Gaming TV: Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe

By Alec Meer on September 29th, 2009 at 11:34 pm.

Saying Northern cities are weird and violent is funny. Every time.

Charlie Brooker, professional media sourpuss, occasional comedy megabrain and former PC games reviewer, tonight turned his frighteningly successful brand of comic sneering towards a games documentary(ish) on UK digital station BBC4. As with his Screenwipe and Newswipe shows, it’s him in a dimly-lit lounge, frothing bitterly to camera about popular culture. UK folk and IP perverters can now watch it online on the BBC iPlayer here, but I’ve just watched it the old-fashioned way. ON TELEVISION, AS IT HAPPENED. It’s like I live in the 1800s.

While entertainingly bombastic and very much in the Brooker tradition, it was odd, uneven and sometimes awkward. The chosen approach was explaining games to a casual or entirely disinterested audience – which perhaps speaks volumes about the kind of folk who salute Brooker’s flag these days. He may have arisen from nerdish roots, but he’s The People’s Angry Sometimes-On-The-Internet Man now. So, no information or insights that an RPS reader wouldn’t already have been aware of, but it did at least cover the topic broadly rather than just spending 20 minutes a piece on Mario and Sonic. And if we want gaming TV to succeed it needs to reach a larger audience too – so being broad was the sensible choice, even if it was rather vague and confused with it.

Its format was a rapid run-through of the major gaming genres – some of which were treated fulsomely, such as a generously-proportioned segment explaining how Beatles Rock Band works (which surely even the most ardent non-gamer already has a sense of), and others of which were dismissed in less than 10 seconds – as with his curt “I don’t like them” for the entire strategy genre. That wouldn’t bother me half as much if he hadn’t earlier spent bloody ages showing and describing the lacklustre new Wolfenstein, before concluding that yes, it was lacklustre. So why include it all, and most especially why make it the key focus of the first-person-shooter segment?

That said, it was generally an agreeable watch, and certainly had a few moments where the blend of celebration and cynicism towards this silly, wonderful thing we spend so much time on was note-perfect. It also featured a near-beautiful tearing-apart of 50 Cent’s game and the horrific values therein, and a sadly fictional game about pushing Myleene Klass into the river.

The games-discussion highlights didn’t involve Brooker himself, but instead some astute and more genuine interviewees – such as Dara O’Briain taking his irksome Mock The Week hat off to genially discuss why some games seem so determined to punish us, and Father Ted/Black Books writer Graham Linehan rolling his eyes at the still-awful state of game storytelling before offering a couple of interesting examples as to successes in that area. Also, a pretty song by an Escapist writer about how stupid the Wii’s Mad World is.

Very funny and slightly smart in places then, but not a patch on his Screenwipe or Newswipe shows – which is primarily the fault of deciding to cover the entire subject and history of videogaming and be a review show, rather than analysing/taking apart/building up a specific element. Not helping was that Brooker’s known and occasionally evident affection for videogames was drowned by his trademark poisonous tone being so unrelenting. There wasn’t much Yay! Games! – so why was it made, and what did it want to say? We’d have done it better, of course – if by “better” you mean “Kieron rants about Thor, Alec mumbles mean things about his own cat, Jim tells a three-hour EVE anecdote and John has a bit of a cry because he missed the latest episode of Leverage.”

Perhaps it would have gone for it a bit more if it was on one of the major stations, rather than consigned to a sleepy 10pm slot on sleepy BBC 4. I’m really glad it got made, but it needed to blow the bloody doors off to help earn games a regular place on TV again. My hope is that Gameswipe’s one-off nature means it’s simply a trial run, testing the waters for a series that actually has something to say and goes into more detail than “GTA is famous for being violent” and “pressing buttons on a plastic guitar is a bit embarrasing.”

There were brief hints of “this is why games matter”, and it nearly made something of how ridiculous and reactionary mainstream news coverage of games is, something that I’d love to see someone of Brooker’s profile take to task, but he opted to simply give them enough rope rather than counter them in a way that non-gamers would have learned much from. The coke-drinking gag was proper clever, mind.

I’m fairly sure it gave non-gaming Brookerites exactly what they wanted, and hopefully that’ll pull in enough of an audience to have another, more thoughtful crack at the concept and thus, just maybe, finally shake games-on-TV’s embarassing legacy. Definitely worth a watch, despite its stumbles. More of this kind of thing please, but turn the sneering down and the enthusiasm up, just a little.

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126 Comments »

  1. Magnus says:

    My main problem with such a thing as this is that noone will watch it.

    Well, noone outside the gaming and technologically adept world, and even then, not many.

    It was the sort of thing that required a series of shows, to present the highs and lows of computer games. It also needed to be on about ten years ago.

