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How Weta Designs, Welds Game Awards Trophy

Cast of zinc alloy pieces then welded together, hand-polished and painted, much like the Game Awards itself, the trophy handed out to honorees during the annual show is a product of intensive iteration, artful design, and loving craftsmanship.

Show founder Geoff Keighley worked with Weta Workshop in the lead-up to the first Game Awards in 2014 to come up with an iconic design for the trophy, one meant to both honor the game industry and highlight its storied past, present and hopeful future.

This isn’t the first award that Weta Workshop — best-known for its meticulously designed movie props and special effects — designed. The company designed and built a number of awards over the years, though primarily for events in New Zealand where the company is based. But it was the work the company did for Valve’s 2012 Dota 2 esports event, known as The International, that captured Keighley’s attention. For that award, the design group came up with an Aegis Shield made of bronze, leather and electroplated silver.

When it came to the trophy for the Game Awards, Keighley asked the company to create something that was both recognizable and aspirational.
“It had to feel transformative from old to new, representing where the gaming industry had come from,” the company tells Variety in an email. “The design had to look distinctive, but didn’t need to be figurative.”

Weta Workshop senior designers Steve Lambert and Leri Greer led the project and from the get-go they knew they wanted to create a design that matched the grandeur and weight of the awards show.

“A key challenge was to create a digital and prismatic twist on a classic shape, while retaining a sense of timelessness,” Weta says in a statement. “Following the brief, Steve and Leri provided a broad spectrum of ideas through an extensive concepting phase, working with Geoff to see which designs resonated the most. Steve and Leri wanted the award to have a timeless quality; not rooted in one particular game era or artistic style. The statue was to have a sense of classic style but wouldn’t feel out of place as a video game design.”

The process included quite a bit of back and forth and ultimately about 100 designs before the final was selected. While the core concept of transitioning from pixels and sprites to 3D volumes remained in most designs, some other ideas included illumination or were cast in stone or rusted metal.

The final product, though, is cast of a polished zinc alloy and depicts an angel rising to the heavens out of digital blocks of land.

“This award design captures a sense of progress, achievement, and an aspiring leap forward,” Weta says. “It tells an aspirational story, symbolizing the journey of early video games to where video games aspire to be in future. The award will hopefully inspire people to further reach for the stars and create unique worlds going forwards.”

Once the shape, silhouette and color were locked in, Weta Workshop created a 3D model of the award, 3D printed a prototype and sent it off to Keighley for final approval.

“I’m so proud of Weta’s trophy design,” Keighley tells Variety. “It’s respectful, aspirational and timeless. When I saw the final trophy, I felt like I had a hand in creating something that will carry over for generations. The trophy suggests there is an unlimited potential and momentum for video games, and that’s what makes game so exciting. Since we sit at the intersection of technology and entertainment, the games only keep getting better every year.”

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