Inside Geoff Keighley's Ever-Growing Game Awards: 'I Took a Lot of Arrows in My Back'

Former Spike TV presenter wants nothing less than to create an Oscars for video games, and he's well on his way

In one form or another, Geoff Keighley has been involved in the games media since he was 12. Credit: Image: Glixel/Photo: Jill Greenberg

Anyone who's followed video games for a while has probably developed an opinion on Geoff Keighley. To most, he's simply the guy who used to host the Spike TV Video Game Awards, a show whose pandering, tone-deaf production alienated its audience as often as not. To others, he's the dude from that Doritos meme, the "sell-out" who represents everything wrong with enthusiast journalism. 

Longtime gamers might even remember Keighley from his stint as a host on the now-defunct cable channel G4, or from his extensive work in print and online games journalism work over the years, or from one of his many, many other hosting gigs. But Keighley himself wants to be remembered for one thing: the Game Awards, which air live on December 1st on pretty much every streaming platform imaginable. Unlike the awards shows he's been involved in previously – which were backed by the likes of Spike TV and G4 – the Game Awards are all Keighley. He put his own money down, and he pounded the pavement to get all the moving parts, from sponsors to talent, in place.

"I don't think a lot about the past. That stuff feels so long ago now," Keighley tells Glixel. "There will always be the Doritos and the Mountain Dew memes and jokes, but hopefully my legacy will be something like this ... the show is a legacy that I hope will outlive even me."

Keighley is at his shared office space in Playa Vista, California, and he's calm despite the enormous pressure. There are a million things he needs to do: confirm that talent like Michael Phelps, Hideo Kojima and Run the Jewels are going to show up; solidify deals with big gaming companies as well as non-gaming sponsors like 20th Century Fox and Schick Hydro; check and re-check the various trailers and premieres that will play in Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater. Keighley leads a team of hundreds from all corners of the gaming and entertainment industries, and busy-looking people bustle past the glass meeting room walls.

The first Game Awards in 2014 drew nearly two million viewers, according to Keighley, while the second had around seven million in 2015. With the Game Awards 2016 airing on more platforms than ever (including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, Twitch, YouTube, Snapchat, China's Tencent, virtual reality platform NextVR and Twitter, where it will be the first award show broadcast live on that platform), Keighley's hoping that number will soar even higher.

"I think a lot of people are like 'Oh, well, does it get easier now?' and it's like no, three years in, a week away from the show, and we're still sweating," Keighley says. "It's still me taking a massive risk every year on it."