This afternoon, my friend (and loyal VGO reader) Michael Fan asked me a good question. In light of my recent posts about the G4 video game network, “what would you do if you were programming director for a videogame network?”
I spent most of my metro ride home thinking about it, and here’s what I came up with:
First off, I’d start with my favorite show on G4 — X-Play — and stretch it to an hour. The half hour format is pretty stifling when it comes to quantity and depth of reviews. I would cut out most of the annoying “welcome back” and “wasn’t that a great review” segues to allow more time to focus on the games. Other than that, I would keep the same general personality and style of the X-Play crew, because I feel it adds a lot to what could otherwise be a pretty dry ratings show.
The other show worth saving on the network would get a bit more of the overhaul. First off, I would split the idea into two separate documentary shows, one focusing on the industry, the other focusing on the players. The game industry half would be much like the few episodes of the show I’ve seen, covering industry companies, personalities, and history in a quick and interesting format. The gamer-half would focus on real-life game players (by this I mean not the celebrity bling-master regularly featured on Players) doing what they do: playing games. Casual to hardcore, in groups and alone, at events or at home, whatever. The core mission would be to show that there is no “gaming lifestyle” and that the term gamer is not as narrow as its connotation (look for more on this from me in the near future). Both these shows could easily fill an hour for 26 episodes a season.
I’ve seen about half an episode of Arena, and I swear if I never see it again it will be too soon. A good video game game show would focus more on the games and the competition and less on the carefully crafted “personalities” that Arena seems to want to stick on its host and players. Regular gamers (perhaps teams, drawn from an application pool open to the public) would compete in both online and split-screen multiplayer games in a quick-paced multi-round format that forces them through a variety of different genres in one episode — Round 1: Doom 2; Round 2: Gran Turismo; Round 3: Dance Dance Revolution. If I really had my way, the final round would always be Super Mario Bros. 3 in homage to the greatest video game movie ever, The Wizard, but I could live without it. A videogame trivia show might be neat, too.
This half-hour, weekly or bi-weekly show would be somewhat of a cross between The McLaughlin Group, Slate’s Summary judgment, and Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources, if that makes any sense. A group of four-or-so industry journalists (both mainstream and specialists) sit down in a roundtable format to discuss the games and issues of the past week. A strong-willed moderator keeps everything from turning into a Crossfire style screaming match. This show might only appeal to me, but it’s my network, dangit!
“The independent games show” would showcase the games that don’t have million-dollar ad budgets or teams of 100 people working on them. Any quirky, original, new games created by individuals or small developers would have their spotlight here. Budget or unrecognized titles that fly under the media radar would be fair game too. This could run the gamut from PC shareware titles, web-based flash or Java games, and odd or amusing console releases, even classic games.
Much like Turner Classic Movies series of the same name, this series of thirty minute pieces would focus on the “essential” games — games that a panel of gaming experts (journalists, analysts, regular gamers, and perhaps people from other fields) think every video game player should experience. The show would talk to this panel, the game’s developers and others about what makes the game so special, complete with plenty of footage and historical context. Hmm… maybe this should be an hour…
I never got to see Pulse, but the show’s description on the G4 page sounds good on the surface. So let’s go with that. The news show would “deliver the information that gamers want to hear from personalities they want to hear from… [and] will present the most important headlines in a fast-paced, exciting manner that cuts through the marketing fluff.” If a video game news show can fit truly fit that description, I’m there. I think a 50-50 mix of news briefs and features would make for a good half-hour or hour-long weekly program.
A hardware review show. Pretty straightforward. A half-hour weekly.
I have a few more ideas scribbled down (a music show, a humor show, life in the game industry, previews, etc.) but they don’t seem as good now that I’m not on a train. This is a pretty good start, anyway. What would you want to see if you ran a video game network? Use the comments link below.