    These days, with it being on BBC 4 especially, it will be all too easy for the vast majority of people to completely ignore it, as if it never occurred.

    In summary, pointless, really, other than a bit of nostalgia for us folks who have been gaming for a few more years than most.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Good thing its on the first page of iplayer, might get it some extra hits. On the other hand I doubt it will change anyones mind about anything. Maybe its just the cynic in me but I have a feeling people have already made their minds up about games and little can/will change it.

      Perhaps something like top gear for games would help; a show where you don’t necessarily have to be interested in the content to appreciate the humour . Then we can subliminally convince the masses…

  2. Dracko says:

    Alec Meer, stop being a grumpus.

    • Gnarl says:

      Is it grumpy to dislike something for being too grumpy? A modern koan.

      Also kettle, black, etc.

    • Dracko says:

      Is your problem that you’re British or something?

    • Gnarl says:

      No, I wouldn’t say so. I can be a bit stubborn perhaps, a bit blunt, but I don’t think that being British is my problem, no. Is it yours?

  3. Fumarole says:

    Available in the UK only :(

  4. Dante says:

    In retrospect I can see what you mean about the awkward style, it was partly about the broad theme of games as a whole, but the prominence of Wolfenstein and The Beatles Rock Band suggests a topicality that would presumably be the point of the full series.

    I still enjoyed it a lot though, Brooker would seem the logical person to try and do TV games programmes possibly (apart from you guys of course) , because of his rare experience with both mediums.

    Also, Leverage is great!

  5. LewieP says:

    I only discovered after watching it that it wasn’t the start of a series, it was a one off.

    What the hell? There is obviously mileage for something like this to have a proper series.

    I think I would have preferred had it been either “a funny series of video reviews and features aimed at gamers”, or “A non-gamers guide to the world of gaming”, instead of trying to be both, but overall a definite success.

    I still think it is a crime that Rab and Ryan don’t have a regular slot doing whatever they feel like on the BBC.

    The girl singing about MadWorld was shit.

    What I think he really needs to do is ditch the professional quality production, and extra (obviously expensive) trimmings, make it 15 minutes long, about any one gaming topic, and just stick it on youtube.

    • Dante says:

      I think Rab and Ryan were the worst thing on it to be honest. I honestly want to like the guys, but every time I see them it’s like they’re coming close to being funny, but never quite pulling it off. Maybe they don’t have the delivery for their material, I don’t know.

      And I liked the song.

    • Lambchops says:

      Rab and Ryan did have a regular slot but as far as I’m aware it was only on BBC Scotland.

      All of Videogaiden was on the TV; just pretty late at night,

    • LewieP says:

      That hardly counts, I am talking proper time slot on BBC1/2.

      I bet that there are more people that are massively interested in games than there are people massively interested in cars. Why is there no Top Gear for games?

    • Dracko says:

      I bet that there are more people that are massively interested in games than there are people massively interested in cars.

      This is where you’re totally wrong.

    • LewieP says:

      Well, I know it’s hardly scientific, but I’m pretty sure that there are more games mags on the shelves of my local supermarket than there are car mags.

      The trick to making a successful games show would be to make it interesting for gamers, and funny enough for non gamers. Which is the trick that (apparently) Top Gear has managed to pull off.

    • Optimaximal says:

      The problem is, any attempt to riff of Top Gear would clearly be just that – riffing off of Top Gear!

      A show of the like would need to find its own identity and stop being like those GamePad shows presented by Violet ‘Lispy’ Berlin.

    • Pod says:

      TV needs more Rab & Ryan.

      Also: According to a Q&A thingy on Brooker’s twitter; he tried to get Zero Punctuation on it. Would you kids have liked that. Would you?

      Also: He done a “is it really? Really, is it?!”, which I think was an old YS/Amiga Power/PC Gamer/PC Zone joke. [I can't remember which mag]

    • qrter says:

      I thought Rab and Ryan’s bit was the best part of the whole show, which overall seemed to be quite confused and unappealing to either regular gamer types and non-gaming people, I’d think.

      I’m glad he didn’t manage to get Yahtzee – I like Brooker, I don’t want to see a bad copy of him.

  6. jameskond says:

    As stated here: http://www.youtube.com/user/xthemusic it will be uploaded on youtube somewhere this week, yay! go non-UK!.. erh yeah whatever

  7. ChaosSmurf says:

    I didn’t see the point of the bit where he tried to take the piss out of the laughably inept media ripping apart violent video games by showing them doing it and making no counter-points. I could have watched that ITV thing the other week for 15 minutes instead of that section.

    Still, probably some of the best gaming TV ever. Sad innit?

