Category: Video Games and The TV

Talking about video game-related content that aired on television.

Cybermania ’94: An extremely ’90s video game awards show.

It’s that time of the year again. The Game Awards, an awards show that’s ostensibly about giving awards to the biggest games of the year, has come and gone. A continuation of the Spike Video Game Awards from years past, The Game Awards is peppered with occasional celebrity guest talent and reveals for hot new games. It’s more of a spectacle than an actual awards show.

I really don’t enjoy watching these shows. Especially during the Spike era, which was peak “dudebro TV” where one year they literally had models body painted to look like the games being awarded. I wrote about some of the more “notable” moments of the awards show back in 2012 – updated in 2019 – that you can read about here if you wanna see how I felt about them, and how I feel about The Game Awards now.

So instead, I’m gonna head back into the past. To look into the days when video games were just considered a technical marvel and not quite a billion-dollar industry done to shill sneak previews like it’s a mini-E3. An awards show that was only attempted once, yet is quite the embodiment of the 1990s: Cybermania ‘94.

Yep, this is totally ’90s as hell alright. I mean, when you get pop artist Peter Max to do it, what do you expect?

Airing on TBS in late 1994 (natch) and filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood, this award show was the prototype to the future Spike VGAs and Game Awards. In 1994, video games were starting to gain more traction in the United States, especially in the era of 3D graphics and full motion video. The show was made during the peak of the multimedia trend of the mid 1990s, and it shows throughout the whole event.

This was available one week early to everyone who backed my Patreon. All it takes is $1 to see this stuff before everyone else does. Every little bit helps!

It’s like they went “who are the two most affordable and oddball actors we can afford here?”

Our hosts for this event are actors Leslie Nielsen and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. A rather bizarre combo to be sure, which was probably bolstered primarily by the difference of age between the two actors. Both of them were still fairly popular – Nielsen had recently starred in The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and JTT was on one of the biggest sitcoms of the ‘90s, Home Improvement – but the two couldn’t be a worse fit. Nielsen’s age means he’s clumsily talking about future technology as if he’s impersonating Phil Donahue like in The Naked Gun 33 1/3, and Taylor Thomas has the problem of just being awkward and inexperienced next to Nielsen. Granted, it’s probably better than the later game awards where we got David Spade or Joel McHale, but not by much.

Can this style make a comeback, please?

We start Cybermania ‘94 with The Gate to the Mind’s Eye, the third in a series of computer-generated videos that were fairly popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Afterwards, the show starts in earnest with Nielsen and Taylor Thomas standing in front of a computer as a Hillary Clinton impersonator tries to turn it on, Nielsen realizing it’s not plugged in, plugging in the power and having the computer explode in front of the “first lady of the United States,” giving her a cartoonish explosive face before walking offstage. This introductory segment is a strong indicator of what the show is going to offer.

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Video Games according to Life: A Civil War.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those “Video Games according to TV Shows/Movies” posts. Previously, I looked at David Caruso chewing the scenery and giving us the most meme-worthy quotes as I checked out CSI: Miami‘s Urban Hellraisers episode. (You can check that out here.)

As we bring the series out of moth balls, we look at another TV show that depicted video games in the silliest way possible. This time, it’s a short-lived crime drama that while had an interesting premise, was the wrong place at the wrong time.

Again, I’m not a graphic designer. Leave your complaints about this at the door.

This time, our featured show is Life, a short-lived police procedural that aired on NBC from 2007-09. Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a former cop who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now hired as a police detective, Crews must solve crimes while trying to solve the mystery of who actually caused the crime he was imprisoned for. It’s like Monk, but instead of an obsessive-compulsive man, we have an eccentric ex-con.

As opposed to Urban Hellraisers, which I watched without watching any prior episode of CSI: Miami, I actually did watch Life‘s pilot to understand the show’s premise. The acting is solid, Lewis does a fine job showing off Crews’ personality traits. Though, if you decide to watch the series for yourself, expect to see a lot of “technology has changed since he was in prison” jokes. Like in the first episode, I saw him fumble with both trying to use a cell phone and trying to comprehend how he’s answering phone calls from his new car.

The episode in question is titled “A Civil War,” from the show’s first season. The episode starts with two Persian-American employees of a gas station killed and stored in a refrigerator, with “GO HOME” splashed on the windows in motor oil. Crews tries to find out who caused it, finding out it’s a hate crime by three perpetrators. Later on in the investigation, they find out there’s a third person, Amir Darvashi (Oren Dayan) who was kidnapped being held for ransom, and they ask for help from the gas station’s owner, Mary Ann Farmer (Sarah Clarke).

