Continue?: The Hosts of G4TV Break Down the Gaming Channel's Long-Awaited Relaunch

The long-awaited relaunch of G4TV goes down on Nov. 16. We spoke to the G4 hosts to get a sense of how it happened and what fans can expect in this new era.

G4TV Channel Logo on a Black background

Image via G4TV

G4TV Channel Logo on a Black background

Almost a decade ago, the TV network for gamers, G4, abruptly ceased its programming. The cable channel sunsetted quickly; a loss chalked up to an impending rebrand radically different from its existing form. Yet for those who watched G4, its sudden shutter felt like a tremendous loss. In the mid-aughts, the idea of a network devoted entirely to video gaming seemed as frivolous as gaming itself. Despite their increasingly mainstream appeal, a generous read of video gaming at the time was often relegated to a hobbyist nature. A less considerate—and more common—assessment involved the incorrect generalization that video games were rotting the brains of America’s youth.

Launched in late April of 2002, G4 was a joint venture between NBCUniversal and Dish Network focused on being a rival to Tech TV but catered towards a younger generation. A merger between the two rivals occurred in March of 2004, ultimately leading to the halcyon days of the channel. Programming like X-Play, a videogame review show hosted by Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb, and Attack of the Show, a live variety TV show hosted by a crew of talent including Kevin Pereira, Blair Herter, Chris Gore, Sarah Jean Underwood, Alison Haislip, and (most notably) Olivia Munn lead the way for G4, helping to legitimize video gaming as an art form and as a topic of critical conversation. 

“Once I saw G4, and saw people standing in front of video game consoles and talking, it was like ‘Hold on. Are me and my four friends not as big of weirdos as we thought?’” said WWE Superstar Xavier Woods, a.k.a. Austin Creed. “It was the first time that all of this world [of video games] opened up and saw there are multitudes of adults who take this seriously. Like it’s their job, and maybe we can aspire to do something like that. It was the first shining ray of hope to tell me that video games are not melting my brain.”

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The feeling Woods describes is one of a myriad of reasons why it was gutting for many when NBCUniversal halted programming in 2012 as part of a planned rebrand to the Esquire channel, a move to leveraging further non-gaming programming—shows like Cops and Cheaters that were never well-received by its audience—already airing on the network. Only G4 never transitioned; NBCUniversal decided to spin the Style channel into Esquire, leaving the once-proud gaming network dominant in move equal parts baffling and frustrating—double so as gaming took leaps and bounds into the mainstream with the astronomical rise of eSports, streaming, board games, and the continued popularity of console systems.

Yet rumors of G4’s demise were seemingly exaggerated, as a cryptic tweet suddenly appeared in the middle of 2020 teasing...something. Booting up out of nowhere like the Nintendo 64 you likely have sitting in your closet, G4 was back. The long road to revival ends on November 16, when the channel will debut on Comcast Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Cox Communications, and streaming on Twitch. So why bring back G4 now? 

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“Comcast brought G4 back for a number of reasons—a lot of them business-related,” Blair Herter, former host of X-Play turned SVP of Branding, told me. “But also because they’re like, ‘Holy shit, man. This is a brand that’s been in the NBC storage closet for the last eight years. Like we’re still getting asked about this.’” The other part, Herter believes, is due to just how much the gaming landscape has changed. “Gaming, in particular, has become so big that there kind of needs to be a central hub—a gathering ground. A playground, if you will, for all of these voices,” he said. “I think that’s what G4 can be.”

In addition to returning favorite shows like Attack of the Show! and Xplay (like Jay-Z did in the past, Xplay dropped the hyphen), G4 will launch new shows: Boosted, a weekly Esports-focused show, and Dungeons & Dragons Presents: Invitation To Party, a weekly live tabletop game., with more series will follow. The new suite of programming is an effort on the part of G4 to wrap its arms around how gaming, both digitally and otherwise, has grown and evolved in its absence. Along with this depth and breadth of programming will be a wide array of fresh perspectives—not only in terms of diversity in personalities like Woods, Gina Darling, The Black Hokage, Kaseem G, Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil, Fiona Nova, CodeMiko, and others—but in terms of what each one of those new hosts is interested in talking about. In fact, G4 is going with a creator-first approach in a way that feels pretty radical for a corporate-owned entity. 

The G4TV Timeline So Far

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Plenty of new shows are coming to G4, but old favorites are back too. Legendary host Adam Sessler will return to the fold after voicing his frustrations about the channel’s closing. He felt emboldened by initial conversations to come back for more. “The group of people I was talking to, these are the people that watched G4. These are people that liked G4,” he told me. “I started to feel very confident that, okay if they’re going to do it again, they’re going to sort of undo some of the mistakes of the past. There was an awareness of how things have changed, that a much broader group of people are playing games. We were not going to be ignorant of that—which I think, to a greater extent, we were back in the old days of G4.”

I mention to Sessler that his new reviews—a few of which have trickled out ahead of the relaunch, including a Metroid Dread review that sparked some fan backlash— are more akin to the long-form work he got to do outside of the old X-Play (notably his varied appearances on the 1UP Yours podcast and his eventual pivot to Rev3 Gaming). To borrow some parlance from Woods’ primary occupation, the Sessler of X-Play felt like a wrestling persona, while his work outside of G4 felt more nuanced. Those YouTube videos from the last few months are indicative of how Xplay’s Sessler will function. “There are things that we want to cover that we never had the luxury to cover before,” he said. “I like to go off on a few tangents or bring in literary references—not just for the sake of it—but [because this game] seems to be borrowing from this cinematic technique or this literary technique because I really do believe that we should be talking about games more in a larger cultural context. The way we’re handling television now, like the multiple ways that we’re able to present ourselves, allows for as much of that—if not more.”

G4TV Dungeons and Dragons group shout

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Considering fans were responsible, in some part, for bringing G4 back, there’s a natural question as to how much influence they’ll continue to have in shaping the new phase of the network. Fan feedback is good, up to a point, but if you lean too much one way, it’s easy to fall into a Rise of Skywalker situation where too much fan service can actively hurt a project instead of helping it. How will G4 balance that? “What we’re looking for is the surprising feedback that challenges us, that challenges the way we think about our programming, that inspires us to grow and do different things,” Herter said. “Where we have an added level of challenge—but also responsibility and opportunity—is that G4 fans are what kept G4 alive. So we do feel a responsibility to give our fans some ownership. There’s a very fine line we have to walk there.”

While fans may have input into how the channel grows, there will be ways it naturally evolves. The talent G4 brought into the fold will participate in “8-15 hours of creator-driven content blocks” that will bookend programming. If there’s something in those blocks—a fun moment, an interesting interview, a particular fun interaction, etc.—that becomes a hit, it can naturally move into the fold elsewhere. “If Fiona Nova, for example, creates this amazing interview series—like some format we’ve never thought of before—yes, she can continue doing it in her creator block,” said Herter. “But we can also wrap that format up into Xplay and make it an official Xplay segment.” Outside of these genuine moments, G4 also has other ambitions, including building its eSports presence. “Our competitive gaming portfolio in 2022 is going to surprise a lot of people,” Herter proudly told me.


G4TV Host Gina Darling

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