    • Krondonian says:

      I thought the point of that was basically that such kind of baseless, reactionary ‘reporting’ doesn’t require refuting in any sensible person’s mind.

      Kind of like when he showed a bunch of Fox News crazytalk on Screenwipe, and let it speak for itself.

    • ChaosSmurf says:

      Yeah that doesn’t work when the target audience thinks that’s the norm and you’re trying to convince them otherwise.

    • Dracko says:

      Are you saying the audience are imaginary idiots?

    • drewski says:

      Chaos – I suspect the target audience for Gameswipe and the target audience for reactionary media games coverage share about 0% of the same audience, so if he deconstructed the media, he’d just be preaching to the choir.

      Point and laugh really is sometimes all that’s necessary.

  8. Nathan says:

    He’s said on his twitter feed in the past few minutes (https://twitter.com/charltonbrooker) that a series is unlikely, but he might add some games content more frequently into Screenwipe. Which can only be good news.

    I really enjoyed the program, but think it suffered mainly from trying to spread itself too thinly over an entire media (just as attempting to do a program on /all/ of television in 50 minutes would no doubt be weak at points). However, I think that this broad overview would always be inevitable for such an exploratory program, and within the context of a series the added focus on individual titles (which was, imo, the strong point of this episode) would make Gameswipe a much stronger proposition.

  9. Radiant says:

    there’s a firefox add on that gets around the ip thing

  10. Gap Gen says:

    Newswipe is the best thing that Brooker has done. It’s a combination of his style with something that actually matters, rather than just sitting in front of X-Factor making wanking jokes. He carries off the indignation against bad news reporting and editorial excellently. It should be repeated, over and above Screenwipe and anything else he has done so far.

  11. Radiant says:

    But there’s no getting around the brooker thing

  12. The Magic says:

    I despise Charlie Brooker (negativity for the sake of negativity is not funny) but I watched it cus it was about games. I have to say it was competent (minus Wolfenstein, the brevity of many important sections, the idea that The Sims should be in the same sentence as Farming Simulator 2008, and ofcourse minus Mr. Brooker himself), but it still left me and my roommate shouting at the TV for the idiocy on show. (“50 cent tries so hard to be serious,” … wait, what?).

    • Gap Gen says:

      Brooker *does* evangelise things he likes – The Wire, Deadwood, etc.

    • Dracko says:

      (negativity for the sake of negativity is not funny)

      Maybe if you’re Scottish.

    • tim7168 says:

      Charlie Brooker’s enthusiasm for the things he actually likes is what makes Screenwipe so compelling.

    • tim7168 says:

      Charlie Brooker’s enthusiasm for the things he actually likes is what makes Screenwipe so compelling.

      I can’t help but feel that this isn’t the show he wanted to make. I suspect that he was probably pushed in the direction of a broad overview than a more perceived nichey direction, which is a shame. I would like to see a more current games magazine show format, more like the other ‘-wipe’ series’, however I also imagine this would be quite a difficult proposition: to fill a show with up-to-the-minute, witty observations on the state of current gaming as a whole would involve spending literally hours and hours of *research* (eg. compulsive gaming) across all genres and formats –much much more work than flicking through the news channels or commenting on tv shows. Perhaps this is why games tv has not worked as a format in the past?

  13. Po0py says:

    I thought it was quite fun but ultimately it was a bit pointless. A beginners guide to video games made for a channel that only caters to a niche audience so it kind of cancels out any need for a beginners guide. And we all know how uninformed and idiotic the news media are when they turn their hand at covering video games.

    I wouldn’t mind a little half hour review show or something like that. There would certainly be an audience for that. It made me laugh in places. Choice quote, Condemned 2: “If your playing this for excapism, your probably Scottish.”

  14. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    a sadly fictional game about pushing Myleene Klass into the river

    Also notable for containing at least a pair of blink and you’ll miss ‘em game references.

    Not a bad show all in all, although still as uneven as the rest of the ‘wipes.

    • Crush says:

      Yeah I spotted the dopefish but didn’t see the other, not sure why he has a grudge against Myleene Klass she just presents some TV programs.

    • M_the_C says:

      Completely missed all of that whilst watching the programme.

      Apart from the Left 4 Dead safe-house symbol, there was also a HL2 crate complete with Gordon Freeman-esque crowbar just before the player reaches Myleen Class.

      Anyone spot any more?

  15. Blast Hardcheese says:

    I dunno, I think the guy is funny. Plus I already enjoy dry humor, like Bruce Campbell telling jokes.

    I mean how much negativity towards the guy is because you don’t like him and not what he actually did?

    Then again if the reverse were true I’m sure Jeremy Clarkson would be more popular. At least, I don’t live on that island so I’m only assuming that he’s unliked despite Top Gear being an awesome show.

