The DICE Awards show is the celebration that developers and fans deserve

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

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

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

Baldur’s Gate 3 has been crowned Game of the Year multiple times, with the previous Game of the Year honor coming from Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards.

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

On stage at the DICE event, his colleagues’ acceptance speech lasted several minutes, leaving several members of the BG3 team to acknowledge the dire state of the industry while offering hope to developers.

“Many, many people were laid off at the beginning of this year,” says publishing director Michael Douse. “I want you all to know that you are talented, that you matter, and that you are the future of this industry.”

The DICE Awards (short for Design Innovate Communicate Entertain) are presented by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences – essentially the video game industry’s equivalent to the film, television and recording industry academies – making the event the video game version of the Oscars. However, the DICE Awards do not receive the same level of attention as their entertainment counterparts or even The Game Awards, and lack an equal level of production value and visibility. After all, it is an industry event attended by industry people, for industry people.

But it is by far the better show.

Because nowhere else will you hear a scathing joke about the Embracer Group’s status as the video game industry’s biggest villain, while one of its companies – Gearbox Software – is a member of the Academy.

Unity was not spared either, even though it was also a sponsor of the event:

In addition to criticizing some of the companies responsible for making 2023 one of the worst years in recent history for labor in the video game industry, 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 celebrated Kondo’s iconic music and legendary career.

And even if a developer didn’t receive a Hall of Fame award, it was nice to see that they had the time and space to be human, reminding us that the people who work on video games deserve just as much recognition as the games that they make.

The reason why The Game Awards attracts so much attention is because it is a showcase of games, trailers and movie stars. It’s a huge ad. And because it’s an ad beholden to sponsors, in the rare moments when a statement does need to be made, it’s made as vague and inoffensive as possible.

We watch the Oscars and the Grammys because over time our culture has valued the people who make the movies and the music as much as the product. But game developers, outside of Hideo Kojima, don’t have that level of appreciation yet and probably never will. That’s why we pay more attention to the product, not to the people.

The DICE Awards remind us of the people.

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