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Geoff Keighley let video game developers down

Geoff Keighley let video game developers down

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During The Game Awards, Geoff Keighley failed to acknowledge the prolific and devastating layoffs that have rocked the industry.

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The Game Awards 2019 - Show
Photo by JC Olivera / Getty Images

At this point, you cannot talk about how amazing 2023 has been for the quality of games released this year without also mentioning how it’s been utterly disastrous for the people who made them. But that’s exactly what Geoff Keighley did during this year’s Game Awards.

The numbers vary, but estimates say anywhere between six and seven thousand workers have lost their jobs just this year. No level of studio size or success has been spared. And those who have been let go are now being forced to contend for an ever-dwindling number of open job postings.

“This has been one of the most volatile periods in the games industry in the last 15 years,” said Jakin Vela, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, in an interview with Polygon.

To be clear, Geoff Keighley isn’t responsible for these layoffs, and layoffs are an unfortunate but regular part of this and many other industries. But with the platform Keighley has, he does have a duty to his audience to recognize the conditions under which the games his events celebrate are made. He’s done it before.

In 2021, when Activision Blizzard was hit with a harassment suit by the state of California, Keighley took to X (formerly Twitter) to say the company wouldn’t make an appearance at the show, writing on X, “There is no place for abuse, harassment or predatory practices in any company or any community.”

In that same thread, he also recognized the power and visibility of his platform.

“I also realize we have a big platform which can accelerate and inspire change,” he posted. “We are committed to that, but we all need to work together to build a better and a more inclusive environment so everyone feels safe to build the world’s best games.”

Throughout this year’s awards show, Keighley and developers spoke about the impact video games have on our culture and their radical ability to change minds and broaden perspectives. (Inasmuch as the show’s organizers would allow developers to speak before playing them off or, in one case, cutting them off entirely.) Ostensibly, The Game Awards is about celebrating video games and recognizing the achievements of the people who made them.

Video games don’t get made without people, and those people are suffering right now at a heretofore unseen scale. To not memorialize that at all, even after acknowledging the power of his position, is, at best, an abdication of the responsibility of his platform if not outright cowardice. It’s a state all the more disappointing since Keighley has already demonstrated that he does pay attention to the wider video game community beyond hyping up “world premieres” and paling around with his industry besties — and Muppets.