I'm sorry, but after watching so much 24, it's hard to see her as anything but a psychopath that might kill anybody at any moment, even in a show like this.

I’m sorry, but after watching so much 24, it’s hard to see Sarah Clarke as anyone but a psychopath that might kill everyone at any moment, even in a show like this.

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A look back at Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed.

It’s 2013 as of this writing, which means it’s time for the next Xbox to be revealed. The third generation of Xbox is a rather confusing name: It’s called the Xbox One, it’s heavy on TV, media features, and Kinect stuff. It plays games too.

But let’s go back, shall we? Before the Xbox One, there was the Xbox 360. Eight years and one week ago, Microsoft used MTV to announce the unveiling of the new Xbox with a TV special titled Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Which later gets changed to Xbox 360 Revealed partway through the broadcast, but that title isn’t nearly as catchy.

Our host for this evening is Elijah Wood, which you may know from some series of movies about Hobbits. Along with Wood, our co-host is MTV2’s Jim Scherer joining along in the festivities, being the primary interviewer for most of the special.

Before they show off what the new Xbox looks like, they start out with the typical “video game history” video that talks about what’s happened in gaming. Goes through all the common beats: Video games weren’t a thing until people got crazy for Pong, then Nintendo came around and made video games relevant in America again, and then a bunch of other stuff up to now. The competition isn’t nearly mentioned as much directly, which is probably a good idea since they didn’t want people to get hyped for the next PlayStation or the Nintendo Revolution.

It seems every major video game-related TV special has to mention the history of video games, and it’s always hackneyed every time I see it. I mention this because me and friend of the site Bobinator watched Cybermania ’94 a while back before writing this, and even though it’s almost 20 years old as of this writing, it’s just as ridiculous as this event. Even Cybermania said Pong was the first video game, which I guess is a bit more punchy to say compared to SpaceWar.

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Video Games according to CSI: Miami: Urban Hellraisers.

I’m one of many ideas. Long ago, back when I was an aspiring YouTube guy, I had this idea for an internet show where I would review a TV show that depicted the world of video games in a hilariously bad light. This was back when The Nostalgia Critic was a big thing. Unfortunately, the issue of using clips from a TV show for mockery purposes could get me in legal trouble, so that idea got canned. But hey, it’s 2013, and I’m in the mood to revisit old ideas, this time in written form. Least they can’t sue me for copyright on a blog post.

I wanted to look at TV shows – sitcoms, dramas, news reports, stuff like that – and how they inaccurately depict video games. Some will be funny. Others will be tragic. Hopefully you’ll be entertained along with me.

Yeah, it looks like crap. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

The show I decided to write about first is CSI: Miami. The first spinoff of the long-running CSI TV series, it starred David Caruso as Horatio Caine, where he head-tilted and mumbled his way through ten seasons of the iconic police procedural.

I’m not a fan of CSI: Miami – hell, I am not a big fan of CSI or these kind of criminal investigation shows in general. I didn’t mind the original series until William Petersen was replaced with Morpheus. Things just weren’t the same in Vegas after that. Heard they replaced Morpheus with Sam Malone now, which is an even weirder casting decision.

During CSI: Miami‘s fourth season, they decided to tie video games into a crime, hot off the heels of the various Grand Theft Auto controversies throughout the 2000s. The result was “Urban Hellraisers,” an episode full of hilarious and inaccurate video game references mixed in with terrible acting and writing. At one point, they added a subplot involving a minor character and Emily Procter’s character just because the plot was so paper-thin that they couldn’t fill it into a 45-minute episode.

I’ll avoid giving an in-depth recap, this is not a CSI: Miami fan site after all. Instead, I’ll just give a rough summary of the events of the whole episode.

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The “Highlights” of the Spike Video Game Awards.

Ah, the Spike Video Game Awards. Advertised as a legitimate video game awards show — ignoring other, more professional award ceremonies — the VGAs are anything but, often being a corporate mess with an award show that makes the MTV Movie Awards seem dignified in comparison.

