Editorial by Bobby Blackwolf

My Final Goodbye To G4

My Final Goodbye To G4

This past Wednesday, the Internet said goodbye to the original programming of the G4 cable television network. X-Play and Attack of the Show were ending their long run, and the network will be on autopilot until being turned into the Esquire Channel. I, however, said goodbye in late 2004, after being one of the earliest vocal supporters and cheerleaders of the network since before it even went on the air.

I was a Senior Moderator of G4's forums and chat room from 2002-2004. This is my story, and my final goodbye.

How I Began


I was in college in the late 90's - the early years of the consumer internet. Lots of exciting new technologies were being tested, and one of them was the ability to stream live video and audio over your phone line. The technology at the forefront of this was RealAudio, who was expanding RealPlayer to give RealVideo, and they had recommendations of shows to watch. One of these was 240 Seconds Of Gaming, part of the All Games Network series of programming on Pseudo Online. This led me to the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) community of All Games, to their entire array of gaming video content, and to the personalities, such as Laura Foy, Josh Krane, Jim Downs, and Scot Rubin.

That was in 1997. Fast forward a few years, Pseudo hires a former CNN executive who makes bad decisions, the dot-com bubble bursts, Pseudo is no more. The All Games Network is off the air. We were now just a community without media to consume...For a short time.

Right after the dismantling of Pseudo, the group listed above relocated from New York to Los Angeles to work with Comcast and a former Disney executive. They would keep us in the community informed as much as they could, but NDA's didn't allow them to do too much. They experimented with live audio streaming in 2000, with "The No-Name Show" and teased us with a website for "damnTV" (that's Digital Age Media Networks) to keep us guessing, all the while they developed a cable TV network.

At some point (I want to say February of 2002 but I could be wrong) G4 was finally announced, and those of us from the damnTV community moved over to the #g4tv IRC channel on G4's internal IRC server (which was, I believe, a desktop on someone's desk) and the ride into TV was born.

Leading Up To Launch


DVD given out at E3 2002 promoting the network and showing the official first broadcast. The first show aired was Blister, and the episode was all about rhythm games - Frequency and Rez were the first two games ever featured on G4.
DVD given out at E3 2002 promoting the network and showing the official first broadcast. The first show aired was Blister, and the episode was all about rhythm games - Frequency and Rez were the first two games ever featured on G4.

There were several months of forum and chat activity leading up to the launch of the network, and speculation was rampant. What I had done during this time, was make a lot of educated guesses based on what I had heard, what I had seen, and what little I knew about the cable television industry. I'd take the snippets of info we had, what small answers I could get from the old Pseudo crew that came into chat, and basically tried my hardest to connect the dots.

I was, surprisingly, way more right than wrong.

There was a point that employees at G4 who didn't come from Pseudo were questioning which employee I was, because I apparently knew a LOT about things they hadn't announced...When they were just educated guesses on my part.

This led to me being asked by Josh Krane (who ran the Internet side of G4) to help moderate the forums and the chat room. I readily agreed, because how often do you get to say you helped a cable TV channel run their internet presence? I wasn't in it for the money (I had a well paying job, especially coming right out of college) and I was already going to E3 every year, so I figured I'd get paid back in swag and possibly some TV time. They didn't have the money to pay someone to oversee their forums and chat room, so it was a win/win for them as well.

I was basically one of the Social Media Coordinators before we knew it was social media. (I always answered to an employee, so I won't ever say I ran things or worked for them, I always say I helped run things and worked with them.)

The only downside of this was that, being a cable TV channel owned by a major cable company, there were actually rules that had to be abided by. You couldn't curse. You couldn't promote illegal activities. You couldn't have huge sig images. Lots of stuff (I think there were 9 or 10 rules)...And guess who got to enforce them?

Yup. Mean ol' Blackwolf. Godwin's Law was invoked almost daily by the teenagers that found G4 and hid behind their keyboards and wanted to rebel against authority, and I was the favorite authority figure. The IT staff at G4 backed me up every time, and it wasn't really bad in the beginning.

