LOS ANGELES--The third time might have been the charm for G-Phoria, the televised video game awards show from the G4 network. The show is scheduled to air on August 9, but tonight's taping already revealed the award winners across more than 20 different categories. This preemptive announcement may seem odd, but probably less so for those who physically attended G-Phoria on the warm summer evening of July 27, since many of them weren't there for the games at all. Though it was another in a series of increasingly common Hollywood/gaming crossover events, this year's G-Phoria seemed focused simply on showing its audience a good time rather than making everybody sit still through dry pageantry. The result was a densely packed and upbeat industry mixer, filled with recognizable faces from both sides, not to mention one big smoking section and an open bar.
More than a thousand people turned up at G-Phoria, which kicked off under a fortuitously warm Los Angeles sunset in an outdoor venue. Musical acts by The Bravery, G-Unit's Tony Yayo, and the Black Eyed Peas punctuated the festivities, warming up the crowd and surely justifying the night out for some portion of the audience. The same stage used by these bands was also the setting for the G-Phoria awards, hosted by Wilmer Valderrama of That '70s Show fame (looking all tough with his stubble and leather jacket). There were also numerous other celebs present like Rick Schroder and William Shatner. The award show itself seemed to be deliberately low-key, so as not to disrupt the partylike atmosphere. Long lapses between relatively brief award segments--in which the winners of each category were quickly but excitedly declared, no acceptance speeches or anything--further prevented much of anybody in the crowd from getting into what was happening onstage. Besides, game industry vets were difficult to pick out of the crowd, which was a far cry from what you'd expect to see at, say, the Game Developers' Choice Awards.
There was a lot going on offstage anyway. The crowd contained people from all walks of the game industry, as well as demi-celebrities like Jason Mewes and Ron Jeremy. Partygoers could often be overheard comparing notes on their celebrity sightings of the evening (we wondered whether the celebrities were equally excited about seeing their favorite game industry professionals). A large contingent of LA scenesters padded out the crowd, eventually creating a jam-packed environment that began to disperse a little after 10pm, but kept going pretty strong till the event winded down about a couple of hours later.
There were about two dozen different games throughout the venue, all playable in kiosks (a few PSP titles were leashed to models moseying around, who seemed to generate many more flirtatious advances than genuine interest in the games to which they were tied). Last year, G-Phoria scored id Software's blockbuster Doom 3 a few precious days before it shipped, so that was a tough act to follow. But this year's G-Phoria still featured plenty of highly anticipated games, many of which were shown in newly updated form, such as Ubisoft's King Kong (based on the upcoming Peter Jackson film), displayed in playable format and for the PS2 for the first time; Sony's Shadow of the Colossus, a visually impressive PS2 action adventure game; and Sega's Condemned: Criminal Origins, a gritty first-person action game for the Xbox 360. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, hailed by many as Game of the Show at this year's E3, was also on display, and much easier to get to than it was at E3 (what with no two-hour lines here). Other highlights included Vivendi's PC first-person shooter F.E.A.R. and EA's racing game Burnout: Revenge, as well as several Nintendo DS titles like Nintendogs, Castlevania, and Mario Kart.
Though this year's G-Phoria didn't exactly roll out the red carpet for the game development community, instead setting its sights on pleasing Hollywood's legions who gave it the time of day, it managed to generate a lively environment that perhaps will come across better than past televised video game award shows when it airs early next month.