In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
There’s a part of me that didn’t really want to write the concluding part since it involves having to discuss one of the most retarded videogame TV shows ever invented. But we’re at the end, so that counts for something I guess...
By the time BITS, Thumb Bandits and videoGaiden ended, the internet was in full swing and starting to enjoy Web 2.0. Remember those old games and films like Ripper and The Lawnmower Man saying in the near future we’d be floating around cyberspace, using virtual reality like drugs, while surfing the net on a gargantuan 2 MB of modem connection? Yeah, that was funny. At least they predicted that the internet would indeed be a big part of our lives. Nobody really expected people would use it for homemade TV programming though, so it was surprise for TV networks to see this sort of thing happening at a (cult) explosive rate. This was eventually reflected by ITV’s The Web Review, which was ultimately the most boring TV programme about website links I’ve ever seen. Likable children’s author and future The Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury (a sort of hyped up Moby) hosted the show with some woman who’s name I forget, but at half 12 at night, I found strangely attractive. Throughout the series, they just talked about websites; but obviously the safe ones and not the intentional troll-a-thons. Actually, that would have been a lot better to watch and maybe more people would get to see a washed up Andy Green getting his comeuppance with prank call phone-ins.
Videogame TV was, for a good duration, at death’s door and it wasn't going to make a miracle comeback like that kid from John From Cincinnati. The medium, best suited to the geeks who understood it, had shifted to the online world. Anybody with a digital camera, Adobe Premiere and a PC could upload their smart arse opinions about games without difficulty; though most proved that if you didn’t have the personality or wit to carry it off, then you were just shouting into the dark. I suspect TV networks thought they still had the upper hand here, since they could just pick up a pool of disposable presenters and get them to sell anything. TV presenters aren’t usually shut-ins with a love for anime so bad that not even the Japanese would touch with a shitty stick. So Sky One decided to resurrect the videogame TV show one last time. Hey, if Bravo were carrying on with cheap voiceover shows like Gamer.tv, then Sky could go one better for the weekend mornings.
The horror...The horror...
GAMEZVILLE (The year? Oh who cares, it was awful. Okay...2003-2004)
Look at them...LOOK AT THEM! Jesus Christ, Andy Crane was a frigging saint compared to these guys, with their in-your-face attitude and unhinged enthusiasm for the ‘purdy grafix’.
If BITS and videoGaiden were a step forward in videogame TV, then Gamezville was the equivalent of some redheaded stepchild locked away by his domineering mother in the early 90’s and then let out into the ironic, post-modern, world of the 00’s. Only his genuine childish enthusiasm, conveyed by outdated slang, was real and people didn’t laugh with him, they laughed at him.
The critics were less kind.
‘Gamezville is the equivalent to eating your own shit, the producers must have thought 'Oh because we have black people in it must be street'.’ – Dominik Diamond
I have to wholeheartedly agree with this statement. The main presenters were Jamie Atiko and Darren Malcolm, both clearly trying too hard to be urban stereotypes, when they had probably been to stage school. I could have sworn they had originally auditioned for a gritty series about UK knife crime, but someone in the casting chair thought they’d be brilliant as Children’s TV presenters. They were loud about everything trivial and only really interested in sport and racing games. All the more complex stuff was given to understudy presenters, who were probably the show’s researchers doubling up their job description. They were also too old to be rightfully talking slang to the in-studio audience. Yes, somehow children were re-introduced to the format and yes, the presenters did constantly ask them what they thought of the game.
Jamie/Darren: ‘WOW! WHATCHOO GOT THERE?!’
Nervous child: ‘Sonic DS.’
Jamie/Darren: ‘WICKED! AND WHAT’S IT LIKE?! WOT ARE THE GRAFIX LIKE?!’
Nervous child: ‘Good.’
Jamie/Darren: ‘GOOD?! WOW! YEAH! Er...Moving on...’
It was one of many backward steps employed by the makers of the show. Everything about it was a bad hangover from the early 90’s; most specifically Bad Influence. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it was a complete carbon copy of the show. Why would anybody want to do that after BITS’s style proved popular on the hub/links show T4 in the mornings? To me, this was the most retarded games show ever devised and I mean that literally (not in a slang un-PC way). It was a Frankenstein’s monster of previous shows at best.
You had the challenges, you had the creepy cheats master, you had kids in a large studio ‘newsroom’ (see: PC’s hooked up to Kotaku), you had the man-child presenters, and you even had the rushed features containing the most shallow of news. To say none of the presenters even knew the meaning of the words ‘deep questioning’ is an understatement. Jamie and Darren seemed to care only about the graphics for games and didn’t really want to know about how a game worked, or even want to pick out flaws, in case somebody from Eidos threatened to pull their support. The more technical (see: PC, Mac and the Gameboy Advance) things were left to one snivelling blonde guy who really thought he was God’s gift to women and an uncomfortable looking woman who really ought to have been on a gadget show instead.
Granted, the show was aimed at pre-teen kids in the morning, but the sheer hot-air inflicted at you from your TV made you wish the diseased monkey from Outbreak would turn up at your door and spit in your face, like he did with that guy from Grey’s Anatomy. It was a pure insult of intelligence for all involved and I do actually feel sorry for the production crew having to film this nonsense.
As far as I’m concerned, Gamezville completely killed videogame TV in the UK.