The Network Launches


Copies of the Master Tapes of shows I appeared on before I got the network.
Copies of the Master Tapes of shows I appeared on before I got the network.

So, you'd naturally assume that I'd be able to watch the network when it came on? Nope. The network was only available in very limited Comcast markets (mostly in Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered) so I was limited to hearing descriptions or the livestreams of G4TV.Com The Show. This incredibly creatively titled show was the closest we had to the old Pseudo and All Games Network program Gametime! but now all set for cable television. They provided a live audio stream to those of us in the chat room, so we could listen to the 22 minute episode live. Which took roughly four to five hours. Multiple takes, mandatory breaks, and cries of "TINA WOOD SAY MY NAME" filled Friday afternoons on our overworked chat server.

Which eventually did get hacked, by the way. We finally moved the official IRC channel to Gamesnet (who became GameSurge) because the office's T1 connection just couldn't handle it when the trolls decided to DDoS it.

While the show was designed to look spontaneous and off the cuff, it was anything but. Callers were lined up days in advance, given talking points, and sat waiting for hours before being called. If a caller was not available, someone else was recruited to speak their talking points...Usually myself or some of the other chatters. While sometimes I would call in about something I cared about, other times, it was me trying to help them out in a bind when another caller didn't work out.

My favorite time of "I Have No Clue What I'm Saying" was when I was calling in about Splinter Cell. Those who listen to my podcast know I'm not a fan of stealth games in the least, but this was supposed to be a call explaining why I loved it. Scot, deciding to have a little bit of fun knowing I had no clue what I was doing, asked me pointed questions about the gameplay that I had absolutely no clue about...And I responded completely wrong. Amazingly, nobody ever pointed it out...Until probably right now in the comments of this article.

I appeared on multiple episodes of the show, and Laura Foy was nice enough to send me some VHS tapes of the episodes I was on. We added a few more moderators, and one of them, Ruddygore, lived in Philadelphia and had the network from the beginning. He put a tape in his VCR, set it to SLP, and just let it record six straight hours of G4 for me and sent it to me, commercials and all.

Meeting The Talent


The shirts and hat I accumulated over the years. I wore the top shirt a LOT.
The shirts and hat I accumulated over the years. I wore the top shirt a LOT.
Because I was fortunate enough to be able to get into E3 on my own merits, I was able to meet with a lot of the people at G4 every year and drink with them at the end of the show. I also got to meet a lot of the talent from the initial batch of shows, and one thing that might surprise you is that they actually did know what they were talking about without a teleprompter. I would actually "test" the on-air talent when I'd meet them, and they all passed with flying colors. Yes, Cory Rouse (Cheat) and Bill Sindelar (Blister) really DID play games for a long time before coming to G4. Dave Meinstein (Portal) really DID play MMO's. Patrick Clark and Ronilyn Reilly (Pulse) DID know what they were talking about, and they loved the subject matter...And Tommy Tallarico didn't hate Nintendo.

I also got to meet Wil Wheaton and Travis Oates from Arena. I also know way too much about that situation - I believe that I was one of the few non-G4 employees for the longest time that actually heard G4's side of the story straight from Jim Downs. G4 made the decision to take the high road and let Wil have the last word, and I'm going to honor that here and not go into details. All I will say, though, is that while Wil's Slashdot post did not state any events that did not happen, it does leave out a lot of WHY those events happened. As Kosh from Babylon 5 said, "Understanding is a three-edged sword; there is your side, there is the other side, and then there is the truth."

All in all, the people both in front of and behind the camera during the early years of G4 in 2002 and 2003 knew their stuff, cared about the subject matter, and had a vision of where this could ultimately go. Unfortunately, not everyone above them shared that same passion, and a lot of those people wound up leaving for greener pastures.

My Reward - G-Phoria


My wristband from the first G-Phoria, now tied to a plushie Hairy Dawg.
My wristband from the first G-Phoria, now tied to a plushie Hairy Dawg.

So, like I said before, I wasn't really in it for the money, but more to have the experience of having done things I never thought I would do. The way they paid me back was by partially funding me getting into G-Phoria, their first video game awards show that was really more of a party than anything else.

