Games

How the Game Awards 2018 ceremony was created

From sketches to the most important industry event of the year.

Back in 2014, the team of Jeff Kayle constantly faced with a lack of money for the implementation of all their ideas. However, now, four years later, the award ceremony of the Game Awards has become many times larger. The number of viewers, budget, scale – all this multiplied.

The fifth The Game Awards was watched by more than twenty-six million people – a number comparable to the last Oscars.

To find out how Kaylie managed to control such a huge show, the journalist Polygon talked to the presenter for half a year, tracking the production of the ceremony at all stages. For him, it was six months of sleepless nights, constant work and endless flights around the world.


photo: Polygon

July is the month when Kaylie “switches from E3 mode”. Every year at the beginning of the summer, he broadcasts on YouTube Gaming and organizes E3 Coliseum – one of the parts of the annual exhibition. The next month, usually begins work on The Game Awards.

This year he had to visit a huge number of states, cities and countries – all in order to discuss directly with the developers and publishers the announcements that they will be able to present on the show.

I have no desire to rest. I need to be there. I need to talk to people and find new games. […]

Perhaps I should have put together a bigger team to help me with such things. But I am something like a brand for the show – so I have to fly around the world and solve issues.

Then the rest of the team began its work. They discussed the last ceremony — which decisions were right and which were not; offered new ideas on how to develop the show this time. Many things needed to be approved immediately – for example, a venue. Microsoft Theater, which hosted the Game Awards this year, “had to be booked ideally for the year.”

There was a question about the necessary budget. As Kaylie said, this is a “matter of balance”: the show must grow, but it is undesirable to spend a lot of money.

This year, The Game Awards budget amounted to “many millions of dollars” – he did not mention the exact figure. All money received from publishers and sponsors.

All videos shown at The Game Awards are the result of collaboration between the developers and the ceremony teams. The authors of the games do not just send the file with the trailer – Kayle looks at each video clip and gives the creators tips on polishing it so that the announcement will take the heat.

I have a passion to make this show as good as possible.

By August, the team sketched out working concepts for the show. Kaylee had traveled all of America by that time, visited China and Japan, visiting 10 studios there – including Kojima Productions, Platinum Games and From Software.


photo: Polygon

The sketches included both new ideas and those that had to be abandoned. For example, it was only now possible to invite Hantz Zimmer – before the composer could not manage to make time. The team tried to work with Troy Baker since 2014 – but the actor still could not agree on his work schedule.

In August, the active production of The Game Awards began. According to Kaylie, “he spends a good half of the year just thinking about the ceremony.”

Almost 18 hours a day I work on the show – until December.

Since September, ideas and concepts have become a reality. In the early days of the month, Kaylee met with Leroy Bennett, the chief designer of the future scene, to discuss ideas. The designer’s work record includes working with musicians such as Nine Inch Nails or Paul McCartney.

There are specific things that should be [at the ceremony]. For example, a truly big screen for world premieres – so that people can see everything. Or the orchestra. All this must be taken into account when designing the scene.

However, some ideas had to be abandoned when they began to enter into the budget. Rent Microsoft Theather, orchestra – all this costs money. “You always dream of more than you can afford.”

In such cases, Kaylee usually resorts to the help of sponsors – but over the years the team has become more cautious about such things. For example, in 2016, The Game Awards were criticized for the ridiculous collaboration with Schick Hydro: during the breaks between the announcements, the camera switched to a person in a razor suit.

No, we didn’t think this was a great idea. We didn’t even want him there at all. But this was a sponsor, the company wanted to invest in the show – while many others refused.

In October, two months before the award ceremony, Kayle began making plans for nominations. All of them should have been announced next month, but by that time the voting among the jury had not even begun – all that remained was to be guessed. It was important at least to plan the musical accompaniment of the ceremony.

For example, God of War certainly nominated for “Game of the Year.” We discuss the music from all these games [for the show], but until November 13, when the nominations are announced, we cannot do anything.

In November, one month before The Game Awards, there was only more work. Communicating then with the staff in the office of the team, you could feel the enthusiasm with which they were charged – but besides him there was also a lot of stress. This was especially true for Kaylee himself and the executive producer and showrner Kimmy Kim, who helped him in many matters.

By the time Kaylie worked 19 hours a day, seven days a week.

With the advent of nominations, the team and the orchestra finally began to understand which tools would be needed, which songs would be used and which visual effects should be used when awarding. But due to the fact that all the announcements were kept secret until a certain time, no one, except Kaylee, could know this before time.

Shownerner Kim and the screenwriters had no idea about the commercials that will be shown at The Game Awards, before the day of the award. In the script, they were listed under code names and with the expected length.

Therefore, even a month before the show, the full form of The Game Awards existed only in Kaylee’s head. He was obsessed with them for six months.

Everything is perceived differently when there is a final date for which everything should be ready. “Great, I can do this next week” – no, it’s not. Rather, “everything should be ready precisely for the sixth of December.” […]

For example, I could now communicate with the company to agree on the appearance of one actor, but instead I give you an interview. All opportunities constantly have to weigh among themselves.

Kim helped him in many ways. She has a lot of experience: she participated in the production of the American Super Rugby Cup and the Oscar itself, but The Game Awards is a different case. At least, because of the different scale of production: Kaylee simply did not have as many resources as the Academy.

I constantly jokingly complained to Jeff that things are different in the gaming industry. Games are made for five or six years, companies count their time and resources.

If we say to someone: “We need a video from you by tomorrow,” then the answer will be like, “Nah, this is unlikely to happen.” It’s just that they are not ready for them, it is not perfect Therefore, they will not show us anything.

In December, the training came to the finish line. All this stress, meetings, regular flights will soon be a thing of the past – and by 2019, Kaylee will be free.

There is some strange calm in this when the show begins – because there is no turning back. I begin to feel at ease, because for months I sat at my telephone and computer, sorting things out. And suddenly you are on the air, all this is happening now, and the end will come here in two hours.

On December 5, the day before the show, the final preparations took place. The equipment was adjusted, issues with camera angles and column layout were resolved. The team was nervous, but most of all – Kaylie, who got up at five in the morning to start working. In his mailbox was more than 600 thousand letters.

So much more to do. You just want to know for sure that everyone is fine.

And now The Game Awards has finally begun. At six o’clock local time, Sean Leiden (Sony), Phil Spencer (Microsoft), and Regis Fise-Eime (Nintendo) took the stage together. According to Kaylie, the essence of the ceremony was precisely this – to put the rivalry aside, to the glory of the gaming industry. This is one of those moments for which the show appeared at all – it took Kaylie almost five years to make it happen.

Kaylie, looking at the camera, gives her speech. On the last words, his voice begins to tremble.

We did a great show for you guys. We’re going to start with a terrific performance by the orchestra under the managements of our great music director Lorna Balfe, with the participation of the legendary Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams. […] I can not believe this. Enjoy the ceremony.

A little more than three hours after Leiden, Fies-Eime and Spencer opened the fifth ceremony of The Game Awards, Kayle finally says goodbye to the public. From that moment on, he finally became free.

I had to sacrifice almost everything to make it happen. Sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. […] But by the fifth time, it seems to me, we finally overcame all the main difficulties.

As my friend Hideo Kojima reminds me, I love to create – and I will continue to create The Game Awards until I die.

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