John Walker's Electronic House

Why The GMA’s So-Called “Media Academy” Prize Is So Demeaning

by on May.24, 2013, under Rants

While common sense should assume that the Games Media Awards is incapable of doing anything without making it a murky, dubious mess, I really didn’t see how they could make a new student prize something awful. But their abilities know no boundaries.

This year there are definitely some claimed improvements. They’ve stopped PRs from voting in most categories, which is something I’ve appealed for since the awards first began. And they’ve got rid of the “goodybags”, which contained hundreds of pounds worth of items and were given to every winner. It’s great that these things are gone.

What hasn’t changed is that it’s an evening funded by publishers and PRs, in which they provide the games journalists who report on them with free food and limitless free drink, and then present them with awards sponsored by themselves. It’s promoted as a piss-up, and it has, for years, been the British games industry at its most tawdry, wretched, and dubious. From the first year’s awarding of prizes to magazines owned by the sponsors of the categories, to the despicable antics of two years ago with the Grainger Games sponsorship, to last year’s disgraceful mess of journalists tweeting adverts for games to win a Playstation, it has always been a horror show. That it has cleaned up a fraction of its act is progress, but it’s certainly not anything for celebration. That most of the UK games industry will still happily trundle along for the free booze, no matter how it associates them with it all, is hugely demoralising.

Picture nicked from the Guardian, showing the dancers at the strip club in which the first GMA took place.

And this year they’ve added the ludicrously named “Games Media Academy”. This pompously grandiose title is really just a prize for a single person – an unpaid hopeful writer – of £1000 of commissions, and some unexplained (and indeed entirely unmentioned by the actual description at the bottom of the page) “mentoring” from “some of the biggest names in games media”.

The prize is to get some paid work.

In an industry that is increasingly screwing over new writers by not paying them, some might want to argue this as a positive step. I’d suggest that’s a bit like giving a trophy to husbands who don’t beat their wives. What it is, in fact, is publishers doing their damned jobs, and pretending it’s something special. It’s like telling a plumber they’ve won the lucky prize that you’ll pay them to fix your sink.

It is a part of every media outlet’s job to find and hire new writers. Submissions arrive to magazines and websites all the time, both solicited and unsolicited. When a publication is looking for new freelancers, or even new employees, they look at these, and they commission based on potential talent they spot. People who are good enough at writing get paid work, and the system continues.

The idea of doing exactly this, but pretending it’s a special prize, simultaneously demeans both the writers submitting their work, and the entire occupation itself. It reduces our job down to a special treat, given out to one lucky person, and a ruffle of their hair. And it reduces potential writers down to entrants in a competition, and then pretends that doing the work that earns the money is some manner of award! It’s outrageous. There is NO prize! They get £1000 for doing £1000 worth of work!

So what is it really? It’s IGN, Future, MCV and bloody Network-N advertising themselves, getting their names mentioned in concert with this extraordinary act of altruism of paying some writers to do a job. The people judging may not have been so cynical in their acceptance – they may simply want to be involved in a process that finds new talent. But unfortunately, as positive as their intentions may (or indeed may not, looking at some of the names) be, they’re associated with the awfulness of the GMAs, and they’re – perhaps unwittingly – part of a non-prize that demeans everyone involved. Oh, and the winning entrants get published in a supplement in trade rag MCV, owned by Intent, who own the GMAs. Will they be paid for that publication? There’s no indication that they will.

(So what should they have done instead? Accepted nominations for a category for unpaid writers, and given the best one an award in the hope of raising their profile. Editors paying attention would look at their work, and if they liked it, commission them. Instead, because this is the GMAs, it’s become about promoting publishers in a faked act of goodwill, bullshitting that paid work is a prize, and insulting everyone involved.)

There is no obligation on anyone in this industry to attend the GMAs. If free drinks mean so much to you, crash a wedding. By walking through those doors, you endorse everything the GMAs have done, and intend to do. And for what? You don’t even get the bag of bribes this year. Please people, just don’t go.

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10 Comments for this entry

  • Cats

    Hi John

    Check this out, let me bring you up to speed. MCV pacific awards.

    Same kinda deal, sponsored by IGEA though (not a publisher) but publishers appear to have funded it a bit.

    Alright so MCV pacific is allegedly owned by the same company as a PR company called OneToAnother

    Alright so…

    Who won PR company of the year at the awards? OnetoAnother

    Who won distributor of the year?

    Now onetoanother does AIE’s PR…..

    Now i happen to know those two companies are very good at what they do and they are somewhat deserving winners.

    but you have to agree it looks all sorts of wrong.

  • Patrick Rose

    I’d be very interested to see what happens in the event that nobody appears at the GMAs. Do they just say “Oh. Well. Erm. Here are the…awards?” or do they do the full ceremony to a crowd of nobody?

  • Dean

    Hmm, interesting as surely the winning writer could just turn in a bunch of crap on purpose and they’d have to pay for it?

  • RevStu

    You won’t have to worry about that, because the GMAs will be stuffed to the rafters with people who can be bought for a few free lagers as usual.

  • Jack

    Missed opportunity John! You could have taken the nearest similar-sized venue, hired a bouncer who only permits games journalists, commissioned a free bar, and run a counter-GMA so those journalists wouldn’t even have the ‘free beer and meet colleagues’ reason.

  • Mupps

    You will, of course, be returning the GMAs your site has won at your earliest convenience in protest?

    I also look forward to news of the defenestration of Alec Meer for the following quote supplied to MCV back in August 2011 in the run-up to that years event and for feasting at the corporate teet:

    “What’s the best press trip you’ve been on?
    Far Cry, Ubisoft, circa 2002. A very, very odd one. It involved pole dancing, being shown penis piercings, daring the developers to put monkey knife-fights into the game. […] Ah, those days.”

  • John Walker

    I strongly objected to those awards being accepted, and have argued for their return.

    I have written about press trips I’ve been on as a freelancer, some of which were fantastic. I have concluded since that while I was not swayed by such things, they remain inappropriate and would now turn them down. I believe Alec would say the same.

    But good try, you sanctimonious arse.

  • Nick Mailer

    I remember telling you at the time to turn down such trips. Glad in retrospect you agree.

  • Matt Dovey

    How long before the GMAs start handing out an award for the journalist who has the highest Metacritic average for submitted reviews?
    “Congratulations go to… Stupid McShill, who rated games an average of 93% this year!”

  • Mupps

    Mr Walker,
    My apologies for the delay in responding to your points.
    Have you informed the organisers that RPS won’t be taking part in the awards this year? And as to the charge of sanctimony; you were there first so I must, perforce, yield the ground to you.
    I have the pleasure to remain…

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