As gamers of a certain age, we are often criticised for clinging onto the relics of the past, be it retro gaming classics, the ability to order games in magazines or gaming television programming, but while retro gaming can be enjoyed in many ways; XBLA ports, compilations etc and the internet replaces the magazine adverts for homebrew, gaming tv has been the elusive golden goose for far too long.
Only it hasn’t really, when you put your mind to it, it’s simply not been done as well as Gamesmaster/Games World did it. No one cites Gamepad as a classic piece of essential gaming media, but the announcement of wonky faced sex-pest looking Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe got the community buzzing louder than a tarts knicker drawer.
Gameswipe is essentially the third themed show in the ‘-wipe’ series that started with Screenwipe – itself derrived in part from the Guardian columns entitled Screenburn – which was dedicated to ripping TV programming a new one, and Newswipe, which did the same for people who are paid to read an autocue and attempt to match the words to a relevant facial emotion – a task contradicted by the Beeb’s insistance on hiring sexy older ladies to read bad news, after being inspired by Alan Partridge’s love of a travel tavern manager. I mean honestly, how can I be depressed about floods in Samoa and war in Afghanistan when all I can think of is how I could get my cock up Fiona Bruce without being caught on camera – probably involving a fake chair with a hole in it I imagine, but I digress.
Gameswipe arrived last night as part of a BBC4 digital Britain season, with much fanfare. Fans of Brooker expected something like his segment on Screenwipe a while back, but longer, and were right to do so. Others were expecting a show for the hardcore gamer, they were wrong to do this. You see while we all loved 100% gaming driven shows in the 90’s, the general populace was indifferent to gaming as a whole. As the market diversifies so must a programme about it, and Gameswipe did this perfectly covering genre types and giving a cultural history of the last thirty years – throwing in some retrospective anecdotal celebrity driven segments for the core gamer. But after watching it I was left wanting more than I got. The potential had been realised, but there is too much gaming out there to be compressed into one hour long programme. However I was not surprised to see criticism of the program appearing on forums later on, ranging from complaints about the basic nature of some sections, to the choice of games that were looked at in detail – Wolfenstein and 50 Cent Blood in the Sand – due to their dubious quality. Clearly the hardcore gamers were hoping to show off the best of the best, and ignore the critique that Brooker usually weaves into his works. At the same time we should never expect a major player such as the Beeb to provide anything other than well balanced programming, too many shows were aimed squarely at the bedroom gamer that it almost became self defeating. Why make programmes for people that won’t buy them – and why won’t people understand games without knowledge. With programmes like Gameswipe – and Penn and Teller’s recent Gaming Violence episode of Bullshit actually – the wider market can start to understand the qualities of games that seem nothing more than ‘murder simulators’ if you believe the only other available televisiual media on games, the news – and as we all know, the news isn’t too fussed about providing a balanced arguement if it will get in the way of a killer headline, probably involving a gaming addict killing headlines.
Gameswipe was nothing remarkable in itself, instead it was realistic and possible. No oil rigs/hell stations/carnivals involved to theme the show, just someone who knows what they are talking about providing a podium for a much maligned industry, media wise. Hearing Dara O’Briain talking about playing Gears of War and not being able to get past the first Berserker was a revelation, but gave me an insight that my gaming goggles didn’t see. This is essential. Our hobby is full of contradiction and issue, but we ignore it as long as it entertains for a while. DRM, lacking features, crappy online, excessive violence, piracy, Imagine games, bad writing and deceiving box write ups are all accepted as the norm with only a few bothering to set up a digital petition or rant on a forum. At the same time a friend of mine, a non-gaming friend, found the show fascinating to the point that they are off buying a 360 as I write this.
If you didn’t see it watch it here – Gameswipe on iPlayer
If you did discuss it in the comms field, or in our forums.