It is easy to overlook things that are right in front of us and it is easy to take what we have for granted, which everyone has done in some capacity. In the more modern era, the internet is our main gateway for media and content that is not strictly limited to high budget shows and films from streaming services, but also internet shows and content developed by individuals using what they can to entertain their audience. One of the most prominent and most copied forms of content in the modern world is videos and shows relating to Gaming. YouTube and Twitch are filled with gamers creating content, streaming gameplay, or making comedy around that content. It is constantly being uploaded and it is one of the most lucrative forms of content currently ongoing. While this all seems new the adoration of geek, gaming, and pop culture isn’t new. There was a television channel before the rise of internet video that really took the gaming and geek culture concept and ran with it as far as it could go for the time. This channel was called G4 and it was a major staple in the geek world for many years during the first half of the 2000s. It was a television network that attempted to reach what was once considered a niche audience and ended up helping to change how Gamer and Geek culture has permeated more so into the overall pop culture mainstream. It is a network that deserves to be remembered for what it helped to popularize so now is a great time to look back at it and observe the impact that G4 has made.
The most essential thing to any network is the programming and the original series that they premiere. A channel has to be interesting or unique to grab the attention of people and at the time when G4 was coming up they had to compete heavily with other cable networks and find a way to target that niche. The channel launched in 2002 with a plethora of shows that related to the World of Gaming. Some of these shows included G4TV.com, Arena, Cheat, and Judgement Day. These original shows were all related to gaming whether it be in reviewing games, competing in them, or discussing news. This was new to television at the time and quickly found some viewers. Meanwhile a channel similar in approach known as Tech TV was launched in 1998 under the name ZDTV. That channel had a similar approach in reaching its niche, but more focused around technology and computers in general. These two networks were very similar to one another, but one show that bridged the gap between them was a small review show called Extended Play, which would eventually become X-Play. The longest running series on that channel.
X-Play is arguably one of the most popular shows on both networks, which is why it is such an important property when the merger between Tech TV and G4 happens in 2004. While the shows that were loved on Tech TV faded away during the merger, X-Play remained the lynch pin to connecting the two networks because it was the only show from Tech TV solely about games. While some of the G4 shows went away most stayed intact and kept thriving under the G4/TechTv brand until eventually the merged channel just became known as G4. These shows under the G4/TechTv brand are often considered a high point for the gaming on this channel seeing as it had quite a lot of excellent content packed together. It was this era in which I remember fondly. I was a follower since Tech Tv, but fell in love when it became gaming focused. X-Play was at the top of the popularity for the network seeing as that show had a chemistry that stood out significantly. Its uniqueness was in its willingness to embrace making the show part serious review show and part skit comedy, where any silly idea was a go. This personality based brand was a lot of what worked at the time and while X-Play was the most well known show that lasted the longest it was backed up with other programs that each hit different points of gaming that would indicate where inevitably gaming would take over as a major form of passive entertainment online. At that time these programs aired they really did fill a needed niche seeing as the early 2000s was a crossover year where gaming was heading more so into the mainstream with the improving technology and the new generation of consoles including the Gamecube, Playstation 2, and Original Xbox. That change in exposure led to the successes the network had in not only developing a strong channel presence, but also a strong online presence in the age of rising internet popularity.
The other important series that needs to be addressed is another one of their longest running shows and that was Attack of the Show. In many ways AOTS became the face of the G4 network. While initially beginning in 2005 as a replacement for the Tech Tv show, The Screen Savers, it took some time to find its own identity and became a variety show focusing on geek and internet culture in general containing many segments that would come and go as time passed. Early on the show had a more standard structure, but would eventually become something else entirely and for many people the pairing of host Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn are what made that show magic. In many ways it was similar to X-Play because it was heavily personality based and it allowed for comedy to play a big part of it. This show was at the apex of YouTube and internet meme culture that exploded from viral videos that AOTS would often share. This show was incredibly important in crafting the channels identity in later years, which was a good and a bad thing, but no one can deny the impact the show had on that brand and influencing others to do similar thing other mediums.
