games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 TV Shows About Video Games

December 6, 2016 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. Last week’s topic was about specific TV shows based on video games, while this week it’s on shows about video games, which does have a distinction. There have been a lot of shows about video games, some of them bad and most of them being on G4. G4 was notorious for running crap that would generally talk down to its core audience so I don’t have a ton of shows from their lineup. Considering that most things are on Youtube now, this list is a bit of a historical relic but still fun to look back at. If I had to pick a 9th choice it would be G4’s “Pulse” show, but only because the co-host, Ronilyn Reilly, was very pretty. That was the sole redeeming part of that show. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Arena

Arena was a show on G4 that if was around today would probably be pretty popular. It just focused on various eSports team battling against each other for I think a small prize. Considering the popularity of things like EVO, the DOTA 2 International, Dreamhack, etc., a non-goofy show focused on eSports might do well. Arena’s folly was that it focused on some weird games at the time, notably MechWarrior 4 and original Call of Duty. Also the various hosts, Wil Wheaton among them, had no chemistry with one another. Still, it wasn’t as pandering as most of G4’s programming, so that’s a plus, even if most of the show was apparently faked.

#7: Drawn Together

Drawn Together is a weird one on this list but hear me out. It was a parody of The Real World that featured various animated stereotypes like a Betty Boo figure, and a Superman analogue. The two video game style characters were Ling-Ling (Pikachu), who was a homicidal version of a Pokemon, and Xandir who was a homosexual spoof of Link from The Legend of Zelda. The show didn’t whole sale do any direct video game parody episodes, but did occasionally feature other game characters, notably Scorpion for a few seconds.

#6: X-Play

This is the only other real G4 show on this list which should tell you the abysmal level of quality the network had about its subject matter. X-Play was a holdover from Tech-TV but was an even earlier show branded GameSpot TV. That should tell you really how old the show was. The most popular hosts were Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb, who I used to have issues with both during the show. I realized later in life that G4 was likely screwing them around and they were just trying to make the best of a bad situation. If the show was more focused on reviews or editorial I would have liked it more, rather than some hackneyed comedy bits. Still, they did Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne the best RPG award in 2004, so it wasn’t all bad.

#5: Nick Arcade

Nick Arcade was slightly goofy, even at the time, but it had a charm that was infectious. The show involved teams of kids battling each other in made up games, moving “Mikey” (a cartoon) around a board, or else playing real arcade/home games to reach a high score for in game points. It would culminate to a trip in “The Video Zone” where kids would do activities against a green screen set to a video game. Like I said, it’s a tad low-rent, but when it was new, it was pretty solid.

#4: Gameswipe

It speaks volumes that one of the best shows about gaming only had one episode but is still superb. The reason why it’s great is because it was written and hosted by Charlie Brooker. He’s the guy who created/writes Black Mirror, and has done a slew of other good UK shows like A Touch of Cloth and Newswipe. The episode doesn’t go too deep in any individual topic, it’s more of a primer for people who aren’t familiar with games to get them knowledgeable, but Brooker still infuses it with wit and charm, so it makes it pretty digestible for common folk.

#3: Captain N: The Game Masters

Now this is a cartoon that has its cast taken from video games, but it’s not based on any specific game, hence why it wasn’t on my list last week. Your main cast includes Captain N, a real kid named Kevin that is zapped into Videoland. Here he meets Princess Lana (again not a real game character), but then is introduced to Simon Belmont, Kid Icarus, and a chain-smoking green Mega Man. They team up with other heroes from time to time, namely Link or Bayou Billy as they battle the evil forces of Mother Brain, King Hippo and Dr. Wily.

#2: Electric Playground

Electric Playground was what AOTS was clearly trying to copy but couldn’t hack it in a million years. Created by Victor Lucas in 1997 this program has been airing in one form or another since then, which is almost 20 years at this point. It’s had notable co-hosts like Tommy Tallarico, Jade Raymond, Geoff Keighley and others join Lucas as they talked about games and reviewed them. More than that, the show never really talked down to its audience or pandered to them, which is something I respected about it.

#1: ReBoot

I love ReBoot even to this day. I watched it as a kid growing up and when they announced it was coming to DVD in a complete series I bought it on day one. The premise of the show had Guardian Bob, Dot and Enzo Matrix inside a computer world called Mainframe as they battled evil viruses and went into various game cubes. One conceit of the series was that “The User” (a real human in reality) would periodically insert games (game cubes) into the computer with Bob and his friends needing to win them, or else various portions of the city would be destroyed. It’s a weird premise but the show did work really well. The Game Cubes initially started off as generic titles like a space shooter or a F1 racing game but as the show progressed they got more and more specific. I’m talking about an Evil Dead game, Mortal Kombat (with Enzo being a Scorpion/Johnny Cage hybrid) and a Pokemon clone that would get them sued by Nintendo if they tried to make it today. Also, games could crash and get corrupted which mirrors real life as well.

For comments, list which TV shows about video games you enjoy.

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