Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Panettiere and Brandon Routh Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Panettiere and Brandon Routh

A diverse group of celebrities that included Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), Heroes' Masi Oka and Hayden Panettiere, gravity-defying skateboarder Tony Hawk, and Deal or No Deal's Trisha Kara (aka case No. 9) turned out for Spike TV's 2006 Video Game Awards, held last Friday at the University of Southern California's Galen Center in Los Angeles. Samuel L. Jackson, who stars in Home of the Brave (set for a limited release on Dec. 15) hosted the kudosfest, which airs tonight on Spike at 10 pm/ET.

How has gaming evolved such that it's earned its own awards show? On the red carpet, Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer for Epic Games (winner of the Studio of the Year award), told, "Gaming is where you can be the hero, wear the boots of a soldier and wield the sword of a mighty warrior. To me, that's more powerful than anything, and I think it's why gaming is being so embraced by this generation."

If you plan to watch tonight's show, and don't want any winners spoiled for you, skip the next three paragraphs.

The big winner of the night was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which took home five honors, including Game of the Year and Best Performance by a Human, Male (Patrick Stewart of the X-Men titles).

Hawk, who nabbed the award for Best Individual Sports Game (Tony Hawk Project 8), says finding a place for his trophy may be a moot point since the award often goes to the game's producers and/or designers. But that's OK with him. "They work way more hours on it than I do," he noted.

The cast of Family Guy won for the video game titled (what else?) Family Guy, by 2K Games. Show creator and voice artist Seth MacFarlane was on hand to accept, since he was lending his talents as "Voice of the VGAs." Watch for host Jackson and "Stewie Griffin" (MacFarlane) to share some funny and typical Stewie-like confrontational banter throughout the show, a highlight of the evening.

Pre-show, on the red carpet, Sam Jackson indicated that he's more obsessed with his golf game than any button-mashing video venture. He then shared with us his enthusiasm for his other snake film, Black Snake Moan, starring Brittany Murphy. "It’s going to open in Sundance, and I’m excited about that," he smiled. "It’s different... kind of sexy... kind of hot."

Speaking of kind of sexy and hot, Jericho's Candace Bailey walked the carpet with Family Guy's Seth Green, who is also the creative force behind Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken. Green told us he likes playing a jerk version of himself on Entourage. "I have a reputation for being an affable guy, so [playing] an intentional a--hole is kind of funny." Will he appear on the HBO comedy next season? "I don't know," he shrugged. "They haven't written those scripts yet."

Hayden Panettiere admitted to being one of the few celebrities present who isn't into gaming. "My brother, Jansen [age 12], does," she says. After said sibling shared his affinity for Tony Hawk, Panettiere said with a trace of big-sisterly skepticism, "Well, he just met Tony Hawk. But my boyfriend likes the football games and the NBA Live thing."

Is going down the red carpet a different experience for Panettiere now that Heroes has become a breakout hit? "Oh, yes," she nodded. "I used to get pushed away — ‘Excuse me! Client coming through!' — but now, I'm taken care of a little bit more."

Masi Oka says the Heroes production schedule has seriously cut into his gaming time. "It used to be pretty intense," he shared. "I led a guild [in] World of Warcraft."

Later, in the press room, Oka faced intense probing about what's coming up on Heroes. The actor couldn't give away any secrets, but he promised that the program's die-hard viewers won't have to wait forever for answers. "Our show is good [about that]," he assures. "We'll deliver." Panettiere, regarding her own story line — namely, her possible crush for Peter — coyly claimed to not know if love is in the air: "You guys will find that out when we come back [from hiatus]. You’ll find out even more interesting things."

The Video Game Awards show certainly delivered on musical acts, featuring performances by Tenacious D and AFI. Working HIV and AIDS into a comedy routine is always a risky move, but foulmouthed funny lady Sarah Silverman gave it a shot, telling the gaming crowd that they're celibate "g-a-y-mers," and that they should get an award for their "work in AIDS prevention."

Routh, who was sporting what appeared to be a wedding band on his left ring finger, says that his nuptials with Courtney Ford are actually set for next year. Don't people assume that the ring means he's already hitched? "A couple of people [ask]," the Man of Steel told "But nobody jumps to conclusions."

The unofficial award for self-proclaimed "biggest nerd" of the night went to Kevin Pereira, cohost of Attack of the Show, which airs on G4. "I'm not here to be on the red carpet," proclaimed Pereira, "but to see my friends who are developers of video games that are nominated. As soon as I hear CliffyB or Gears of War, I'm going to scream like a Japanese schoolgirl at the top of her lungs. It will drown out everybody."

Game on!

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