To say that I was blindsided by this news when I heard it yesterday was an understatement, and I've had some words banging around in my head ever since. I'm sure there will be any number of people who will say similar things to me much more eloquently, but I'm going to lay out some of my thoughts, firstly about the show itself and my relationship with it, then with how the news was broken and why cancelling the shows was the wrong thing to do.
The first time I remember seeing Good Game was the 2007 Christmas/Game of the Year episode late one night... I remember it mostly because they were talking about a very weird sounding game, Portal.
And I don't think I saw it again until the following Christmas... I think it used to be on quite late at night, and so I never stayed up to watch it, or by the time it rolled around again the following February after the Christmas show I'd already forgotten that it was even a thing. I may have caught an episode here or there, but I wasn't anything like a regular watcher.
When I did start to pay attention was when all the brouhaha started about Hex joining the show... which, I'm just going to say now, was all incredibly stupid and juvenile ranting. I remember reading the introductory bio that Hex put on the Good Game website and thinking that she sounded awesome, and I think all the whining about her was a major influence about why I started watching the show on a regular basis (as a counterbalance to all those "I'm not watching the show anymore" idiot people). At least that's why I watched the first episode with Hex in it... and then I realised she was awesome, and the show was awesome, and I started watching it every week (or at least every other week after it moved to Tuesday nights and I was doing the fortnightly movie thing... but I did try and catch up on iView).
And I wasn't even a regular gamer at that point. As I've mentioned before, I was a gamer in my teens with the SNES, then again in my mid 20's with the original Playstation, but then nothing.
I just enjoyed the show, enjoyed seeing the games and hearing Bajo and Hex's thoughts on them. I dipped in and out of Spawn Point (although I'd occasionally binge watch a month's worth of episodes on iView over a Sunday afternoon), but I never missed an episode of the main show.
It's also the only show I've specifically turned my TV on for in about two years. Yes, sometimes I'll switch it on and just flick around or I know something is on, so I just have it on, but Good Game is the only show that I made sure that I watched when it aired.
Good Game is also directly responsible for me buying a PS3 and getting back into gaming when they reviewed Journey and I knew I had to play it. Buying the PS3 also gave me Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and I played that game until I'd wrung all the possible game that I could out of it.
But it was a combination of that game, and the Good Game Best 100 Games show and a workmate who got me into hardcore Assassin's Creed fanboy territory. They tell me that AC2 is the bes AC game... workmate says she went out and bought it... I remember how much fun ACB is and go out and buy AC1 and AC2... the rest is history (even if I still haven't finished AC1 and probably never will).
When they created Good Game Pocket I dipped in and out of a few of the first episodes and it was okay... but eventually I fell more than a little under NichBoy's spell and while I was never a hardcore Pocketeer (I'm perfectly okay with absorbing my media passively, I don't need to get all up in there and interact), I did end up watching a lot of the show and enjoyed it.
I will admit I'm not the least bit interested in e-sport, so while I'm sure that Well Played had the same level of quality as everything else the Good Game team did, it wasn't my "jams" as the cool kids say.
I follow Hex and Bajo and Goose and Nichboy and Pierreth on Twitter and Instagram, so I've also had a view behind the "TV presenters" to as much of the real people that they display on those platforms... and the few times I got tweets back from any of them (or favourites or whatever), I did a little fanboy dance of joy.
Then at a certain point last year when I was looking for new podcasts to keep my occupied on my way too and from work I discovered the Good Game Roundtable podcast hosted by producer and director Lin Jie Kong. For anybody currently experiencing Good Game post-cancellation blues, I highly recommend it, especially the "People of Good Game" episodes where she goes through the cast and crew and their backstories. Highlights include the shirt that got NichBoy his first job and hearing the real guy behind the voice of DARREN on Spawn Point (spoiler, he sounds like that all the time).
So at this point, I feel like I know a lot about these people, which made the news that two presenters were leaving (more on that in a second) and that all the shows except for Spawn Point were being cancelled even more strange and heartbreaking.
And before we delve into the flip side of this situation... take some time to go check out the #putoutyourcontrollers hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram.
Now on to the crazy, ranty side of my brain...