    Cars go vroom!

  16. SuperNashwan says:

    In a time when there appears to be more high quality games journalism floating around than ever before, it’s a real shame that someone who can be so concisely astute as Brooker managed to produce something so lacking in focus. Unlike say Newswipe, I felt as if the show had no real idea what it was trying to say or who it was trying to say it to.

  17. Monchberter says:

    So let me get this straight. The blatantly swiped ‘Brookerisms’ of Zero Punctuation are now available from the source?

    I hope Yahtzee’s shitting himself.

  18. Kowalski says:

    I hacen’t had a chance to watc this yet but….Rab and Ryan from VideoGaiden make an appearance?

    Sold!

  19. TheLordHimsef says:

    I love Dara O’briain.

  20. Vandelay says:

    Just finished watching this and I must say I enjoyed it very much, as I have done Brooker’s previous work (agree with Gap Gen that Newswipe is the best thing he has done though.)

    The Wolfenstein thing was a bit random. Following that section, I assumed that reviews were going to play an important part throughout, but it only really cropped up again with Beatles Rock Band and to some extent 50 Cent.

    I think the main problem with the show was the lack of time. If this had of been a series, with Brooker focusing on an individual theme (such as violence in games, casual games, indie, technology, etc.) for each episode, then it would have been much stronger. I can understand why that would not be viable, but I feel that the subject really deserves it if you are wanting to really deal with the topic. Screenwipe has had multiple series, and that only deals with television. Why should gaming only get a single episode?

    However, I have to disagree with people’s assumption that no one would watch this. I think Brooker’s shows have quite a following, albeit one that has grown only on BBC Four. I expect that the majority of those watch his shows in part because of his personality and perhaps sometimes more than what he is discussing. I have a feeling that this would have pulled a fair few non-gamers as well gamers.

    • Vandelay says:

      Oh, I also wanted say that I expect the reason you liked Dara O’ Briain’s piece was because it was piece that was discussed on here not to long ago.

      He made some good points though.

      Graham Linehan’s piece on game writing was interesting too. It was nice to see him single out L4D and also Call of Duty 4 for praise.

  21. hydra9 says:

    I enjoyed this, though it was weird to see him tangent off into the lengthy Wolfenstein ‘review’ in the middle of a sort of meandering pointless guide to genres. And it didn’t seem particularly helpful to keep showing violent Nazi kills and post-death limb removal.

    Plenty of good stuff in this show, though – particularly the appearance of Rab and Ryan and the well-deserved rip on 50 Cent’s idiocy.

    And negativity? After watching 100+ episodes of ‘Zero Punctuation,’ Mr. Brooker doesn’t seem negative at all.

    • Dracko says:

      Yeah, no matter what, this was far superior to anything Yahtzee’s put out. It started strong, veered into familiar territory by the end of it all, but then again, it was one special. If he had gotten to do a series out of it, of course he would have gone into more depth.

      The inclusion of Wolfenstein is obvious: It’s not about the game, it’s about violent excess.

      And he’s right: Strategy games feel way too much like being at work again, so why bother when he’s obviously got other (less dull) things he wants to talk about?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Yeah, he’s right, a massively popular genre sucks balls.

  22. Mike says:

    I think people need to realise that this thing was not made for us. We thought it was, we hoped it was, we basically promised ourselves that it was. But it wasn’t. And that’s fine.

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      There certainly wasn’t enough focus on Microsoft Excel or whatever it is you PC guys actually do on your personal computers.

  23. Mike says:

    Oh, and Linehan was terrible.

    • Dracko says:

      Well, that was to be expected.

      And it’s a small price to pay to have Braid and Jeff Minter boasted on telly while bashing GTAIV.

    • Mike says:

      Yeah. I genuinely think it did its job well. The examples it dove into it had good reason to do so – why Wolfenstein? Because it’s a mishmash of every stereotype, and people work to stereotypes. You want to crack open Half-Life 2 in a 50-minute special? You can’t. You can’t do it. The audience isn’t ready. You start with what they know and you lay a path back to where you want to be.

      Ditto for The Beatles: Rock Band. People know very little about it, in truth. They know what they’ve seen – the songs are there, people have plastic guitars, okay. Gotcha. No-one’s really said, “Yeah, but… you know how it actually works, right?” I mean, it’s not a game. A lot of non-players do not understand this distinction. It’s a far better point to make than, “Let me tell you about how The Void is transforming our concept of resource-based interaction systems in action games.” because, while an excellent discussion, it’s not appropriate.

      This wasn’t made for us, as I’ve said. I think the sooner we accept this, and look at it in a different light, the more sense it’ll make.

      Except Linehan. Who was shite.

