'Oblivion,' 'War' rule at Spike video game awards

Ceremony 'more gamer-focused'

Bethesda Softworks' Xbox 360 game "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" took the top prizes at Spike TV's fourth annual Video Game Awards and scored five wins overall, including game of the year and most addictive.

Hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, the VGAs were held Friday at USC's new Galen Center in Los Angeles. The ceremony will air at 10 p.m. Wednesday on Spike TV.

"This show is more or less a fan show that we can validate the games that they play the most, preview the games that are coming out next year and get excitement built up about the hottest games," said Jackson, who said he is hooked on EA Sports' "Tiger Woods Golf."

Another Xbox 360 game, Epic Games' "Gears of War," nabbed four awards, including studio of the year and best multiplayer game. LucasArts' "Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy" won the best game based on a movie or TV show.

In the acting categories, Patrick Stewart earned best performance by a human/male for his performance in "Oblivion," and Vida Guerra took home the award in the female category for her role in Vivendi Games' "Scarface: The World Is Yours." James Gandolfini's performance in THQ's "The Sopranos: Road to Respect" earned him the supporting male performance, and Rachel Leigh Cook's role in Square Enix's "Kingdom Hearts II" won supporting female performance.

2K Games' "Family Guy" game won the cast award.

Gamers were able to vote online for the Gamers' Choice Breakthrough Performance award, which went to Rosario Dawson for Atari's "Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure," and the Gamers' Choice Character of the Year award, which went to Jack Sparrow, thanks to Johnny Depp's portrayal in Bethesda Softworks' "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow."

The VGAs featured a live performance by Jack Black — who won several awards last year for Ubisoft's "Peter Jackson's King Kong" video game — and Kyle Gass as Tenacious D. The band AFI, which was nominated for best song for "Summer Shudder" from "Madden NFL 07," also performed during the show. And in a first for the awards show, Sarah Silverman performed a live comedy routine focused on video games.

"Last year was very celebrity-focused; this year we were more about listening to the fans and what they wanted to see," said Casey Patterson, executive producer of the VGAs and senior vp event production and talent development at Spike TV. "This year is less about just putting names onstage and more about world premieres of new games. The production value has exploded, and this a bigger venue. It's a little less Hollywood and more gamer-focused."

That didn't mean there weren't plenty of celebrities to walk the red carpet Friday, many of whom were nominated for their performances in games. Actors including Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns"), Cook, Seth Green ("Family Guy"), Daniel Dae Kim ("Lost"), Eva Mendes ("Hitch"), Maria Menounos ("One Tree Hill"), Emmanuelle Vaugier ("CSI: NY"), Masi Oka and Hayden Penettiere ("Heroes") and the cast of "Reno 911!: Miami" attended the event. "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane served as the voice of the VGAs.

Method Man, Michelle Branch, 50 Cent, Xzibit and Tyrese also were on hand to represent the music industry.

Patterson said the VGAs have a passionate group of celebrities who are not just interested in lending voices to games but also are opening up their own game studios, such as Vin Diesel, John Woo and Peter Jackson.

"I think shows like the VGAs, where you see a lot of Hollywood people presenting, there's a mutual feeling on both sides that they want to merge," said writer-director Eli Roth ("Hostel"). "Gamers enjoy the glamour of Hollywood, and the Hollywood people see a new creative template for actors, writers and directors to explore."

Samuel L. Jackson, who previously worked on "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," spent some of his time on the red carpet talking about his new "Afro Samurai" project, which includes an animated TV show, video game and live-action film. He said he has other video game projects in the works.

"Games are definitely a recognized genre," said Oka, a computer programmer at Industrial Light + Magic as well as an actor on NBC's hit show. "It's a big form of entertainment. It drives the market in many ways."

In an effort to add interactivity to the show, celebrities were able to play game-of-the-year nominee "Half-Life 2" online in the green room through Viacom-owned game site Xfire.com. Routh, Xzibit and the cast of "Reno 911!: Miami" were among the attendees who spent time gaming backstage.

Electronic Arts offered offline games "Madden NFL 07" on Xbox 360 and "NFL Street 3" on PlayStation 2 for celebrities to play while they watched the show and waited for their turn onstage. Verizon Wireless also was on hand with an assortment of V Cast mobile phones that played 3-D games.

Presenters were offered an assortment of video games to take home, including Activision's "Guitar Hero II," a favorite among the celebrities, and the recently released Burger King Xbox 360 games.
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