They got me in via a "contest" that they ran for the community. They were going to give away 50 passes to get into G-Phoria. Great, right? Except, this is television. It doesn't always work out the way people expect. I was told, as a thank you, I would be one of these "winners", they would put me up in a hotel, and they wanted to do a segment on Pulse about my "contest win." I, of course, readily agreed. I just had to fly myself out there from Atlanta. Thankfully, I was a business traveler already and had lots of Skymiles (and was even Silver Medallion) so I even flew first class, just because.

The show was taped on a Wednesday night in Hollywood, so I flew out that morning. I had been going back and forth with the producer of the Pulse segment for the past week, planning out the "reality TV" portions of our shoot. When I got to my hotel, I took a shower and shaved, and waited for them to arrive, preferably still somewhat wet. (They wanted this segment to start with me shirtless in my hotel room, wearing only a towel. I told them that they absolutely did not want to see me shirtless. Once they met me, they agreed immediately.)

They shot me "picking my wardrobe", and then shot some b-roll around the hotel, and some of me walking down a sidewalk. They drove me over to the theater and filmed me saying "That's a lot of orange." (G4's official color was orange. Orange everything.) I hung out behind the theater with the G4 crew for a bit until it was my turn to walk the red (orange) carpet.

People took my picture, I waved to some people, and did an interview with Ronilyn Reilly, who was standing on a big box. (She's really short.) People in the crowd wondered who the hell I was. Nobody else wanted to interview me (with good reason) but I think Hal Sparks was the person after me and kept them occupied. Once past the red carpet, me and my camera crew parted ways until the show was over.

Now, I gotta say, G-Phoria was one hell of a party. But, I had my doubts about how this party would translate to television. They had gaming stations everywhere, and the biggest one I wanted to try was up in the VIP lounge on the roof - Fable. I actually crashed the game by somehow getting into developer mode. The Microsoft rep was not amused. Down on the floor, Namco brought Taiko no-Tatsujin to test if it would be something that people in the States would want to play. Me, being heavily into imported rhythm games, knew the game like the back of my hand, and actually spent most of my time there when I wasn't getting another drink.

They actually filmed a segment for Pulse about the game, and interviewed the people next to me. One of them said "This guy next to me is blowing me away and unlike him, I actually play drums." I interrupted him and said I had been playing drums for over 10 years...And totally ruined that interview and it never made the air. (Sorry, guys.)

They begged everyone to go out on the floor for Jamie Kennedy's intro, but that was the only part of the actual TV show I saw. I spent the rest of the time playing the games on the side, socializing with people, and trying to get back into the VIP area that the Fire Marshall shut down. (I never did.) I did find two other people who "won" entry through the contest, but they were local to LA. I was the only "winner" that was not in the immediate area.

I turned around and the house lights came on, and I had to ask people who won Game Of The Year. (It was GTA: Vice City, I believe.) Then, my camera crew found me, got some parting comments about how great the experience was, and returned me to my hotel.

How I Might Have Attacked The Show


There's a funny story I tell people that may or may not be accurate - I actually don't know. I'll tell you MY version of the story and how it played out for me, and then tell you how I think it ACTUALLY played out.

There was a time, late in 2003, when Scot Rubin was looking for a Production Assistant for his show. He wanted it to be a hardcore gamer that would help Scot keep G4TV.Com more about gaming and less about making Tina and Laura throw food at each other. He asked members in the community, and I threw my name into the hat.

We had talked for a little bit, and decided that it was silly for me to relocate from Atlanta to Los Angeles, giving up my software consulting job that paid probably triple what I'd get as a Production Assistant. I'd like to think I was considered for the position for a few seconds, at least, even if I was shot down pretty quickly. (I actually had multiple people there tell me that I really didn't want to work there for any reason, no matter how much I'd want to.)

So, one night, in the chat room, a familiar screen name from the Pseudo days comes in - CaptImmy. He was a regular on Shooters (all about FPS's) and even did Pointless Audio, what we would now call a podcast. Immy came in and was talking about how he hated his job at wherever he was at, and I told him of the PA gig that Scot was looking for. Scot came into the chat room at some point during this conversation, and I told Scot that Immy wanted a job.

