The DICE Awards’ co-hosts discuss surprise jobs, imposter syndrome, and a safe space for developers
Greg Miller knew he was going to get a win at The Game Awards 2015. He didn’t know he was going to get a new job too.
Earlier that year, Miller and a few of his friends founded an independent production company and podcast network called Kinda Funny. They focused their videos and podcasts on video games and pop culture, their efforts largely funded through fan support on Patreon.
And as far as Miller could tell, a lot of the same people who’d crowdfunded his way out of IGN were showing their appreciation in other ways too. He was nominated in the Trending Gamer category at the 2015 Game Awards, host Geoff Keighley’s annual celebration of the best of the best in the video game industry. And because the results of that category were to be determined by fan votes, he knew that things were looking good.
Barring a last-minute surge by MonteCristo or PewDiePie fans, Miller knew he was going to win.
And sure enough, about 37 minutes into the two-hour-long show, Shawn Layden, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, took the stage and announced Miller’s victory.
It’s what happened next that landed him a new job.
Knowing that he was about to win allowed Miller some time to prepare. And his preparation was all about deflecting the attention away from himself. In his acceptance speech, he was appreciative. He was grateful. He was also entirely unwilling to soak in all of the spotlight.
Miller laughs about it now.
“This is when they didn’t have speech timers,” Miller told us, “and I got up there and ranted for a long time about how much game developers meant to me and the subtext of it: how unfair it was that I was getting an award where thousands of the hundreds of thousands of game developers don’t. People don’t even know their names. They don’t even know what they did.”
About a year later, representatives from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) got in touch with an offer: to be that appreciative guy while hosting the DICE Awards, the annual celebration for the video game industry by the video game industry.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God!’,” Miller said. “That’s such an honor of course. And so that’s been what it’s been for now seven years, technically, but eight shows, right? Where it’s the idea of…it is about celebrating these people, because I think there is nothing better than the, ‘Hey, you did a great job. This is one of my favorite games. This is your best performance yet, and it’s coming from the people who made the games you also love.’”
The DICE Summit
The DICE Awards are a product of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, which was founded in 2010 with a mission “to advance an inclusive worldwide interactive entertainment creative and business community through collaboration, education, and professional development.” It’s all there in the name of the event, which is an acronym for design, innovate, communicate, and entertain.
The award show is the capstone to the DICE Summit, which is taking place this year at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas from February 13-15.
Video game makers from around the world gather at the annual DICE Summit to meet, network, learn, and celebrate the industry.
On the fun networking side this year, there’s a poker tournament, a three-hour Dungeons & Dragons session sponsored by Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian Studios and D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. Also a go-kart competition.
But there are many more serious sessions too.
Some will wrestle with the rise of AI in games and whether that’s a good thing. Others will tackle accessibility, funding, and launching new games in a world filled with popular old ones.
And then, at 8 PM PST on Thursday, February 15, in the Ironwood Ballroom are the 27th annual DICE Awards with its hosts Greg Miller of Kinda Funny Games and Stella Chung of IGN.
The DICE Awards
Because the DICE Awards are a capstone of an industry event, they’re different from other video game award shows. As Keighley recently told us, he works all year on The Game Awards, even helping studios with the trailers that they hope to premiere during the end-of-year event. The DICE Awards have no trailers. There are no awards for things like Trending Gamer because that’s outside of the show’s remit.
The rules and procedures for voting in the DICE Awards are 16 pages long and were developed by the AIAS’s board of directors. They choose categories, accept submissions, and narrow down the list of submissions to an average of five nominees in each category.
This is one of the things that sets the DICE Awards apart. People from within the industry with relevant knowledge and experience vote at every step of the selection process. For example, active creative/technical, business, and affiliate members of the AIAS are eligible to vote in broad categories like Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement for an Independent Game, while creative/technical members can also vote on awards that they’re uniquely qualified to criticize. For example, game designers and producers can vote on Outstanding Achievement in Story while audio designers and musicians can vote in categories like Outstanding Achievement in Original Musical Composition.
If The Game Awards are something like the People’s Choice Awards, in which the general public votes for a winner, then the DICE Awards are more akin to the video game industry’s version of the Oscars, in which the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—people who make movies, in other words—award their peers.
You can even hear that in the tone of AIAS President Meggan Scavio when she speaks of it.
“We’re excited to honor each and every one of our finalists at the 27th Annual DICE Awards," Scavio told us. “Each of the selected games have captivated us with their ingenuity, technical innovation, and storytelling. A big thank you to all of our peer panelists, who have dedicated their time and expertise in judging and selecting our nominees; to all of our members for their time in voting for the winners; and to our co-hosts, Greg and Stella, for all their hard work hosting the ceremony.”
