On Monday the ABC announced the cancellation of their long-running show "Good Game." I, for one, am shattered.
It was at a writer's festival in Perth when I first realised the supreme power of Bajo and Hex. We were all there for a series of talks about video games and writing, along with some of the most famous game designers on the planet—people who had made major games like Far Cry 2, Assassin's Creed, and the indie, riot grrl hit Gone Home. I guess I was there as the critic, the guy who didn't make games but thought too much about them. The weird guy, in other words.
Bajo and Hex—aliases of Steven O'Donnell and Stephanie Bendixsen—were, up until this week, the hosts of Good Game, the ABC's long-running TV show about video games. But on Monday, the ABC announced to everyone's total surprise that the show had been cancelled after 10 years.
Back in Perth, the talks went pretty well, all things considered, but like most writers festival events, afterwards there was a signing planned. As I said, I don't make games and I'm certainly not famous, so when I turned up to see a dedicated table and chair for each of us to sit behind and greet our adoring fans, I figured I'd be sitting by myself, trying desperately to avoid eye-contact with anyone for some time. And while that's more or less what happened, it also happened to everyone else, famous game designer or not.
What I didn't expect was for the lines of people waiting for Bajo and Hex to still be dozens of people long by the time the rest of us packed up and left an hour later. I don't think you can really understand just how beloved Good Game was until you've seen Bajo and Hex totally mobbed at one of these events. Maybe you've only caught them on TV one night and watched a game review, or maybe you're a more regular viewer, but know this: put them in an expo hall full of games people and they can barely make it from one side to the other. If you've made Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty, you've still got nothing on these two. Some people love them with the passion you'd usually only see for sports heroes or soap stars.
Hex pointing stuff out. Image via
This kind of idolisation is really about Good Game as a whole, though, and the group of people who made it what it was. Good Game was massively dorky, and that was its secret. For so many, video games might as well be a foreign country—you need to learn the language and know the history before you even begin. Prove yourself, or piss off. But for Good Game, all that stuff was just a byproduct of having fun. Good Game was about rating games out of a possible 10 rubber chickens, about playing games badly and loving them anyway, about awful branded t-shirts that lasted full seasons longer than they should've. Good Game helped make video games normal: their enthusiasm was totally genuine and utterly infectious. Kids in particular loved Good Game, and they have the best bullshit detectors for fakery going around.
In losing Good Game, I think Australia and the ABC have lost a lot more than we might realise. If you're an ABC channel surfer, you might think of the show as just part of the furniture, just another piece of Planet Auntie. But go ahead and count up all the shows you see on TV around the world about video games and you'll come back with basically nothing. Good Game was where it was at: when Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker did a show for the BBC about video games a few years ago, he opened by complaining about how crap TV is at this stuff.
Not in Australia. Virtually no other country in the world has had any sort of popular video games show that has lasted more than a couple of years. Good Game lasted 10, has a (still continuing, we're told) kids spinoff, and several YouTube endeavours. At its strongest, it was a machine, single-handedly dominating several demographics at the ABC and nation-wide.
Just ask anyone who has had to be a professional alongside Good Game, or to wait red-faced for some poor kid to mistake him for a celebrity and ask for an autograph instead of for Bajo and Hex's. Good Game could never be matched, and for an ABC looking to the future, it probably won't be again.
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