Not long after, Scot announced that he had hired CaptImmy, real name Kevin Pereira, to be the new Production Assistant for G4TV.Com.

Now, what most likely ACTUALLY happened was that Kevin knew the job was open, and was hoping to catch Scot in chat. I just happened to act like he didn't know, and he was cool enough to play along to make me think I was actually helping. To Kevin's credit, he also played along several years later with my version of the story when he ran into me at E3.

But it's nice to think that, in some alternate universe somewhere, I was hired for that job and eventually took over every show on G4. It's also fun to say that the entire Kevin Pereira reign might have actually been my fault. I'm sorry/you're welcome. (Whichever one applies.)

Meeting The Other Forum Members



I, sans goatee, make an appearance in the second segment, in which Pulse's producers misspelled just about everybody's forum name.


2004 marked the beginning of the end of my G4 journey, even if I didn't realize it at the time. The big gathering was the Philly Classic Gaming Expo up in Philadelphia, co-organized by G4 moderator Ruddygore. We had a bunch of us show up the year before for Philly Classic 4, but Philly Classic 5 was going to be THE place to be. I drove up there with my rhythm gaming setup, manned a table, helped set things up and tear things down, and generally had a great time meeting people from the forums. It was, pretty much, the most rewarding experience I ever had as a part of G4.

I was fighting the perception of being a terrible figure of authority on the forums, and PC5 helped alleviate that with a lot of the forum members there. I had already somewhat retreated from the forums and into the chat room exclusively, while still retaining "Senior Moderator" status on the forums and going in when needed, usually when Off-Topic was being raided. Showing up as a real person at PC5 didn't stop people from blaming me for everything, but it did slow down things a lot.

But then, THAT happened.

In Comes TechTV


Now, while I was watching G4, I was also religiously watching TechTV. The Screen Savers was daily viewing for me. When I heard that Paul Allen got bored and decided to sell the network to Comcast, I was initially excited. It turns out that G4 really just wanted to be on DirecTV really, really bad and couldn't get on their own merits, so they bought TechTV, who was already on DirecTV. They changed the name of the network to G4TechTV to appease contracts with cable companies that they would not make major format changes, but they finally removed the "Tech" once they renegotiated all of those contracts.

And then they dismantled...everything about TechTV.

I knew how loyal the G4 community had been, and I knew that the TechTV community had been around MUCH longer. We were the kids, they skewed a little bit older. And there I was - front line of defense for everything bad about G4.

It was hell.

I made the rookie social media mistake of speaking candidly about things regarding TechTV. My most famous flub was that I mentioned I never really cared much for Call For Help because it skewed more novice than myself. As you can imagine, this rallied the TechTV troops against me. I was personally blamed for the cancellation of the show. No matter how many times I'd explain that I was on the other side of the country and didn't even know that many people that were there, that didn't matter. All that mattered was that I was the guy that ran the chat room, and I didn't like it. Therefore it's my fault.

When we merged the forums, TechTV forum members got priority in terms of the name. So, even though I was one of the first non-employees to sign into G4's forums, my name was changed to "G4Blackwolf", and someone who hadn't logged into TechTV's site for years got to be "Blackwolf". (We checked, it wasn't me being forgetful. It's a pretty common name on the Internet, just ask all the people who send me friend requests on PSN and Xbox Live thinking I'm a clan leader in Europe.)

Scot Rubin left because he didn't like what they were doing with TechTV, and resurrected the All Games brand. I followed him several months later, and started helping him build that community. It started as a G4 Refugee Camp of sorts, and then grew into its own. All Games Radio was started in earnest, helped a lot by the G4 cachet that Scot had. It's still very active and successful today.

I tried to still watch, but both the G4 I knew and the TechTV I knew were going away. The Screen Savers morphed into Attack Of The Show, X-Play went more skit heavy, all of the original G4 programming got the axe. I eventually stopped watching the network. I had no ties to it anymore - just about everybody I knew had moved on to bigger, and better things.

G4, for me, died in late 2004 - a few moments after TechTV did.