WHEN GAMES ATTACK (2005)
Bravo is a ‘lads mag’ channel. So in a weird way, all the tits and cockney ‘way-hey’ antics the channel produces, it has time for videogame shows. Dominik Diamond, now looking worse for wear after GamesMaster, wanted to bring about a games show that retained the old attitude of the series that made his name, but was more edgy and adult. He got his wish in the form of When Games Attack, which was really just a carbon copy of GamesMaster, without Patrick Moore’s confused ramblings. You can tell it was influenced by videoGaiden’s irrelevant humour too, with Dom doing his best to act like he was a kids presenter with a bad hangover (and playing up to the fact he’d been previously arrested...oh, what a bad boy). Bravo went out of their way to spice up the show by adding models from the pornography for cowards magazines called Nuts and Zoo. Rumour has it that Dom wasn’t happy about this arrangement, probably because it meant he had to share screen time with somebody other than himself. I joke. Personally, I don’t think there was truth to that one anyway.
GAMER.TV and PLAYR TV (2002 to...2009? Really? Okay...)
I won’t speak much about these shows either since I’ve given a good idea of them in previous articles, but they did rate highly on Bravo (currently in the process of making another rebrand/simulacrum). The gist is that a faceless commentator talks about the featured games from a script written by someone else and the interview footage is filmed by a faceless interviewer, so you only see the responses. This way it’s easier to market and sell to other countries under different names; all that changes is the voice over ‘talent’ as the stock footage stays the same. For some bizarre reason, Bravo makes a habit of showing both the UK and US versions of the same show on the same day. It’s a weird repetition, but only serves to highlight how cheap and profitable this format is. The same format principle is used by Gamestrailers for their reviews, so somebody out must think it works, even if it is soulless.
Oh and in an quick mention, Violet Berlin from Bad Influence went on to present Game Pad (also on Bravo around the same time and minus Andy Crane). I kinda missed the Dolph Lungdren haircut though.
Can't really talk about this one since I didn't watch it that often. But it pretty much followed the same style as other Bravo videogame shows, only with an actual presenter hosting the links. Violet, who was all grown up (and out) now, was eventually replaced by this annoying guy from Birmingham. My interest was completely dead by that point.
So I guess that rounds us off nicely with the internet. Now that videogames TV is a medium where instant gratification and constant dissection is a must in an ever deceptive industry, it’s only right that the technology used can keep up with current events. But some might say (in a Fox News vague quotation kind of way that cleverly disguises opinion over fact) that it wouldn’t work without personalities of people with a genuine love for the subject. Like all kinds of TV programming, some people work as well as the BITS girls, while other flounder like *Jim Sterling Power Corps Voice* Goddamn Andy Crane. There’s a lot more heart in homemade programming because of the no budget production and a real knowledge of gaming; it’s on a level with the audience and it knows how respect works. It’s charming to see this free range content being created by Screwattack and That Guy With Glasses. This stuff doesn’t stop at just the visual espect either, with podcasts creating videogame radio shows that never were. Shows like Podtoid and Retroforce Go! are born, directly or however indirectly, out of a niche that was never expanded or even considered on radio. Even UK talk radio doesn’t even attempt this kind of thing and as jolly ol’ Brits, we’re supposed to be stereotypically sophisticated at this niche game.
All of the above have a personal interactive connection (as I’ve mentioned in part 2) to the viewer through commentary and questions. While these episodes can be hit or miss, you can’t fault them for the ability and freedom to experiment; something that is deemed impossible on TV.
Unless you’re Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw of course and you’re set in process of making the exact same joke for every single review you’ve ever made, hoping that each repetition will be lovingly endorsed by an audience of sheep. *said really fast with an image of some stick man with shit on his head and holding a placard that says Ubisoft or something*. Then again, he did make 5 Days A Stranger, so he also has my begrudging respect by actually backing up his words with an example of his own decent game creation skills. *cue loud Helmet-esque riff*
Sorry, went off on a piss-poor parody tangent there...But the point I’m making is this, that the era of videogame TV shows is dead and gone. With content being produced in conjunction with G4TV and Gametrailers (and not in the cheap homemade sense), there truly is no way it could come back without internet exposure acting as an essential crutch. Though I suspect without many of these early TV shows setting the template (and this includes US TV that I’m unfamiliar with), we wouldn’t have these shows in their stable current format anyway. So there’s no future for videogame shows, unless you’re a company called Viacom.
The shift from networks to the viewers has effectively changed the possibilities forever. There’s some old school hope though, as a new show called Gameswipe is currently in development by Charlie Brooker. It’s essentially going to be the same irreverent investigative journalism as he used in his previous shows – the amazing Screenwipe and the deeply depressing Newswipe.
I don’t think it will be concerned with reviewing pretty graphics, but more interested in the industry itself, which to me sounds like fantastic idea. This kind of investigation only gets reported on websites like Destructoid and not television media, since the news hates games and the internet. Personally, I think this kind of journalism desperately needs a bigger audience and hopefully discussed more if anybody ever wants their lifestyle to be taken more seriously past self-contained world of blogging.
So there you have it, a brief and vague partial history of videogame shows. Hope you enjoyed it, learnt something or at least had a chuckle at my expense. Now then, time for a Charlie Brooker rant that reduces Anthony Burch’s usual angry monologues to an impotent rage (or something). I really hope he does something like this in Gameswipe.