And that brings us back to Greg Miller, who does not make video games, which might make him seem like an odd choice to host an event like this. But it’s actually the spirit and attitude that he displayed in his 2015 Game Awards acceptance speech that got the AIAS interested. They were considering going in a new direction with the ceremony, and Miller more or less summed that up with his actions.
And just like that, the collaboration began. Miller suggested working with Mike Drucker, a writer with credits that include The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and, perhaps more importantly, Up at Noon with Greg Miller.
That first year presented tons of challenges from getting the tone right to learning how to act as a host onstage, which is different than what he’s used to.
“Usually I’m just podcasting, right?” Miller said. “So I can rant and I can rave and I can do whatever, and I can double back and make fun of it. And this was like, ‘Oh, like, we need to do it this way.’ And I think if you were to go back and look at all the monologues, you see me get comfortable up there again, in terms of like, OK, not only can I hit the script no problem, but then it’s about ad-libbing, then it is about ad-libbing too much, too little.”
A new partnership
He established the vibe in both the script and the ad-libs. The early years are over. This will be Miller’s eighth year hosting, and he’s returning with a co-host who couldn’t vibe more with him or the tone of the show: Stella Chung of IGN, the DICE Awards’ exclusive streaming partner.
And Stella’s there at Greg’s recommendation.
“When Greg had recommended me to the DICE folks, I was very surprised, and I was like, ‘Oh, what? Why would you do that?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, I think you’re great!’ So I was like alright—this is awesome.”
Chung had been a guest on Kinda Funny shows, and Miller was impressed with her willingness to give as good as she took. He fully admits that part of his online persona is a lot like a wrestling heel—an agent of chaos who is there to cause mischief with the person next to him. Chung rolled with the verbal punches and responded with some of her own. Miller loved it, calling her a “natural babyface”—a wrestling good guy and the perfect foil for his silliness.
And that explains how Stella Chung wound up the host of the DICE Awards at her first DICE Awards. Hearing her talk about it, you can sense the excitement and gratitude in her voice.
“Obviously I felt a lot of imposter syndrome the first time, but after going through the jokes, the monologue, I was like, ‘Oh, this is awesome. This is very much not what I expected it to be.' I figured it was going to be a very straightforward show, but it definitely wasn’t.”
A big part of what put her at ease and countered the imposter syndrome was the simple act of attending the conference and interacting with its attendees.
“So last year, since it was my first DICE, I was like, ‘Hey, I would love to go and attend the actual panels and see what that’s like.’ And it was really nice being able to bond with some of the people because it’s not like those conventions where it’s like a meet and greet with developers or whatever.
“It was very chill, everyone was very nice, and it was a safe space for developers,” Chung said. “And I think that was the biggest thing that I felt from DICE. Everyone felt respected, and it was just one of those weird moments where you’re like, ‘Oh, this is a very nice time.’
“Everyone respects each other. Everyone kind of knows each other. And if not, they’re getting to know each other. And it was really nice.”
Part of what makes the DICE Awards show different is that it’s way more permissive than its contemporaries. It absorbs the reality and context of the DICE Summit. It begins, technically, with a happy hour an hour before the show. The days of networking and wrestling with industry contretemps are nearly over. It’s time to celebrate and have fun. And Chung loves that she can just straight up say what might be on everyone’s mind.
“You could speak about what was happening in the games industry at the time,” she said. “You could make jokes about it. And like Greg said, you could curse, which is like the best thing ever.”
In fact, she likes it so much that she thinks that other award ceremonies should learn from it.
“And I, after having experienced it, I thought: Why isn’t this the standard? Not to speak ill about The Game Awards, but for the longest time, I thought, as a streamer and as a viewer, I was like, ‘Oh, the Game Awards are really cool. That’s how award shows should be.’ But then once I realized the format of DICE was so interesting because it actually focused on the people who make our games rather than the people who consume them, I was like, this gives you way more merit to speak on the games and vote for the games because you know how much technical effort goes into all of this stuff better than any of us could ever know.
“We just talk about video games and why we like them. So I was like, ‘This is awesome. This should be kind of a standard going forward.’”
Speaking with Miller and Chung, it’s obvious that they share enormous amounts of respect for each other and the industry that they’re soon serving.
You can hear Greg Miller and Stella Chung host and almost certainly occasionally swear during the DICE Awards, which are streaming live on IGN at 8 PM PST on Thursday, February 15, 2024.