X-Play (1998-2013) is a video game reviews show currently airing on G4. The series is one of the longest lasting TechTV series and is the only one to have made it through the G4/TechTV merger completely unscathed. While many TechTV shows were dropped entirely, X-Play was actually given a new set and a bigger budget. On October 26, 2012, G4 announced that the show was cancelled.
The series began in 1998 on ZDTV, the first incarnation of TechTV, as GameSpot TV. The network at that time had a partnership with GameSpot and was something of a mouthpiece for the video game community. The series was hosted by Adam Sessler and, through the first year, Lauren Fielder. Although Fielder left the show in 1999, she would continue to appear on the show as a correspondant for the year following before disappearing into obscurity. She was replaced by Kate Botello, a long-time member of various television shows on ZDTV including The Screen Savers and ZDTV News.
During Botello's tenure as a co-host of the show, ZDTV became TechTV and the network's partnership with GameSpot ended in 2001 after CNET acquired the network. As a result, the series was renamed to Extended Play and business continued as usual. Botello left the show in 2002 in order to persue a career on Broadway. For a brief period in time, Sessler hosted the show solo until April 2003 when Morgan Webb joined the show as the new co-host.
The show employs a brand of humor that runs the gambit from obscure referential humor (like a less sophisticated Dennis Miller) to straight up lowbrow nonsense. Despite the humor, the focus on the show remains on indepth reviews of games. Very rarely do the hosts sacrifice quality of insight in the game for the sake of comedy.
The series has also spawned a book called The X-Play Insider's Guide to Gaming, which goes in depth into the gaming industry and several games written with the same voice and general style of the series.
Following TechTV's merger with G4, X-Play went through several revamps. Although the format of the show stayed static, the set was remodeled once during 2005 to further play up the video game angle and was again remodeled entirely after 2006's E³ conference. This second revamp also gave the show a new anime inspired introduction and other new graphics.
Rating Scale and Format
The scale to which X-Play rates their games by is fairly straight forward. Games are rated on a scale of one to five, with games very rarely getting ones or fives. There are a few games which the hosts considered giving a zero, like Pokemon Channel, simply on the virtue of not being an actual video game. The scale is as follows:
- 5 - Phenomenal. This is the peak of gaming. Any flaws are negligable.
- 4 - Great. While the game is very good, there are a couple flaws.
- 3 - Average. Not great, not terrible, but worth a rental.
- 2 - Mediocre. There are some serious flaws and should be avoided by everyone except for fans of the genre.
- 1 - Awful. The cream of the crap, there's no reason to buy, rent or play this game. It's flawed to the point of being nearly unplayable.
Only one game has been considered so low it could not even garner a 1, which was the PC game Big Rigs: Over The Road Racing.
The hosts take the best games of the year and compile them into their annual Holiday Buyer's Guide (officially titled "Non-Denominational Winter Season Gift Guide") episode and their year-end Best Of special. Highly rated games from previous years that have been marked down into a greatest hits category by the publisher are occasionally shown in a Games for Cheap Bastards segment. The show also makes use of seldom aired segments like Weird Games, Gay Games and Games for Rich Bastards.
Aside from reviews, the series is known for having indepth coverage of the Game Developer's Conference, Consumer Electronics Show, Tokyo Game Show and Electronic Entertainment Expo. These shows serve as previews for upcoming games and consoles, as well as outlets for the hosts' picks for what may be the best upcoming game. The series also runs an April Fools show which generally has no serious reviews and often pulls a prank on the audience. For instance, on April Fools 2005, Morgan Webb claimed that Adam had left the show in favor of a serious talk show that G4 gave him. Throughout the episode, cast members of other G4 shows appeared as irritating guest hosts, leading up to a preview of "Meet the Sess."
- Games rated as 1 out of 5.
- Games rated as 2 out of 5.
- Games rated as 3 out of 5.
- Games rated as 4 out of 5.
- Games rated as 5 out of 5.
Recurring Characters and Themes
For most the show's existence, Jason Frankovitz introduced the show as the disembodied voice in an over the top manner. This continued until March, 2005 when Frankovitz left the show. Several joke guest voices were used until a less over-the-top voice was found.
During slow months, particularly during the summer, the show starts to go heavy on the sketches and gimmick shows. During the summer of 2005, the series had an episode reairing bit sketches from E3, an episode where Adam and Morgan attempted to uncover a fictional mystery about the discarded E.T. Atari games and an episode about a robot named Adam V. These gimmick episodes are rare, however. Usually reviews are padded out using recurring characters. The following appear on a semi-regular basis:
- Adam 2.0 (Played by Adam Sessler's twin brother Jonathan)
- Drunk Link
- The Drunk Writer
- Guy LaFleur
- Jaded Star Wars Fanboy
- Morgan Von Vebb
- Old Man Stumpy Hazleton
- Ratty Handpuppet
- The Screaming Intern
- Special Agent Bob and Secret Agent Steve
- Shad Grimgravy
- Various Interns
These segments generally have something to do with the game being reviewed or with Adam's self-loathing. Other commonly used themes are the hosts' shared hatred of card battle games, their disdain for their viewers and how much anime fans hate them. This hatred is evidenced through the show's Viewer Mail segment. It should be noted that Adam and Morgan really do like their fans, it's just the several who write them hate mail about a game that they reviewed negatively who they can't stand.
The reviews also often use admittedly bad celebrity impressions and pictures of kittens to cover up particularly violent moments.