Digital content is surging in popularity and gaming channels are trying their hand at the hearts of the masses…again.
Recently, gamers have seen the return of G4TV as well as the launch of the new gaming entertainment channel Venn.tv. Pushed as digital channels more than network TV, these offerings of gaming culture news, comedy, tips, and interviews beg the question, “Will they survive this time?” While only time can offer the answer, let’s see how this may or may not work.
Gaming culture as it stands is more dynamic than it has ever been. With gaming becoming a lot more mainstream, the ‘definition’ of being a gamer is certainly being changed within the minds of those in entertainment. Game live streaming is surging in a way that is forging all new revenue streams and opportunities for those who initially saw gaming as a hobby. Now, there are full time streamers that can make millions a year. While making millions as a full time Twitch.tv streamer is rare, the appeal and possibility is one that has basically assisted Youtubers in reducing the reach of gaming journalists. Gaming streamers are entertainers that build their own fanbase oftentimes with very little production value to support them.
At any given time, most gamers have access to hundreds if not thousands of entertaining streamers that are live playing new and retro games and interacting with their viewers in real time. Toss in the occasional game where chat can affect the game the streamer is playing and you have an interactive experience unlike anything that network TV could ever produce with a studio.
In the days before streaming was accessible, the gaming community had outlets like Machinima and G4TV to congregate around and feed off of. Each outlet had their own shows and offerings that basically celebrated gaming culture, gaming tournaments, gaming news, and gaming related entertainment.
While G4TV is now returning, its initial incarnation was fun and problematic all in the same breath. To keep things short and sweet, G4TV was built around the demographic of gaming being only for young white males. While it was birthed from a more innocent TechTV framework that was valuable, but not that entertaining, it still had a sizable cult following that transcended being race and gender for that matter. Thankfully, that fandom still exists allowing for this new incarnation of G4TV to return.
Machinima, on the other hand, was a bit closer to how gaming content exists today. Made up of multiple channels that featured all kinds of content that was gaming related, Machinima was like if BET started off as a Youtube channel. They had their own news, event and tournament coverage, and also original programming. Of course, poor management and bad contracts with talent led to its demise (overly simple summary I know).
That leads us back to the genesis of VENNtv and the new G4TV and if they can survive. Where do/can they fit in? In a way, each of these outfits are dependent on the talent that they hire. For them to survive in this field of live community building content, these ‘channels’ have to find a way to produce content at a level that live streamers cannot. Not only that, they must source talent that can reach and pull in the masses. Of course the term ‘masses’ means they must redefine the term ‘gamer’ for the mainstream.
For these outfits to succeed, they must do want their predecessors tried and failed to do. They must make and show gaming as popular culture. This means the content they produce has to go beyond merely gameplay and focus on ‘entertaining’. The talent needs to be well trained and or produced. The shows need to be well edited and/or be on the forefront of either having interactive elements or informative elements that normal streamers won’t have access to. The content should also find a way to lift the streaming community. Lastly, they must leverage their contacts to bring in celebrities in a meaningful way. Doing so makes gaming culture watchable by those who aren’t necessarily a part of it aka ‘makes it popular’!