During the summer of 2002, I chill-laxed in my living room, watching television as afternoon sunlight slanted through the sliding glass door. I sat on the carpet, leaning back against the couch and channel surfing throughout wave after wave of digital cable. To my surprise, I landed on a channel showing the opening to the video game “Final Fantasy VIII,” my favorite video game of all time. I looked at my hand. I was holding a television remote, not a PlayStation gamepad. The “Final Fantasy VIII” opening showed a sakura petal float into Rinoa’s hand and it transformed into a white feather after she squeezed the petal and opened her hand.
I said to myself, “Whoa, why am I watching this on TV?” It could not of have been a television commercial because “Final Fantasy VIII” was released in 1998.
I learned that the name of the television show that showed the “Final Fantasy VIII” clip, as well as scenes from other video games was called “Cinematech” on a channel called G4TV, a cable network dedicated to video games.
I tensed my shoulders and arms and pedaled my legs with joy as if I was moving a flat stationary bike on the carpet.
G4 was the greatest TV channel of all time to me. When G4 first launched in 2002, it had 11 shows and of course covered major events like E3. G4 had television shows for action games, sports games, game reviews, and an interactive chat show, as well as others. One of my favorite shows was “Filter” hosted by Diane Mizota. It was a countdown show for all kinds of categories from general interests like best fighting game to more specific categories like “Mario.” Another of my favorite shows was the video game strategy show “Cheat!” hosted by Cory Rouse. He had the best catch phrase at the end of every episode: “If life’s got you down, throw it into god mode and keep kicking butt.”
Because of G4, I became a “Dead or Alive” fanboy. When I saw the trailer for “Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball” on “Cinematech,” I fell in love with the women of “DOA.” I would wake up very early morning to catch any reruns. It was on the same episode as a “Final Fantasy IX” clip and it was after some game play footage of “EverQuest.” When I saw Helena wearing just an opened unbuttoned dress shirt as she took a sip of tea, I was sold on getting an Xbox just for “DOAXBV.”
G4TV had the right amount of programming: 11 original shows plus reruns of a 1980s arcade game show called “Starcade.” But then in 2004, it merged with TechTV, and then there was too much programming. After the TechTV merge, G4 was losing sight of its vision. Yes, video game culture and tech culture are symbiotic, but there were television shows that were out of place, like a show about war machines. The only good that resulted from the merge was “Anime Unleashed.” The channel showed all 26 episodes of “R.O.D the TV” numerous times, and it became one of my favorite anime (even though G4TechTV aired it dubbed).
As years passed, all of the original shows and “Starcade” reruns were cancelled, and all of the channel’s original programming were limited to “X-Play,” a half-hour show about video games, and “Attack of the Show,” a show showcasing the latest technology and pop culture trends. Other than those two meager “geek” shows were marathon blocks of “Cops,” “Cheaters,” and other crappy reruns from other channels.
I’m no prophet, but I had known this was going to happen: that G4 would sell out like MTV by not adhering to its original vision. G4 possessed something unique and destroyed it by thinking it had to compete with networks like Spike. Although MTV was once visionary, there was still music on TV before MTV like American Bandstand. But before G4, there were no shows dedicated to video game culture on TV other than game shows.
Beginning this summer, G4 will become the new Esquire network. And it’s going to suck.