    • Mike says:

      Yeah. I genuinely think it did its job well. The examples it dove into it had good reason to do so – why Wolfenstein? Because it’s a mishmash of every stereotype, and people work to stereotypes. You want to crack open Half-Life 2 in a 50-minute special? You can’t. You can’t do it. The audience isn’t ready. You start with what they know and you lay a path back to where you want to be.

      Ditto for The Beatles: Rock Band. People know very little about it, in truth. They know what they’ve seen – the songs are there, people have plastic guitars, okay. Gotcha. No-one’s really said, “Yeah, but… you know how it actually works, right?” I mean, it’s not a game. A lot of non-players do not understand this distinction. It’s a far better point to make than, “Let me tell you about how The Void is transforming our concept of resource-based interaction systems in action games.” because, while an excellent discussion, it’s not appropriate.

      This wasn’t made for us, as I’ve said. I think the sooner we accept this, and look at it in a different light, the more sense it’ll make.

      Except Linehan. Who was shite.

    • Thants says:

      I can only imagine what a sad, grey place the world must be for someone who doesn’t like Graham Linehan.

    • Nighthood says:

      Linehan made a very ignorant comment when he said games don’t have good stories. Some of them do, it’s just that HE has been playing the wrong ones.

      Oh, and he didn’t like Call of Juarez, so he automatically fails.

    • Mike says:

      Well, Linehan’s work is great, sure. But the man himself seems to swerve dangerously into hypocrisy or obviousness. He was like this in the last series of Screenwipe too.

    • Vandelay says:

      Well, he did point out L4D and Call of Duty for having real character to them. I also think the idea of L4D playing out in a world that expands beyond the compass of the game is something that is really important for more games to achieve. Valve are the masters of this, but few others seem able to do it right.

      I’ve not played Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, but the bits they showed of it did seem like it had lost all the character of the original. I have feeling he had not played the original, as I am sure he would singing the praises of the homicidal bible spouting priest if he had, instead of talking about a guy that calls people “bitch” when they are cowering in a corner.

  24. El Stevo says:

    It deserves to be made into a full series if only for the wonderful theme music.

  25. Mike says:

    I think I killed the comments. :(

  26. sexyresults says:

    Region locking pisses me right the fuck off lately. What is the internet becoming.

    • Pod says:

      HA! TAKE THAT!

      A bit of UK based revenge for all the “NOT AVAILABLE IN YOUR COUNTRY” shit youtube gives us :(

  27. JKjoker says:

    damn, uk only, i always like watching Brooker’s shows but that uk only always forced me to “alternative” methods

  28. mandrill says:

    @radiant: where is this mythical addon? what is it called? I want it, having just moved from the UK to somewhere else in the world I would love to be able to placate my 3 yr old with in the night garden once more.

  29. mandrill says:

    Oh and as to why it was a one-off and not a series. Gaming is tv’s direct competition, why give airtime to something which takes viewers from you?

    • Vinraith says:

      I can think of at least 2 US cable channels that are dedicated to nothing BUT video games, so apparently some TV execs disagree with you.

  30. JKjoker says:

    anyone knows of any anon proxies set in uk that do not ban the BBC iplayer ?

  31. TeeJay says:

    Do also think it is ‘stupid’ that the BBC is funded via everyone in the UK with a TV being required to pay £142 a year? I don’t begrudge subsidising people in the rest of the world and wish they could get as many BBC programmes for free as possible, but the BBC doesn’t always have the legal right to allow material to be broadcast outside the UK. It is a bit insulting to call the BBC ‘stupid’ when presumably you don’t make any contribution towards the cost of the programmes, unlike most UK households. You would have more to complain about if you were paying for it and couldn’t get it.

    • JKjoker says:

      bah, that show has no resale value, many us channels broadcast shows on the internet without a country lock, and media wants to be free anyway, the world is heading that way, they can kick and scream all they want

    • Mike says:

      The BBC receives no funding from advertisements though.

    • Joe says:

      How would the BBC lose out by, say, slapping on a copyleft licence and letting it percolate through the tubes? Might save some bandwidth that way too. I know that BBC Worldwide make money off selling Doctor Who (etc) DVDs in foreign lands, but unless they were planning to do the same with Brooker’s stuff (and I doubt it) then they really have no excuse.

  32. Edgar the Peaceful says:

    For me, Nathan Barley is the best TV thing he’s done.

  33. Lack_26 says:

    @JKjoker,

    I’m not sure we need any other TV channels in Britain, there is rarely anything worth watching (past some US shows on 5) that isn’t made by the BBC. Mind you, I’m quite loyal to the Beeb and hate it when people like Murdoc pressure the UK government into Hamstringing the BBC.

