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What to expect at the 2021 Game Awards

(The Washington Post)
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The Game Awards are back in person in Los Angeles at the Microsoft Theater Dec. 9 after last year’s show went virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic. Hosted and produced by media entrepreneur Geoff Keighley, the Game Awards have been around since 2014 as an annual Oscars-like red carpet event to commemorate the best games of the year.

This year, Keighley told The Washington Post there will be six major game reveals and a host of film trailers debuting at the event. Movie stars like Keanu Reeves and Simu Liu will be part of the show’s lineup. But he’s careful not to upset the balance between video games and their film adaptations, making sure that the event still puts gaming first. There’s a fine line between drawing from Hollywood’s star power to drive hype at the Game Awards, and distracting from the focus on video games, he said. Keighley also noted that he’s excited to see more games coming for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S that should better demonstrate those system’s capabilities.

While details about the event’s exact lineup remains a closely held secret, nominees for Game of the Year include “Deathloop,” “It Takes Two,” “Metroid Dread,” “Psychonauts 2,” “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart” and “Resident Evil Village.” Initial reactions to the nominees on social media expressed a lack of excitement this year, as well as the more traditional complaints from people asking why their favorites had not been included.

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Personally, Keighley said he enjoyed playing “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart,” “Valheim,” “It Takes Two” and “Psychonauts 2” this year, as well as a bit of the “Halo Infinite” multiplayer mode.

“This time of year is always the most challenging for me because there are so many great games coming out,” he said. “I’d love to be playing Halo right now, but I have to be organizing the show.”

Keighley told The Post last week he was excited to go back to an in-person version of the Game Awards where the audience could be engaged. “This year, we’re going to see so much more despite challenges posed by the pandemic,” he said.

The Game Awards are advised by a board featuring several major companies across the industry, including Rob Kostich, president of Activision Blizzard, a video game company that was sued by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing in late July over complaints of gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, and has come under fire from shareholders, employees, federal agencies and, most recently, gaming publishers and state treasurers.

Keighley said he is thinking about how to “navigate” the event’s involvement with Activision Blizzard, just as major game publishers have said they are reevaluating their relationships with the company out of concern over the lawsuit’s allegations and those reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

“We want to support employees and developers,” said Keighley, who added he supported people coming forward with their stories but also didn’t want to diminish developers’ opportunities to spotlight their games. “We have to think very carefully about how to proceed here.”

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He said that “Diablo 4” and “Overwatch 2,” two titles that Activision Blizzard announced on Nov. 2 would be delayed, will not be shown at the Game Awards this year.

In the future, the audience for the Game Awards could see more immersive experiences as well as potential integrations with the metaverse, one of the tech and gaming industries’ current favorite buzzwords.

Keighley said that if the Game Awards were to get into non-fungible tokens, or collectible assets verified through a digital ledger that have recently soared in popularity throughout tech and gaming circles, it would take a “thoughtful, measured approach.”

“We won’t be first movers in this space,” said Keighley, adding that he wasn’t opposed to considering NFTs later on once more gaming companies have explored the technology.