More like video LAME awards hahaha I slay me

The Video Game Awards celebrates their ninth year of being a hilarious trainwreck of TV executives trying to “understand” gamers combined with exclusive trailers for wonderful games like Command & Conquer Generals II. I personally haven’t watched the awards in years, opting to see the trailers on GameTrailers.com after the show is broadcast instead. (2019 edit: When they still existed in 2012, anyway. RIP GameTrailers. 🙁 )

Doesn’t mean I still can’t mock it endlessly every year. Unlike a certain person who has an “Angry” persona, at least I have tact and don’t give Geoff Keighley the third degree about this, I understand that this is strictly a corporate affair and not a genuine awards show.

To commemorate the ninth anniversary of this wonderful award show, I thought I’d give you the highlights of the event so far. Note that this is not a complete list, anything prior to 2005 is pretty hard to find info on before the days of YouTube, and since I don’t actively watch the event, I have to go by hearsay and second-hand information. So let me know if I left anything out, or made any errors in this. But enough of that, let’s get started!


2005: The award goes to… a game that’s not even out yet!

I wonder if Jack Black still accepts awards in his underwear these days.

2005 was an interesting year. The Xbox 360 was new, the world wasn’t introduced to waggle motion controllers yet, and I had just graduated out of High School. The 2005 VGAs were mostly uneventful, except for two games getting a fair share of awards: The critically-panned 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and the licensed title Peter Jackson’s King Kong: This Game Should Win An Award for the Most Overwrought Game Title, I mean, Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie. Nothing wrong with that, right?

There’s one big problem: Both games weren’t out yet. Back then, this was recorded in advance rather than broadcast live, so they decided to hype up two yet-unreleased games for their award show. Really destroys the legitimacy of this awards show. It’d be like the Oscars giving an award to a movie that came out the day before, skipping the whole nomination process.

Following this fiasco, there was a time where they made awards specifically for games coming out during the holiday season in the interest of fairness, but they seemed to abandon this in later years, being totally okay to give the then-recently-released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 “Best Shooter” in 2011.


2007: Look at our sexy ladies! Oh and BioShock won an award or something.

I wonder if this model has any regrets for doing this. Probably not, considering she’s standing next to Dave Navarro.

2007 brought an… interesting approach to the awards. A fair share of the major video games had various models covered in body paint depicting the game’s name on them, which would be used to determine the winning game for each category.

Imagine the executive meeting where this took place.

  • Guy #1: “Hey, we’re a network for MEN, right? Us men like women, right? But how do we make women tie into this video games thing?”
  • Guy #2: “Get actual women game designers to present and accept the awards?”
  • Guy #1: “What are you talking about, women game designers don’t exist! You’re just making up shit, Steve.”
  • Guy #2: “But what if they do exist?”
  • Guy #1: “Even if they do, they’re likely all ugly and shit, we need beautiful women for this thing!”
  • Guy #3: “I KNOW! Let’s have models walk onto the stage covered in body paint with the games as we reveal the awards!”
  • Guy #1: “Genius, Dave! You get a pay raise! Now get out, I gotta call up the MANswers guys and order 100 new episodes!”

I swear that’s gotta be how it happened, because I can’t understand it otherwise. Yes, they did this for every major award. I feel sorry for the women who were subjected to this. At least I hope they got paid well.


2007: A bunch of Gamecocks crash Ken Levine’s victory party.

This guy said “Gamecock will rise some day” while Ken Levine looks on awkwardly. They certainly didn’t rise after this.

2007 brought us a bunch of amazing games, including BioShock, which won Game of the Year at the 2007 VGAs. Irrational Games co-founder Ken Levine gets up on stage, ready to do a speech to celebrate his team’s victory. Suddenly, a bunch of guys from Gamecock Media Group rushed the stage in dumb chicken hats, primarily to advertise Hail to the Chimp. After basically hijacking Levine’s moment in the TV spotlight, they leave shortly after realizing how ill timed this was, thus giving Levine and Greg Gobbi no time to give their speeches.

While Gamecock CEO Mike Wilson later apologized, it was a rather amusing highlight in the developer’s short history.

Where are they now, in 2012? Well, Irrational is still hard at work making BioShock Infinite. Gamecock, however, got bought by SouthPeak Interactive in 2008 and were never heard from again. Fortunately, they got better, reforming as a better studio with games more fondly remembered.

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Throut & Neck: A game show with some ’90s attitude.

Okay, I might be pushing it with the whole “video game blog” angle with this one. Granted, it’s video game-adjacent, and had a major game sponsor, so it counts.

