celeste, or Monster Hunter: World, which would have opened up a spot in 2019 for potentially Fallen Order. Regardless of whether Fallen Order or Super Smash would’ve replaced another game in their released years, it’s a flawed system.

And this year is no different. 2020’s unlucky post-The Game Awards deadline game release: Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, CD Projekt Red does deserve a bit of fault for this one, because the game’s been delayed three times. But it doesn’t excuse the weird cutoff for eligibility set by Keighley. It’s pretty rare for a game to hold enough sustainability and relevance over a 12-month period. Especially with newer games to contend with in the subsequent year. Look at the Oscars. Not including this year due to the pandemic, movies had to release between January 1 and December 31 for eligibility. So why can’t the same be true for games?

Keighly and The Game Awards have done a tremendous service to the gaming community over the years, but it’s time for an adjustment. Exceptional games deserve their time to shine, but under the current format, some might fall through the cracks. If that means The Game Awards occur in January instead of early December, so be it. I understand if people look at the Games Awards as a symbolic ending to the calendar year, but in the name of fairness across the board the show needs to be pushed back. Games shouldn’t be “punished” for releasing in the final month of the year, and pushing their eligibility a full year feels like a punishment. Games like Fallen Order and Super Smash face an unfair advantage with recency bias. And while you might argue that games released in January pose the same uphill battle, it’s not the same. Releasing in the same calendar year, but earlier in the year, versus releasing the previous year is not the same.

It doesn’t matter what world premier reveals it has or which celebrity he booked for a cameo, Keighly and The Game Awards will always feel slightly off. There will always be some feeling of uncertainty or skepticism about the winners. Until the eligibility period is adjusted, this discussion will always come up for years to come.

It’s time for Keighly to level the playing field.


Note: The views expressed here are solely of the author’s and does not represent MP1st and its staff.

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