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.”