If you needed any further evidence that these are strange times we live in, a video game has just satisfied the qualifications to be nominated for an Oscar – and not the game itself, but the trailer. L.A-based artist David O’Reilly’s Everything – a video game premised on the player’s ability to play as anything (even poop) in the physical world – just scored a Jury Prize for Animation at the VIS Vienna Shorts Festival, and subsequently added to a “longlist” of potential nominees for an Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Short Film.
The simulation game, which was released for PS4 in March and desktop systems in April, allows players to assume the role of anything visible in the open-world environment, from wildlife and plants down to the sub-atomic level. On their decision to select Everything for the Jury Prize for Animation, VIS jurors said the game “serves a highly educational purpose, including an important political statement, that encourages to let our egos dissolve and gain a new perspective on the world.” If included among the final Academy Awards nominees, Everything will mark a milestone for the video game and animation communities alike with access to the prestigious annual event.
Cool: Everything just qualified for an Academy Award, making it the first time this has happened to a game/interactive project pic.twitter.com/5SQVD9s960
— David OReilly (@davidoreilly) June 7, 2017
The announcement that the game’s trailer could be lined up for an Oscar nomination comes shortly after controversy last month at Cannes Film Festival, at which two Netflix titles – Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories and Bong Joon-Ho’s Okja – were nominated. The festival followed up criticism to including streaming service-exclusive films with a decision to include only those with a theatrical release for future festivals.
Given the type of resistance to unlikely contenders at Cannes, will the filmmaking elite show the same kind of animus to the inclusion of video game titles at their closely guarded award ceremonies? Or will it be celebrated by moviegoers and gamers in the same way as when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time video games were given the cold shoulder. In 2014, ESPN president John Skipper commented that competitive gaming was not something the sports channel would be interested in covering as it is “not a sport,” but rather a “competition,” like chess or checkers. Seven months later, the network commenced the first of many eSports broadcasts in an unprecedented move to open up the network to online gaming audiences.
Similarly, if awards ceremonies wish to promote films that are an accurate reflection of our times, they may need to go back to the drawing board and revise the rulebook. In doing so, perhaps today’s visual storytellers will work even harder in creating more compelling ideas that engage audiences, breaking the mould of formulaic, award-winning ‘sure bets’ and steering filmmaking into an exciting future. While only time will tell, Everything could be the spark to make this change happen.