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The DICE Awards show is the celebration developers and fans deserve

The Baldur’s Gate 3 developers won Game of the Year, again, during the 27th annual DICE Awards. But in stark contrast to their 2023 Game Awards win, this time they actually got to speak.

“We don’t have shareholders, but we also don’t think about them,” said Larian Studios head of production David Walgrave. “Building a community, building a player base, building games that are actually fun is going to make you the most money.”

His words were a direct shot at Embracer Group CEO Lars Wingefors, who said during a recent earnings report that the company’s “overruling principle is to always maximize shareholder value in any given situation.”

Baldur’s Gate 3 has been crowned game of the year several times over, with its previous game of the year honor coming from Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards.

The 2023 Game Awards boasted millions of viewers and is frequently one of the most-watched gaming shows of the year. But on one of the largest, most visible platforms in the industry, Larian Studios CEO Swen Vincke didn’t have the chance to say much before a teleprompter encouraged him to “wrap it up.”

Onstage at the DICE event, his colleagues’ acceptance speech lasted for several minutes, allowing multiple members of the BG3 team the time to acknowledge the abysmal state of the industry while offering developers hope.

“Many, many people were let go at the start of this year,” said director of publishing Michael Douse. “I want you all to know that you are talented, and that you matter, and that you are the future of this industry.”

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The DICE Awards (short for Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) are put on by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences — basically the video game industry’s equivalent to the motion picture, television, and recording industry academies — making the event the video game version of the Oscars. However, The DICE Awards don’t get the same level of attention as their entertainment counterparts or even The Game Awards, lacking an equal level of production value and visibility — after all, it’s an industry event attended by industry people for industry people.

But it’s the better show by far.

Because there’s nowhere else that you’ll hear a scathing joke about the Embracer Group’s status as the premier villain of the video game industry while one of its companies — Gearbox Software — is a corporate member of the Academy.

Unity wasn’t spared either, even though it was also an event sponsor:

Beyond excoriating some of the companies responsible for 2023 being one of the worst years in recent memory for video game industry labor, DICE was also about celebrating industry legends. Mario and The Legend of Zelda composer Koji Kondo was inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame with a tribute that paid homage to Kondo’s iconic music and legendary career.

And even if a developer wasn’t receiving hall of fame honors, it was nice to see them have the time and space to be human, to remind us that the people who work on video games deserve acknowledgment as much as the games they make.

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The reason why The Game Awards take up so much attention is because it’s a showcase of games, trailers, and movie stars. It’s a giant ad. And because it’s an ad, beholden to sponsors, during the rare moments when it does have a statement to make, it makes them as vague and inoffensive as possible.

We watch the Oscars and the Grammys because, over time, our culture has come to hold the people making the movies and the music in the same esteem as the product. But game developers, outside of Hideo Kojima, don’t yet and will likely never have that level of esteem — so we pay more attention to the product, not the people.

The DICE Awards remind us of the people.

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