    Mind you, the collectors for the TV License is pretty brutal, I’ve been repeatedly hassled by them despite living under the cover of my parents TV License. Oh yeah, and we get adverts telling us they’re ‘coming for us’ on TV.

    Anyway, I rather enjoyed the show. Sure it was meandering, but funding can be tight and I’m glad that they made it at all. Also, Wolfenstein achieved exactly what it set out to do, be a game about shooting Nazis in the face.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Beeb has a slightly unfair advantage compared with those channels that support themselves through adverts, though.

      Still, dunno what we’d do without BBC news, there is literally no other news broadcast worth watching.

  34. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    If you guys want to show the BBC your appreciation for the programme (and ask if they will do some more), do what I just did and fill out this form. The more who show an appreciation the better.

    Linky

  35. Gap Gen says:

    The thing is – if it wasn’t made for gamers, why not? You don’t see cookery programs for people who don’t like cooking (or, actually, maybe you do. I don’t watch a whole bunch of them)

    • Mike says:

      But you do get cookery programmes for people who are really bad at cooking. And bad at cooking isn’t necessarily a skills thing, it’s often not knowing where to start, not understanding how complex dishes work, not knowing much about cooking as it’s done professionally. Gameswipe is maybe going out to those people who have a bash on Bejewelled, and find the idea of anything more ‘gamey’ really nerdy, incomprehensible and stupid.

  36. Vanderdecken says:

    We need a TV channel like Spike in the UK, if only for GTTV (GameTrailers.com’s own TV show, with actual gaming journo news/interviews/reviews in it, even if it does get a little bit asshat-Halo-playing-13-year-old sometimes).

  37. Schmung says:

    It’s really sad that the UK doesn’t have a proper telly show about gaming, Gameswipe was a glimpse of what could be, uneven and imperfect as it was it was still better than anything else that’s been on mainstream telly. Line-up of guests was pretty good as well, if only because they tackled topics that are important and fairly well known to anyone who cares about games, but that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see covered on some sort o gaming-centric telly show concocted by the arseholes in marketing. Rab and Ryan are always worth a watch as well, even if I vehemently disagree with a fair portion of what they say and don’t always find them to be particularly funny they are at least passionate.

    It’d be nice to see this get a proper run as series, just because I think it would have allowed him to spend a bit more time on each topic, but thems the breaks I suppose.

  38. TotalBiscuit says:

    I’m sure this has been echoed before, but I must point out the folly of trying to merge a cynical show with humour clearly aimed at the more grown-up gamer demographic, with informative segments aimed at absolute gaming virgins, with stupid gimmicks that neither group appreciates. Don’t get me wrong, the show was for the most part pretty solid, but it was also schizophrenic, like it had no idea what it wanted to be or who it wanted to appeal to. I find the idea of explaining different genres on a gaming show to be like explaining the off-side rule to a football fan. It’s condescending and pointless. Sure, do the historical thing, who doesn’t like revelling in a little nostalgia every now and again when seeing Wolfenstein 3d and 3D Monster Maze again, but we, as gamers, don’t need to know what an FPS is or that it’s ‘different to a shoot-em-up’. Either you do it one way, or the other.

    Personally, I don’t watch gardening programs because I am not a gardener and have no interest in gardening. I cannot imagine someone sitting down and saying ‘y’know what? I’m not a gamer, but I’m willing to learn, so in order to do that I’m going to watch an overly cynical comedian talk about video-games in an effort to understand them’. No, the kind of person that watches that show is a gamer and thus, knows the basics and doesn’t need a refresher course in what a healthbar is. Keep at it, it’s a good concept and most of the show is enjoyable, but I think we can lose the Gaming 101 bits.

    Also Dara O’Brien is a whiny bitch. Games are an interactive medium, unlike say, movies and books and require a challenge in order for them to be fulfilling and fun. There is no challenge if you can just flat out skip and ignore anything that gets in your way.

    • JKjoker says:

      I disagree, the 40+ years old gamming virgins are the main group responsible for the wii’s success (and part of the DS success), they so called “casual gamers”, they want to kill time as much as we do and they tend to have MORE money available, if they were to turn into actual gamers things would be better for all of us, i have no doubt about that.

      But, they also have less time for playing and here comes the “denying of content” rant, while the guy spoke like a whinny retard he does have a very good point, one thing is level progression in games that follow a linear story, little can be done about it without having the game play itself (giving the player they choice to use a god mode from the start would work) but another is blatantly locking up content until you wasted hours and hours grinding your way to the content for no reason other than shitty design, examples :

      Resident Evil 5, wtf, even after you finish the game you are not even close to unlocking anything worthwhile, you need several playthoughs to accumulate the needed money and points plus a guide to find the bbsa symbols, the devs obviously expect you to replay the game 50 times

      GTAIV where many missions could easily give you a “skip driving” option (a part of the game many ppl find boring) or just open up the world from the start since many missions are self contained (even if it happens later like in Vice City, why do you have to play for hours before the game takes off the leash ?)

      Street Fighter IV/Smash Bros/MvsC2/almost every fighting game these days, if you bought the game just to have 2 player matches with your buddies, think again!, half the characters need to be unlocked by grinding for hours, isnt that awesome ?, gimme a goddamn unlock every character code dont force me to go hunt for savegames online

      Red Faction Guerrilla, they give you the option to buy access to strange weaponry that could be fun to use (although they can only be used in very specific conditions), then they dont give you any space to carry them making them useless … wtf, why only 3 weapons ? realism ? the dude can carry 8 missiles the size of anorexic woman, 30 they size of an arm, 30 demo charges the size of a small backpack and a huge hammer at the same time, why cant he carry 6 more weapons and a few more clips of ammo for them ?

      C&C3, why locking the Scrin ? everyone that followed the game slightly knew about them, the only reason i could think of is that by locking it ppl wouldnt complain about them not having a full campaign which also didnt come with the expansion (good job guys)

      Wolfenstein, this one is the stupidest example, not only they lock away content but they force you to play in a way that makes the game (that otherwise would be pretty fun) BORING to unlock them, awesome just awesome design

  39. Crush says:

    I enjoyed it overall, some good stuff & gags in there. I hope this was a pilot and he gets given the go ahead to do more in specific areas.

    There are two side to Dara O’Brien like games but not very good at them, should they be denied the rest of the game because of some challenge, the other side would say if you cant beat it then why are you playing them.

    I think a system that allows you to skip ahead should be included for those people, its not like hardcore games would use it anyway & are more likely to play on harder difficulty settings which could have the skip option disabled. If players who get easily stuck actually get to play more of the game instead of getting frustrated they get better at the game!

    I like the retro bit with Rab retro games were such punisher’s made me laugh.

    It would be great to see a Gameswipe that could show off the best the industry has to offer as only a handful of great games were mentioned, System Shock, Uncharted, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts etc. Also chart the evolution of games like the platformer was the first one up but stopped in the ear of the 90′s but platformers are still made particularly some are now in the 3D, like Ratchet & Clank or Psychonauts.

  40. Alez says:

    i couldn’t see the end on youtube because they’re not uploaded yet and i’m not gonna wait but from what i’ve see so far, i have 2 major problems.

    1. Lack of direction. Like most of you said, it kept switching from gamers to non gamers kinda show. But the weird thing was when they showed at the start the media coverage for violent video games and then a little later we see charlie talking about randomly killing nazis and chopping their dead bodies into bits. So they never tried to tackle the video game violence. They just said “look, people talk about it…..and now look at some, but we don’t have an opinion on it”. Maybe in the last part of the show they did, like i said, god did not will for me to be born in the UK so i couldn’t see it entirely.

    2. What the fuck is that guy on about with gta traffic and gears of war boss fights? That guy was so out of place i couldn’t believe it. It would be like having a show about books and having someone there saying “books have too many words, they’ve got no pictures in ‘em…how’s a fella supposed to enjoy books with just words in ‘em?” Games are not like books or movies, they are games because they are a challenge. Did he also complain when he was a little boy that, while playing football, he couldn’t score a goal? Just because you paid for a game doesn’t mean your stupid ass can finish it. Just like if i pay for a tampon i’m not gonna be able to use it to it’s true value.

  41. Heliocentric says:

    I miss channel 4′s “Bits”, it wasn’t “proper journalism, but i felt like it got gaming.

  42. Quercus says:

    I agree with the original review. The show was never sure who it was talking to and despite it being entertaining it could really have done with a series, starting with a broad analysis of what gaming is and how it is publicly viewed and then each week breaking down into the the main genres, how they have developed and good and bad examples of each.

    I also don’t understand why so much time was spent on Wolfenstein but no mention was made of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which seems a much better game.

  43. Quercus says:

    I agree with the original review. The show was never sure who it was talking to and despite it being entertaining it could really have done with a series, starting with a broad analysis of what gaming is and how it is publicly viewed and then each week breaking down into the the main genres, how they have developed, good and bad examples of each and where they are heading.

    I also don’t understand why so much time was spent on Wolfenstein but no mention was made of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, which seems a much better game.

  44. Psychopomp says:

    I have the sneaking suspicion that Walker may be the butt monkey :P

  45. duel says:

    the extended sections on the FPS and Rhythm segments where Brooker focused on a particular game we’re supposed to be reviews as I understand it, and they we’re cleverly threaded into the genre defining reel.

