The worst videogame TV shows of the decade

As one of the leading sites for user-generated content, Youtube is continuously churning out nuggets of actual shit by the hour. It’s a website where videos consists mainly of footage of Slow Lorises (Lorisi? Loris’?) being tickled, tween video diaries and 15-year-olds miming to Harvey Danger singles, so when we first became aware of Yahtzee’s Zero Punctuation we latched on to him as someone who was funny, concise and not noticeably mental. Yahtzee was the picture-perfect image of an Internet reviewer. Like some sort of latter-day Hard Harry he was the voice of a niche group of people, unassailable behind a wall of perfectly-timed Flash animation and spewing out opinions that were acerbic yet mostly right. Then in 2008 the Internet was introduced to Game Damage.

Game Damage was Yahtzee’s tentative television pilot featuring Yahtzee himself and two Australian podcasters in a premise that involves three people sitting on a two-person futon in what looks like some kind of bottle factory with a green screen backdrop. This is the web’s best example of Video Killed the Internet Star. Yahtzee might be the People’s Princess of confident video game commentary but try to recreate that in high-definition celluloid detail and what you’re left with is footage of three guys from the Internet trying not to look as if they’ve been preserved in a veneer of their own sweat. Oh, and some skits.

It’s a tragedy. The two non-famous geeks giggle and twiddle as if unable to decide whether to be starstruck or wracked with stagefright. Then there’s Yahtzee, whose on-camera presence is like watching Yahtzee attempting to win a talent show by impersonating Yahtzee; punctuating every word with weird over-pronounced sarcastic Yahtzeeisms, but speaking more slowly, as if drugged into “Okay, Maybe Some Punctuation”. Most people don't actually talk the way they write but human-Yahtzee recites every line in an eerie Yahtzee character-voice, all while dressed as if he’s part of some kind of pantomime re-cast of The Maltese Falcon. No offense to Yahtzee fans, but like Michael Jordan, who couldn’t play baseball worth a damn but today owns an entire NBA team, the dice-man is less a jack of all trades and more a master of one.

And the legitimately good one:


Gameswipe was the one-off games-related TV special by England’s misanthropic comedian Charlie Brooker. Brooker had started out his career by churning out derisory comedy bits for games magazines like PC Zone and wound his way up the ranks of television and print, garnering a healthy fanbase of Guardian readers, miserable intellectuals, fellow gamers and the general idiot public.

By the time he was ready to produce Gameswipe in 2009, Brooker had amassed an audience who would wait at their futons with baited breath for his latest rant about The Wire or how Macs are a bit rubbish. This was a more varied audience than he’d originally played to, with as many gaming rubes as it had hardcore gamers by the time BBC4 aired Brooker’s video game feature.

Gameswipe was probably one of the fairest takes on video games that’s ever been televised. And that’s probably down to the approach of trying to explain the entire history of gaming to mainstream viewers who don’t actually care. Instead of indulging in fashionable gaming trends Brooker caters to the masses, giving a rapid run-through of every major genre and gaming topic while introducing the likes of Manic Miner and Flower to video game newcomers. Gameswipe is a show that understands that television speaks to the mainstream while trying to ignore the fact that the mainstream are only watching for the bits where Brooker swears, so they can chuckle as they nod off into their single-serving of cheezits.

Mar 27, 2010

TV Videogame shows: Have they always sucked ass?
Time for a look through the archives...

Zero Punctuation: the rip-offs!
You've seen Yahtzee's video reviews. Now experience the horrible offspring!

The 7 worst ways to pad a game
Irritating strategies to draw games out, and why we hate them