'Chuck's' Zachary Levi: Spike's Video Game Awards Deserve Respect

6:39 PM PST 12/08/2011 by John Gaudiosi
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The actor and avid gamer believes game developers ought to be recognized as much as film and television creatives.

Chuck star Zachary Levi is the latest celebrity to host Spike TV’s Video Game Awards show, which will be broadcast live on December 10 at 8pm ET from Los Angeles. Levi, who is finishing the final season of Chuck, follows in the footsteps of famous gamers like Jack Black and Samuel L. Jackson as host of the event.

Mark Burnett (Survivor), executive producer of this year's ceremony, reached out to Levi to bring a gamers' sensibility to the show. The actor talks about the emergence of video games as an art form and the future of interactive entertainment in this exclusive interview.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Why did you decide to host this year’s VGAs?

Zachary Levi: I want to pay homage and tribute to all the developers and gaming companies that have continued to mold my own life and my entertainment.

THR: What role will celebrities play in the VGAs this year?

Levi: I personally don’t want it to be an awards show where it’s just about putting celebrities in there for celebrities’ sake. I’m hoping that the celebrities that I get are all people who have some kind of legitimate love or involvement in the world of gaming, as I do. That’s at least where I stand on it.

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THR: Do you believe the VGAs will eventually become for games what the Academy Awards or Emmys are for film and television?

Levi: I believe that if the VGAs continue to do right by the gaming community, be true to it, cater to gamers, and have that cool, fun, atmosphere, but respect for the genre itself, then they will just continue to gain respect as an awards show. I think it will ultimately have a resonance and a weight that some of the other more, I suppose, prestigious awards shows have now.

THR: How do you see the VGAs comparing to other awards shows you’ve been involved with?

Levi: A lot of it is just patting each other on the back, whatever the industry is, whether it’s the Emmys, the Oscars, or the Video Game Awards. I think one of the most important things is that it’s entertaining, fun, and pays tribute to those that have been continuing to lead the charge in whatever that medium is.

THR: How have you seen the importance of story evolve in gaming today?

Levi: Having a great story line is important because games are becoming more and more like these interactive movies that you spend a lot of your time with. I think the Uncharted games have done an incredible job at that. The guys at Naughty Dog have just continued to make a fantastic title. Obviously, Infinity Ward and Treyarch are constantly going back and forth and bringing us a lot of fun in their first-person world with Call of Duty games. And Bethesda (Softworks) continues to up the ante with the Elder Scrolls games like Oblivion and the new Skyrim.

THR: Now that you’re wrapping up Chuck, what’s next for you?

Levi: As somebody who works in entertainment and is an avid gamer, I have a lot of ideas. I really want to start making and bridging the gap between gaming entertainment and live action entertainment. I want to start making interactive shows where you’re watching actors like myself portray characters that, once we go into battle, you can be prompted to either opt-out or opt-in to controlling the outcome of that battle…almost like a choose your adventure.

That’s where I see the future going. The more interactive you can make entertainment, or even giving people options of passive or active entertainment, the better. I love what Kinect is doing. You don’t need a remote control anymore. You can either voice command or wave your hand around and be able to tap into wherever and whenever you want. It’s fascinating.

THR: Gamers have been streaming content in record numbers online. How do you see that impacting the future of television?

Levi: For years now, my philosophy has been that your television will only be a word for your monitor. It won’t be a service, necessarily, anymore. Everything will just be plugged in, as you’re going to be streaming everything. It’s going to open up and really broaden the world of entertainment for independent entertainment producers to be able to essentially make whatever they want to make and sell it directly to their fan base, which is going to be incredible. If they’re making something that’s good, people can find it and watch it.

THR: What does this mean for the current prime time television model?

Levi: Television will continue to exist in the model that we see it, but more and more it will become more about sporting events and reality competitions; things that people have to watch live. As an advertiser, more and more people are DVRing their programming or watching it online, you’re not getting your money out of the advertisement investment, so it’s going to change the model drastically.

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