It is important when discussing the strong original content that was produced to also acknowledge the hectic history that eventually led to its downfall. The network had so many strong elements, but some of the most popular shows were built on the back of massive issues with ratings, mergers, and executive interfering. Many of the staff over the years including the hosts have discussed openly about the often times terrible treatment they received from some of the people in the higher positions. These issues were a big part of the struggle that was felt behind the scenes and it had significantly hurt the brand.
I have fond memories during the G4/TechTv time, but for many it is a sore spot seeing as so many Tech Tv shows were cancelled in that merger in addition to the original Co-Founder Charles Hirschorn having his brand that he laid the ground for stripped from him. This definitely rubbed many people the wrong way and while good content was produced many of the people involved felt hurt by those decisions. As the network moved forward the shows that made the network kept being removed and replaced, which did nothing to secure the ratings that the network wanted. They kept moving away from games and more towards trying to replicate MTV or Spike Tv. This led to the shows in general becoming less Geek centered even though Attack of the Show and X-Play persisted. The channel even attempted to add some scripted programming including the cult hit, Code Monkeys. While that was a well made show it quickly was buried under the confused identity of the branding of the channel and would eventually be cancelled as well.
This change in focus led to fans abandoning the network because it wasn’t the same as it was before. It was a lazy era for the channel with so many of the hours dedicated to airing reruns of the shows Cops and Cheaters. Eventually this led to trying new shows that just didn’t work and felt misplaced until 2014 when G4 finally shut down for good. This was the end of an era, but the writing on the wall was there for some time. While it was sad to see a network that was much beloved go it is important to remember that the legacy of the excellent content lives on in many ways. The world grew past the network, but the network’s impact is still felt.
The Legacy that was built from this network is incredible to think about. While shows about games weren’t exclusive to G4 the channel really did an excellent job at bringing the gaming culture to a wider audience to be seen in more homes. Those early shows were all interesting in different ways whether it be with how people look at game criticism, how people discuss news in gaming, and how gaming can be seen on a competitive level. Each of these aspects were represented on a majority of cable networks and prior to this that was reserved to mostly magazines and a few websites. It introduced people to a new way of discussing the entirety of gaming and later on geek culture. Gaming is currently one of the most successful and lucrative media online. Content about gaming is a major part of the culture and YouTube is dominated with personalities, while Twitch has people constantly streaming and making serious money off of that. G4 predicted the rise of this and gave people what had not been seen to this degree before. It made me fall harder into loving Video Games as a whole. I still see people attempting to recreate the magic that was G4’s talented personalities or try to cover E3 the way that they did, which is hard to do.
Geek culture was slowly becoming much more mainstream and G4 was on the heels of that as technology advanced rapidly. The channel was on at the rise of the superhero movie boom in addition to the rise of internet culture. It attempted to stay on top of everything and especially with AOTS it succeeded. It gave a home to things other networks would never cover and their reporting on San Diego Comic Con made that event even more of a spectacle. It was able to fully situate itself with great content that hit the pulse of what was going on. While the channel inevitably failed it is impossible to deny that its mainstream presence allowed for more Geek properties to be taken seriously. They helped to usher in the idea of being Geeky is something that is very cool and the best of their shows didn’t talk down to their audience. This content with its focus on a formerly niche culture definitely made an impact in changing how it had been viewed.
The Legacy of the network and its multiple popular shows will be remembered most by those who followed it. It was seen by the right people and influenced creators to take on the mantle and create their own original content. While I don’t give full credit to G4 for influencing absolutely everything I do give it credit for making a very vocal case as to the power of Geek culture and the importance of understanding gaming as a viable mainstream artistic medium.
G4 is a network I have very fond memories for. It shaped my passions and it gave me something to be excited about on a daily basis when it was at its prime. The content I have made even without me realizing it was influenced by what they started. I owe a lot of my pursuit of geek culture to the programs they produced and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It was a unique channel that can never be replicated. It was lightning in a bottle and in the end the content they helped to inspire outgrew that network.It’s influence and impact on today’s culture is felt and it is survived by those of us that loved the network and took from it what was important. It will always be remembered and missed.
Below is the final Sign off for the Channel in 2014: