This is part 4 of my Web Feature Portfolio for Writing and Editing for Digital Media. My articles are for ‘the Australian online magazine of culture and the popular arts’, The Enthusiast. My fourth and final article is a feature for their ‘TV’ category.
When casual fans tuned in to ABC’s Good Game several weeks ago, they may have been a little confused. The video game programme’s co-founder and co-host, Junglist (Jeremy Ray), was gone. In his place was a new host, Hex (Stephanie Bendixsen). It was only at the episode’s end that a quick farewell was given to Junglist, without further explanation. Casual fans may have been somewhat perturbed and puzzled by Junglist’s abrupt mid-season disappearance. But for the hardcore Good Game fans, an uproar had already begun.
Three days before the show aired, the decision was announced via an impersonal press release on the Good Game forums, followed by numerous posts back and forth, and finally a slightly more personal follow-up announcement nearly a week later. The lack of openness was galling enough, considering this is a show tagged as being “by gamers, for gamers”. But then Junglist commented on the forums that lies were circulating, only part of the story was being told, and in fact, his axing was forced on him from above, in a stated effort to gain “mass appeal” through a female presenter. Apparently, Junglist had also been contesting the lack of time allotted for reviewing games, or had ‘performance issues’, depending on who you listen to.
The story spread, with articles from gaming websites, mainstream commercial media and the ABC itself. Everyone had their side of the story (as far as possible within confidentiality agreements) and fans voiced their opinions at every opportunity. Amid the secrecy, speculation and internet chatter, the truth is elusive. Of course, a website was also created to redress the problem, or just provide a gathering place of support. In the end, the main issue is that ABC management made another bungle in their handling of this and they neglected their established fanbase. A familiar name shares the blame: Head of Arts and Entertainment, Amanda Duthie, the same woman dumped as Head of Comedy after she gave that Chaser sketch the green light.
Still, the ire has died down somewhat. Hex has been on for three weeks and after a bumpy start, it looks like there may be hope for the show yet. It’s just a shame they chose two ‘casual’ gamers, and removed the differing perspective of an established ‘hardcore’ gamer. This week marked the first time Hex and Bajo even had a significant disagreement about a game; even they felt it was noticeable enough to point out. Bajo and Hex would have been perfect for the upcoming children’s version of the programme, Good Game: SP on ABC3, with Junglist and Bajo remaining for the original and its subsequent increase in ‘mature’ content. Instead, we’ll have to wait and see how it all progresses, and whether ABC has learnt their lesson and will listen to the show’s fans, or at least talk openly with them, before any other drastic decisions are made.
Still, the show is worth watching. Whether you’re a casual gamer, semi-fanatic, or even a non-gamer, there’s plenty to keep you interested. Bajo and Hex even live-tweet the show as it airs every week on ABC2. For anyone who wants an idea of the show, a fond reminder of things past, or, just maybe, a sample of the madcap antics and nerdy enthusiasm that the show could reach again soon, there’s this lovingly made video montage: a tribute to Junglist and the show he helped to create.