  46. Dan says:

    I enjoyed it. I would have been pretty pissed off if I hadn’t already played CoD4 to completion thanks to some horrendous spoilers, but I thought the program was fairly entertaining (if a little inconsistent).

    I can’t see how more of this sort of thing could be worse than what we currently have on terrestrial tv: nothing.

    • Bhazor says:

      But I’m sure The Moustache survives. Unless there’s an extra bit on the harder difficulties.

  47. Monchberter says:

    I’ve commented on the Guardian site about this:

    “Hmm, was i the only one who felt it concentrated too much on the retro and didn’t actually show anything of any particular value or excellence and just went for the ‘ooh, aren’t loads of these games horrible, but they’re not actually going to make me kill anyone’ jugular.

    Why spend most of the show talking about running over people, exploding Nazi heads and ‘Fiddy’ when more could have been mentioned about the worthwhile side of games, like teamwork and cooperation in online games, brave attempts to weld weighty topics to games such as Deus Ex and the use (and avoidance) of violence beyond B-movie thrills in games such as Mirror’s Edge.

    If anything i don’t think anyone will have come away from this programme with their prejudices removed. Brooker you pillock, you just gave the miserable game fearing majority a more extensive list of games to pillory, perhaps rightly so, but who’s going to care about the gems when their buried under a 10ft pile of bloody shit. most people wouldn’t save the gaming Industry for a couple of perceived classics if it meant we would be free of the overwhelming torrent of crap out there.

    Oh, and funny people mention Yahtzee and Zero Punctuation, his style is a wholesale lift from Mr Brooker, he’s just younger and infinitely more annoying for it.’

    And to close, personally i think that the choice of games was more to do with Brooker’s self flaggellating ‘i’m such a loser’ schtick than any serious choices. And the guy who was talking about games not giving him what he ‘paid for’ totally has the wrong idea. Games are participatory and are mean’t to be challenging. Just because you pop to the shops and buy a disk in a DVD case does not mean that it’s a passive activity. If his analogy about ‘books don’t chastise me for reading wrong’ was correct it’d make more sense to compare games to sports than media products where you only see your next opponent in a tournament if you actually win.

    Sorry Brooker, you messed up royally, but yes, nice to see a bit of Portal and Braid on telly, albeit without sufficient differentiation between the good and the bad when it comes to gaming

    • Vandelay says:

      I really think that any explanation on the violence in games thing would have been completely unnecessary. As others have said, the viewers of Charlie Brooker are not the type that will have knee jerk reactions to such things. Those that are more likely to be influenced by news reports on violent games are not going to be watching Brooker (due to him being a “dirty lefty” that writes for the Guardian.) A montage of the media making themselves look stupid was all that was needed.

      Also, I would say Wolfenstein was used because it was a remake of a game that defined the genre. Wolfenstein 3D is considered to be the pioneer for FPSs, so talking about the original and then reviewing the modern remake makes sense.

      I think he did as well as he could, with the 50 minutes he was given. I don’t really know what everyone was expecting from this, but I never thought the programme would be geared towards gamers and the focus on the mainstream was to be expected too.

    • JKjoker says:

      I think he picked Wolfenstein only to mock humanity for thinking killing Nazis is ok (and W2009 not only lets you kill them but also has long death animations and lets you hack them into pieces), ive seen him doing similar things in older shows

      take the game and replace all the enemy models with Jews or Asians or dark skinned ppl or women or children, its the same freaking game but the its suddenly sick, disgusting and should be banned at all costs

  48. Irish Al says:

    Wolfenstein or 3D Monster Maze weren’t the first FPS games either, by a long shot. But great show otherwise.

  49. Lilliput King says:

    @TB Agreed about Dara. That said, unfair difficulty spikes are poor game design, the last little boss sequence in GTA 4 being a perfect example. The game decides to go completely mental and have the last boss fire rockets out of the back of his head at the helicopter you boarded via jumping your dirt bike 30 feet into the air.

    Even more infuriating was that after the sequence where you’re forced to chase this guy he jumps into a boat, of which there are two moored up to the platform. Thinking ahead, I jump into the other boat, only to find out Nico can’t actually drive it, despite him being able to drive every other boat ever, and that /obviously/ the player was meant to jump onto the motorbike on the beach. Mission failed.

    Essentially, he has a point.

  50. Kelron says:

    It was entertaining. You can’t reasonably expect a lot of depth from a one-off 50 minute show designed to be comprehensible to non-gamers. I agree he spent too much time on the bad games, but then a lot of the people who extoll the virtues of games gloss over the fact that many games are needlessly and mindlessly violent, as much as ill-informed media focuses on it.