Just about anyone who was born in the late ’80s to early ’90s may remember Nick Arcade, that awful Nickelodeon game show with an annoying host, rejected Double Dare contestants, and two episodes featuring an unreleased prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. (Check it out on The Cutting Room Floor if you’re curious.) If you’re older, you might remember Video Power, that weird “video game tips” show turned average game show in its second season.

And for all the old farts out there, you probably remember Starcade when was new. Or you’re like me and remember it when G4 reran it constantly, before the network was total garbage. But I bet you don’t remember this weird video game-meets-game show entity: Throut & Neck, a Game Show Network original that briefly ran in 1999.

Sadly I couldn’t get a gif of the intro, because it’s so ’90s it hurts.

The late 1990s was a weird time for Game Show Network. Before they had aired bad Candid Camera knockoffs in Foul Play, before they reran The Amazing Race daily and going through the first seven seasons in a month, even before that weird “We’re not just game shows” phase where they thought giving Scrabble host Chuck Woolery a reality show was a good idea; they were on this ridiculously weird interactive TV kick. Interactive versions of The Price is Right were broadcast among other call-in and win shows based on Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. This was continuing a trend that was prevalent throughout the first few years of GSN’s life, trying to make it more than just old game shows.

Throut & Neck is one of the last shows where GSN was experimenting with these interactive call-in shows. And it’s quite the fascinating one.

Our “stars,” ladies and gentlemen. They have as much interactivity as an animatronic at Chuck E. Cheese.

The titular characters, Throut (that’s not a typo for “Throat,” that’s his actual name) and Neck are computer-generated characters on a TV monitor that occasionally animate. They’re basically two bumbling idiots who try to do evil and dastardly things, because, after all, it’s the late 1990s and everything has to be extreme. Also, for some reason they both hate sheep, which is another angle for the show that’s not really explained well.

Throut is a blue thing with a ponytail beard and weird straps on his mouth and feathers on his head. He seems to be the tough guy in this scenario, judging by his gruff dude-like voice and physique. Neck is a green monster with a weird nose and teeth, an outfit that looks like prison garb, and sounds like a cross between Zorak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Beavis from Beavis & Butt-Head. Sadly, neither C. Martin Croker or Mike Judge contributed to the voices of this show. Hell, I don’t even know who voiced these characters, the show credits them as “themselves,” so it’s a mystery that will likely remain unsolved.

Let’s be honest: This is the reason people watched, not for those two dunderheads.

Our co-host is Rebecca Grant, a person who doesn’t have much experience before or after this show. Grant’s role is basically to be the “straight woman” to Throut & Neck’s dumb insanity, as well as being the one who introduces the call-in players. In a sense, this was an early sign for GSN to try to appeal to the sex appeal market with superfluous woman co-hosts, like Cram and Lingo would do a few years later.

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The horrors of MTV2’s Video Mods.

Video games and pop music are two unlikely things that somehow go great together if they’re done properly. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band… Then there’s the weird video game homages in music, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Which was more of a crazy animation experiment by some college kid than an actual video game homage, but it was cool all the same.

 

Complete with appropriate graphics at the time! Still looks better than an Xbox!

Around 2004, some guys must have saw that “Californication” video while on a 2AM drinking binge and thought that these ideas should be combined into a TV show. The result is one of the most bizarre combinations of music and video games that I’ve seen since Queen was involved in some mid-’90s adventure game: MTV2’s Video Mods.

Imagine a bunch of video game and music things shoved into a blender, which exploded into this nice and simple logo.

One of the lesser-known shows of MTV2’s library, which consisted mostly of Beavis & Butt-head reruns and The Adventures of Chico and Guapo, that one show that Seanbaby worked on; and maybe some actual music videos.

But enough jabs at MTV: Video Mods was an unusual and previously unheard of concept. A production company would take characters from a recent video game and make a music video of a popular song, putting it in relation to said game. It sounds weird on paper, so the best way to explain it would be to show one of these “video mods”:

Who knew these guys were in a rock band when not fighting Jedi?

You’re not going insane. That is Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and some random droid jamming out to the Foo Fighters’ “D.O.A.” while footage of Star Wars Battlefront II plays sporadically over really bad CG footage. Go ahead and laugh, I’ll still be here.

(By the way, clicking the image should take you to the YouTube video, if you want to see it for yourself.)

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