The Game Awards 2022 - The Ticker
Contributed by DJMMT
Last week, I “watched” The Game Awards for 2022. I don’t actually know how the show was, but I had the stream up for the entire duration of the show, and I was looking at my monitor rather intently for most of the time that it was live. Ultimately, I had to Google the list of winners after the show was over. That probably sounds rather odd. Why would I need to Google the winners if I watched The Game Awards live? The reason for that is actually quite simple. I watched the show on Steam.
I have zero interest in discussing The Game Awards. In fact, I couldn’t even begin to adequately talk about them, as I only watched a small portion of them with sound. I can sum up all my thoughts on this year’s show in just three sentences. Christopher Judge was by far the best dressed at the show; and I’m glad he won Best Performance. It was funny to see Animal participate, even if the whole thing was ridiculous. I’m glad Stray didn’t win Game of the Year, but equally happy that it did win Indie Game of the Year. Honestly, I didn’t even watch one trailer in its entirety during the actual show. Because again, I don’t actually care about The Game Awards.
If not for the many announcements made, which I always watch after the show via a roundup post on Polygon or some other gaming media site, I’d literally spend less than five minutes a year thinking about The Game Awards during or after the show. I’d Google the results, disagree with several of them, and then move on with my day. So the question is why did I sort of watch the show this year? The answer is simple. I wanted to win a free Steam Deck.
I do not watch anything other than game trailers on Steam. I’m fine with playing games on the platform, but I have no interest in using it for anything else. I don’t want to watch TV on Steam. I don’t want to watch live streams on Steam. I don’t want to watch eSports on Steam. Valve created a platform where it’s easy for me to purchase, download, and access PC games. That’s what it’s good for, and that’s what I use it for. All those other use cases I mentioned can be done better on other platforms, usually without having to login. The only reason Valve was able to get me to watch an awards show I had no interest in watching on a platform I had no interest in watching it on is because they were willing to bribe me with the promise of a massive giveaway where they were giving away a Steam Deck to viewers literally every minute of the show.
Now, to be fair, even if I had wanted to watch The Game Awards and, for some reason other than a bribe, I decided I wanted to watch the show on Steam, I wouldn’t have gotten to watch much of it anyway, because the stream kept crashing. That’s not surprising because, as I said, Steam isn’t a platform that was built for watching TV or live streams. Had I actually been trying to watch the show there, I would have been super angry. But at least Valve was smart enough to run their giveaway through an external API within Steam independent of the actual broadcast. The picture above sums up the experience of trying to watch The Game Awards on Steam very well. The stream was often loading or just flat out said “Failed to Load Broadcast” while the giveaway ticker, which also broke several times during the show, was still running. But at least the giveaway ticker never fully stopped functioning.
That string of numbers you see listed as the winner name in the picture is not a bot. Though many people, myself included, believed it was at first. It’s actually someone’s Steam ID number. The API broke, several times, and was listing the numbers rather than names. So it’s very possible someone was watching, named as a winner, and had no idea they won. I’m hoping I was one of those people, but sadly I still haven’t received my congratulatory email from Valve telling me how to claim my free Steam Deck. There were quite a few problems with Valve’s entire The Game Awards scenario. But you know what? It was one of the most entertaining awards show viewing experiences I have ever had.
I didn’t care about The Game Awards going into the broadcast, and I didn’t care about The Game Awards at the end of the broadcast. But you could get me to watch anything if it came with a constantly functioning giveaway ticker with the prospect of winning a prize I actually wanted and the ability to see uncensored gamer tags win live. While I was not necessarily looking at the screen for the right reasons, my eyes were glued to my laptop monitor. Not just because I wanted to win, but also because the whole ordeal was hilarious.
Someone genuinely thought that it was OK to let a bot randomly spit out the usernames of PC gamers during a live broadcast with no screening or censorship controls. I have to assume that Valve is simply too powerful and secure in their business to care about PR, because this was a decision that was destined to be what other companies would only ever be able to describe as a PR nightmare. It is common knowledge that gamers are the absolute worst when it comes to picking usernames. They are intentionally crass, offensive, and immature a large percentage of the time. And this became highly apparent as soon as the giveaway ticker stated. The very first winner was literally named ‘Milf Hunter’.
I was absolutely stunned to see Christopher Judge giving what looked to be (I had the sound off, so I’m not actually sure.) a heartfelt speech about winning his award only to have the moment cheapened by the name Milf Hunter flashing across the screen underneath him talking. It was amazing. I laughed hard and then tweeted a screenshot of it. And I was not the only one. Multiple gaming sites published articles about it. And this was absolutely not a one off experience. There were so many hilarious names chosen as winners. In fact, if I didn’t already know that gamers used ridiculous usernames in general, I would think that a lot of people had changed their usernames for the giveaway ticker. Two of my favorite winning names that weren’t crass were “A Real Gamer” and “Purple”. Not because the names were funny, but because reading them in the context of the ticker message was funny. “Congratulations A Real Gamer, our latest Steam Deck winner!” That’s me! I’m a real gamer.
Now I don’t know what Valve actually got from having people watch The Game Awards on Steam. I assume there was add revenue or some sort of agreement with Geoff Keighley. Valve is rolling in money, but there has to be a reason to give away that many Steam Decks other than for the lolz. But I can say that if the goal was to have people who otherwise wouldn’t have watched the show tune in, than the ticker was a roaring success. That being said, it in no way made me engage directly with The Game Awards, nor the other people watching the show. I opened the stream chat for about five seconds and then quickly shut it off. I have no interestin interacting with those animals. And again, it was a PR nightmare for just about any other company. Like can you imagine a company like Disney trying to do something like this?
Imagine if Disney said to tune in to the new episode of Andor during the launch period for the chance to win a free year of Disney+ during the event. Would people tune in for that? Yes, I genuinely believe they would. Would the majority of those people actually be watching Andor? No, I don’t think so. But also consider the PR train wreck Disney would suffer when the bot chooses some random winner named “PedoPrincessFan” or “MCUseDeezeNuts”. I just made those two names up, but you know that sort of thing would happen if they left a bot to do the work like Valve did. And yet it’s that inappropriate hilarity coupled with the prospect of prizes that made me happy to sit for multiple hours and watch a ticker during a live stream that I otherwise had zero personal interest in watching. Valve cracked the code, so to speak, but I don’t feel like they accomplished the actual goal of the assignment. That being said, I was very much entertained, even if I ultimately didn’t end up winning a Steam Deck; and if they do it again like this next year, I will absolutely tune in on Steam again.