When The Game Awards start cranking out trinkets and marketing tomorrow night, you'll be able to watch the whole shebang from within an official "metaverse experience" in game-making platform Core. Launched on Monday, it's named Axial Tilt, and what I played of it ahead of the live in-game event is rubbish. This is exactly what I have come to expect from the ongoing "metaverse" gold rush: marketing wrapped in a bad video game.
A press release from The Game Awards describe Axial Tilt as "an interactive world that serves as a metaverse hub for programming and events hosted by Geoff Keighley." I describe it as a bad game where you run around grinding resource nodes to get materials to power up abilities to grind better and craft powercells to do... something? You can also play minigames like a version of The Floor Is Lava which is too laggy to work. I'm reminded of Nike's official Roblox game.
Live events will come as The Game Awards draw nearer, mind. Axial Tilt will host a virtual red carpet before the show, you'll be able to watch them on the in-game cinema, you can win skins by guessing winers, and an afterparty with "a special guest DJ" will close out the night. But right now, it's grinding World Of Warcraft mining and a crafting system so miserable it lets you pay to skip the six hours of real-time waiting it takes to spit out a powercell.
"I'm always on the lookout for exciting new ways to bring The Game Awards to new audiences," head honch Geoff Keighley said. "The emergence of new metaverse platforms like Core, and the social experiences they enable around live events, presented an amazing opportunity to give fans a new interactive way to enjoy the show. And considering it's a show about interactive entertainment, it felt like a perfect fit."
It really does feel like a perfect fit, though not in the way he means. The Game Awards is a ludicrous exercise which aches for video games to receive the same sort of highbrow mainstream recognition as cinema, and somehow thinks the way to accomplish this is showing adverts. The awards are bad too (as are all awards not given out by us, obvs). It seems perfectly fitting for The Game Awards to launch a shallow and boring experience inside one of the platforms which mutters about "the metaverse" while trying to chase Roblox's success.
When companies like Epic Games and Facebook talk about "the metaverse", what they're hoping to call into being is an advertising and sales platform under their control. They present it as a utopian vision, but it's not for our benefit.
Axial Tilt is made by a team including Chad Mustard, the brother of Epic Games chief creative officer Donald Mustard. Epic have invested millions of dollars in Core, and it's built upon their Unreal Engine too. And Donald will present a trophy at The Game Awards, so I guess he's presenting a trophy inside Core as well. A big jumble of connections.
Anyway. The Game Awards start at 5pm Pacific on Thursday the 9th, which is 1am Friday for us here in the UK. As well as inside Core, you'll be able to watch them on YouTube, Twitch, and a half-dozen other streaming platforms. Perfunctory awards aside, the show will bring big news and big trailers for big games.