Quinton O’Reilly finds out if Charlie Brooker’s new videogames show ‘Gameswipe’ is another missed opportunity
Of all subject matters portrayed on television, videogames have always been horribly represented. The trouble is that videogame shows tend to fall into one of two categories: the first is the review-based show, normally consisting of a wafer-thin analysis that would struggle to fill one-eighth of this very page. The other is the gameshow format where two contestants would normally play against each other in, say, Street Fighter II and create a match so thrilling it would cause an ADD suffer to lapse into a coma.
The bottom line; shows based on videogames tend to be crap. Anyone remember Gamesmaster on Channel 4 where the disembodied head of a confused looking Patrick Moore dispenses gaming advice onto spotty pre-teens? Gamesville on Sky One with its carbon copy presenters, whose cheeky-chappy personas brought their presenting careers to dizzying heights by presenting The Games on Channel 4? Suzanne Duffy’s Megazone on the old Network 2, anyone?! There’s a reason why videogames shows tend to be either quickly forgotten or cancelled by TV executives.
Next up for the poisoned chalice is Charlie Brooker. Having presented the excellent Screenwipe and Newswipe, you could be forgiven for safely assuming that Gameswipe would be more of the same. Considering that Brooker spent a good deal of his journalistic career writing for a videogames magazine, PC Zone, along with his love for the medium, the logic behind making the show does begin to reveal itself: while the show itself is a one-off, does it succeed where others have failed time and time again?
Well, mostly, yes. While Gameswipe does follow the exact same format as Brooker’s previous shows, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Brooker’s review and presentation style lends itself well to the topic. While discussing the history of games and their many forms, he also takes the opportunity to highlight certain absurdities in his own unique way. When discussing the topic of killing Nazis in generic WW2 games, he claims that he gives each of them back stories to spice things up (“This is Kurt. He’s a father of three.”) before brutally killing him, quipping “that’s Christmas fucked for your kids!”
That’s not to say that the show is by any means perfect. Brooker’s dry, scathing humour is definitely an acquired taste, while the subject of games alone is enough for some to define it as niche. If you can disregard these issues, though, it’s obvious that a lot of thought and research went into producing the show and is explored with a depth that very rarely associated with the medium.
Perhaps that’s the most refreshing aspect about Gameswipe – that the team behind the show realise that there’s a lot more to games then what the general media makes them out to be, demonising and patronising the medium at equal measure. For the first time in its history, you could watch such a show and feel genuinely comfortable doing so – and for that alone, let’s hope it’s not game over.
Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe was shown on BBC4 as part of its Electronic Revolution week.