On Thanksgiving eve something wonderful happened. Ron Funches, Professional Wrestling, and gaming nostalgia all came together in one of the most unexpectedly fun moments of 2020 (for me). G4tv had a holiday special reuniting former hosts and introducing the new face of the channel.
G4tv was an ahead-of-hits time television station aimed at an audience of video game playing young adults. This channel was an edgier take and rebrand of Tech TV. As G4 ran it’s course it can be looked back on as a more refined focused precursor to Spike TV. G4tv had programming such as Cinematech, where they literally just had game play footage playing for half hour blocks. They had shows devoted to game trailers, game music, cheats, and documentaries on the people who made the games. G4tv was basically the television version of Youtube’s gaming retro scene but 10 years prior. It was amazing and always felt like it was on the brink of collapse.
When I was in college G4tv shifted to host driven content highlighted by Xplay and Attack of the Show. This was appointment television for my friends and I. We would literally yell into the hallway that AOTS was on and crash into the closest room with a TV. We would make purchases based on DVDuesday selections. Kevin Pereira, Olivia Munn, Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb were our window into the gaming industry every day. The diverse cast was also super validating to our “nerdy" hobbies that didn’t exactly endear us to our peers. My friends and I were all athletes in some capacity. We ran track, played basketball and one of us was on the football team too. Our sports kept us safe and socially relevant but we really just wanted to play Playstation 2 all night and wax poetic about Rogue Legacy and how amazing GTA: San Andreas was. It was hard trying to have a competent social life while being a gamer, at least it was back when we were in school.
G4tv led to the paradigm shift we see now, where gaming is main stream and is the social connection for a lot of college students. I was a hall director for almost a decade and can speak first hand to the amount of gaming and students watching the streaming of games every day. Even now, I walk by students playing Call of Duty on their phones and see half the basketball team watching NBA 2K streams.
G4tv also exposed us all to our first women who played games. Morgan Webb was the first woman who wasn’t my sister that I saw gaming regularly. Seeing people that I found to be good looking and cool but also gaming as super validating. The stereotype of gamers at that point was the basement dwelling character Cartman lampoons on South Park’s WOW episode. While I love the original G4 crew I am so excited to see that Ron Funches and WWE’s Xavier Woods (Austin Creed) will be involved in the new G4tv. Seeing a comedian and an athlete being huge gamers on television is amazing. It breaks down so many stereotypes. As a man of color, there are a lot of expectations placed on what it means to be a black and more specifically what it means to be a Black man. Being a gamer and focusing energy on non-athletic pursuits can really run counter to those expectations in a lot of ways. Ron Funchess has a soft demeanor and is all about self-care and love and runs a podcast about self improvement on top of being an amazing comedian. He is black male representation that would have helped me greatly to see as a young man in college. Seeing an athlete be as intelligent and thoughtful as Austin Creed on TV regularly is amazing for young black men to see as well. It also helps for everybody to see a wide range of representation on the screen.
The G4tv special itself was amazing. They did the impossible and brought back both the people and the humor that I remembered from the channel. They also added new hosts and a future to be excited about. I won’t spoil too much about the event but there is an interesting story thread that ties it all together. The cast did a live stream after the show that was really fun. Seeing the hosts talk about how much fun they had making Attack of the Show and seeing how their careers have progressed was a surprisingly emotional and rewarding experience. It was the holiday special that I needed this year. It hit specific nostalgic notes for me and also gave me hope for the future. It’s really heartening in 2020 to see a channel and segment of the gaming community working so hard to provide diverse voices and experiences. Time will tell if a television station like G4 can exist in a world where YouTube and Twitch dominate the gaming space but I'm excited to see them try and will absolutely tune it.