Epilogue


I'm not exactly sure why I wrote this. Maybe it's cathartic, maybe it's just a desire to tell a story that I've told in bits in pieces. Maybe it's an apology to all those who thought I was one of the biggest douchebags of the Internet because I locked their thread that had a curse word in it. Maybe it's an apology to the TechTV fans who I had to ban from chat because they were extremely upset at losing their community and let us know by spamming it. I don't know.

I got a lot of online friends out of my experience. I got on TV - a lot. (I have a VHS tape that just has all of my appearances and mentions on G4, and it's over 30 minutes long.) I walked a red carpet for the only time in my life. I got into podcasting, and became part of an amazing community after G4, which eventually led into the creation of VOG.

None of that would have happened if I didn't find Scot Rubin and Pseudo in 1997 and ride the wave over to what will now be called the Esquire Channel.

I'm not the only one who latched onto a show host and got to do some cool stuff, though. Don FUBAR was a G4 forum regular and latched onto Victor Lucas and Greedy Productions, much in the same way I tried to stick around Scot. He's now regular on-air talent on Reviews On The Run, which was the original show Judgment Day was based on.

There was a eulogy event in the old #g4tv IRC channel (which G4 stopped linking to years ago) during the final X-Play and Attack of the Show. It was good to see names I hadn't seen in years, and good to see where people have moved on to. We've all grown up, gotten careers, and mellowed out a bit. The teenagers that tried to push the boundaries are now college grads with secure employment.

But, I don't miss it anymore.

I like it here.

I just wish I had my own jetpack.


Note: The original video embedded in this article starts at 2:50 in this video.



Bobby Blackwolf is the host of The Bobby Blackwolf Show on the VOG Network, lead developer of the website, and lead GM for VOG: The Game. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyBlackwolf

Editorial by - 1/25/2013 4:20 PM3226 views

Gallery


Comments

Burr
Burr
1/25/2013 5:25 PM

4 0

Reply
I've heard various of your stories over the years in chat but I still learned some new things reading this! I wish I wasn't in school at the time and could have been a bigger part, but at least I was a forum and chat moderator for most of it, too. I have fond memories of some, not so much others, but it's been a great ride. I got on just a bit before you, before even the Pseudo days and only just now I'm finally getting to play a role on air. Here's to more adventures! *raises glass*
Burr
Burr
1/25/2013 6:26 PM

2 0

Reply
I guess I should add, I was also a caller into G4TV.com once. I think it was on or around my birthday even. It was kinda neat because I got to talk to Laura, Tina, and Scot for a bit before asking my question (which was scripted, I believe I had to ask what MAME was or something like that). But after I heard their answer that was it and they were on to the next one. :P
Ladrondelanoche
Ladrondelanoche
1/25/2013 8:01 PM

4 0

Reply
I'm glad to hear that someone on the inside felt the same way I did about the merger between G4 & TechTV. It really took two great sources of nerddom and choked the life out of both. I knew the magic was over when Screensavers met its demise.
DarkTetsuya
DarkTetsuya
1/25/2013 5:28 PM

2 0

Reply
Yeah, its almost 2015 we should at least have hoverboards by now, wtf science? :P

Great article though, I definitely enjoyed both TechTV and the early days of G4.
act_deft
act_deft
1/25/2013 7:11 PM

2 0

Reply
G4 was full of good intentions, sadly it kinda grew apart from what it was supposed to be. Probably why G4 got canned after all this years.

And yeah, I was one of those people pissed with what happened with TSS and CFH. But at least Leo and the gang got to work on other projects.

Also, I think we have to thank G4 for VOG then? <_<

"Yup. Mean ol' Blackwolf."
You're a mean one, Mr. Bobby...
gk128
gk128
1/26/2013 7:52 AM

2 0

Reply
G4 was a major part of teenage years. I didn't come over from AllGames Classic, but I was at G4 since launch. My Dad had Comcast, and living in CT we had G4 for some reason.

I have met so many awesome people over the years. Like Bobby Blackwolf, All of OLR, The SHFTS guys, and a bunch of others. I'm still friends with a bunch of people. Now this is really only Facebook friends, but it's still enough when I see a post from someone I met pop up to remember all the good times we had.