One of the things that annoyed me about the cancellation statement to be honest... there are two main presenters on the two broadcast shows, Bajo and Hex and there's Goose who appears on both of the shows, NichBoy on Pocket and Rad on Well Played. The ABC's statement said "two of the key presenters of Good Game announced they were leaving to pursue other opportunities" reading that, you would think, oh, that's clearly Bajo and Hex. But no, turns out it was Hex and NichBoy. Surely if that's the case you specify which two presenters are actually leaving.
It's one of the things that massively annoys me about both major companies and government departments, and the ABC is both, they don't just tell the truth. The statement is full of corporate doublespeak at worst and pandering PR fluff at best... and I never actually believe the "leaving to pursue other opportunities" line, especially when it happens two weeks before the show is usually due to return. If it's budget cuts, say that it's budget cuts... just don't say "the ABC has decided to end the long and successful run of the show" because clearly makes no sense.
And there were enough people on the team that losing two on camera presenters shouldn't have mattered. They juggled things around more than enough earlier in the year, with at one point both NichBoy and Rad filling in for an overseas Bajo and an ill Hex respectively.
I'm also unsure how to feel about the news that NichBoy and Hex have been "poached" by 7Mate to do a show there. That was one of the most positive elements of the show being on the ABC, they aren't allowed to advertise, so the show was about reviewing the content of the game and not trying to push whatever agenda the company that was giving the most money to the marketing department that week wanted to push. I hope for both of their sakes that that isn't going to be the case, and I will most likely tune in to whatever this new show is at least once. But it's not going to be the same.
Just to don my tinfoil hat for a moment... it feels almost like Good Game was "protected" while Janet Carr was still the executive producer, but as soon as she left then Management axed the show.
It also shows that whoever was in charge of this decision (according to the previously mentioned article, that would be Director of Television, Richard Finlayson... who is leaving himself at the end of March... way to leave a fucking legacy dude) was unable to see how unique the show was, both in terms of it's position as one of the few video game review shows on television anywhere in the world, the fact that it was Australian content with a uniquely Australian voice that covered the Australian gaming industry in a way that no other part of media is doing, it was appealing to an audience who usually don’t watch the ABC, and as I'm sure they're finding out right about now, has a very loyal, very loud and I would also hope a very articulate audience. On top of that the decision shows they don't understand that gaming is not just a niche activity and it's not just for children (which, let's be honest, is exactly that they're saying by axing everything except for Spawn Point).
It was also fairly unique in that not only did it have a female host (well, two, if you count Rad hosting Well Played), but the topics the shows covered got into some subjects that you don't usually see.
And most importantly it's very clear that they don't understand how people consume content now. Once Spawn Point started appearing on YouTube, I started watching it again, because it was easy and I was already there. The same goes for Pocket... why would I leave an environment that I was already interacting with (YouTube) and go to another location (iView) where I would actually be seeing a lower quality version of the content (which may be partly because my ISP doesn't count iView against my downloads, but still). From what I understand, they also don't count the YouTube views when looking at ratings, which is kind of nuts.
But again, if they weren't happy with the views or the ratings or whathaveyou then be honest about it. Or change the way you calculate "popularity" or "engagement".
The other part of the statement which doesn't make any sense is "changes in the way audiences are choosing to get their information about gaming"... which I completely understand in relation to the main show... they're up against people who are just livestreaming the game as soon as they get it, but to be honest I'd rather wait for the full Good Game review in a lot of cases, they have time to play a good chunk of the game and then actually critique it instead of just showing game footage.
Where that argument completely falls on it's face in the mud is the fact that they also canned Pocket... which is exactly the kind of thing they're taking about when they say "the way audiences are choosing to get their information about gaming". It was a daily show, with daily news, play sessions of new games and the livestreams. All the things that that sentence is talking about.
It makes no sense.
If you feel strongly about this as well, here's what you can do...
- Lodge a complaint directly with the ABC
- Contact Mitch Fifield, the Federal Minister for Communications and the Arts
- Contact your local MP
Thank you for everything Good Game team... for all the reviews, the laughs, the insanity, the moments that I fell in love with you all, for being your wonderfully nerdy selves... and I hope for all of you the same thing that Bajo and Hex wished us at the end of every episode... may all your games be good ones.
3 Feb 2017 - Edited to add some new information, remove incorrect information and add some additional thoughts.