I'm not very active in VOG, AG, or G4 any more. I have not been for a while. Life happened and you know. I will forever remember G4 though for being an awesome place that was there during those crazy teenage years.

Anyway I am ranting. So yes.
FifthDream
FifthDream
1/26/2013 11:58 AM

2 0

Reply
Great article. I knew a lot of this, but not as much of your early pre-G4 history.

I'd been on G4TV.com (the show) a few times, even when i lived somewhere that didn't get the network. I remember being lined up early in the day for the taping of the show later on. The calls were fun, even if i was nervous during them. I remember how funny it was to discover "callers" weren't callers at all, but that instead they lined you up in chat or the forums, then called you.

I can't remember most of the topics i "called" about (though i, too, have some vhs tapes of the appearances lying around somewhere), but one was about the KISS first person shooter game. Still have never played that game, but i talked about it. I also remember being labelled "SlipStream" instead of FifthDream at the bottom of the screen one of those times.

Mostly i remember how fun it was off-air during filming. Got to talk to Tina on the phone semi-privately for a few minutes during commercials, because it turned out i was living in her home state at the time. And i remember Immy (yeah, i still think of him as Immy, too) bantering between segments (he lined up the calls, and made them), and one time he asked me if i wanted to hear a song... which he then played on the keypad of the phone. Apparently he did this kind of often. But the whole atmosphere of the show - getting to participate in the chat during tapings, being involved in the actual show with calls, joking around with hosts and other members of the community, kind of learning how "live" tv works - was a really unique and fun experience. It's not something i think is still possible to do, at least not on television, these days. Despite all that has happened, or failed to since, it's still a little set of good memories.
TigerClaw
TigerClaw
1/25/2013 5:32 PM

1 0

Reply
That was a great Read, I remember being in the G4tv Chatroom during the live taping of G4TV.com and hearing how it was all scripted.
Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
1/26/2013 7:59 AM

1 0

Reply
That was a great read, Bobby. Wish I had watched that "secret ending" sooner because it looks like G4 got it yanked from YouTube. At least the Philly Classic video was still there.
Glad this all helped a great network like VOG come into existence.
Bobby Blackwolf
Bobby Blackwolf
1/26/2013 10:13 AM

1 0

Reply
Looks like G4 removed the one I linked to when they posted their own version of it. I've updated the embed.

The original video I posted starts at 2:50 in the new one.
Flaco_Jones
Flaco_Jones
1/26/2013 11:40 AM

1 0

Reply
Awesome, thanks for updating that. My wife got a kick out of that too.
act_deft
act_deft
1/26/2013 5:00 PM

1 0

Reply
Yeah, the Secret Ending is all kinds of awesome.
I'm kinda surprised they got Leo and Martin to do it.
Bobby Blackwolf
Bobby Blackwolf
1/27/2013 1:19 PM

1 0

Reply
They didn't get Martin to do it. They got Patrick to do it.

The segment producer for AOTS used to work on Screen Savers, so he was just as willing to flip the bird to the new management as much as Leo did. It apparently wasn't hard to convince them to do it at all.
act_deft
act_deft
1/27/2013 9:47 PM

1 0

Reply
Yeah, sorry. I got the names confused >_<

And yeah, I can imagine them being on board considering that <_<
Rageinator
Rageinator
9/23/2015 4:20 PM

0 0

Reply
Admittedly, I never saw Tech TV - I didn't have cable when it was around, nor was I even aware of it. In around late 2009 or early 2010 (I forget exactly when, honestly), I did hear of G4 & seeing as I could afford cable thanks to my low cost of living at the time, I opted to sign up for cable, if only to watch G4's Attack of the Show & X-Play. Despite the fact that G4 was rather light on gamer-specific programming (& aired A LOT of Cheaters, Campus PD, & COPS), I loved G4, if only for AotS & X-Play. In fact, I NEVER missed an episode of either show. IMHO it's just a cryin' shame that the channel & those 2 shows died. :-/
Log in to add your own voice and receive points by leaving good comments other users like!