My nostalgia for televised gaming media

Man, computers were so simple when I was a kid. Windows XP cd free from an uncle. Games from that heavy-smoker guy that listens to Breaking Benjamin. Plug in a sound card, now you have sound. Turn on the monitor, now you have an image (don’t keep the speakers too close). Get an internet card, Romtelecom isn’t available in your area, try again later.

And later, arrived it did…

In the the beginning, there were web-loggers. They were particularly valuable in non-english countries, because they were translating the headlines too. Here in Romania, there was ZonaIT.

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Not the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. thing, but it’s still in Eastern Europe.

By 2006, the little weblog grew into a weekly gaming&tech TV show, Zon@ it. Fast paced, always in a rush and ending every review with “find the full review on the website”. (It seemed abandoned, at the time.) Eventually I found their old reviews and Top 7 videos on youtube in 2012-ish, they had I’m Shipping Up To Boston - Dropkick Murphys as their intro. I’d link those, but they’re now set to private. I’ve found a few fan recordings, and you can hear the music in the “Top 5 disastrous game launches the bible mentioned in the Apocalypse” section below, at 13:05. But before that…

Roll that intro!

Retrospectives are nice and all, but Ross’s Game Dungeon won’t tell you about how Hellgate London used to charge people multiple times and sometimes log you into another person’s account. Also, I’m always happy to see old media showing nothing but scorn for always-online DRM and personal data tracking. It doesn’t even really feel like nostalgia, it just feels right, along with seeing light, fast, arcade games on mobile… on a phone with no SD card or audio jack. The more things change… the less surprising it is to hear from the guys who lay tiles and wooden floors talk about SEO.

I picked a more recent episode because it’s uncut and has the intro in HD.

Now bear with me as I try to review a review show. So, it was structured a bit like LTT, as in there were different people behind the scenes doing the various segments, with the host voicing the final script. It’s not unusual for him to say “I’ll let Andrei talk about that” then the same guy keeps talking lol. Andrei Ene was writing fast and with contempt for the industry ~and grammar~, a bit like Zero Punctuation but with OutOfTen scores for the individual headings of a review. This was the most controversial section among the audience… grading down Just Cause 2 for having a bad story or Battlefield for campaign woes. For my taste, these are the most “timeless” parts of the show, easily accessible on their YouTube channel until a couple years ago. The Lab501 team was handling hardware and getting medals in overclocking competitions. They had researchers from Kaspersky to talk security, Microsoft reps for the business and servers stuff, and I forgot who was on photo/video.

A while ago there were rumors about the national TV station hiring for a new IT&C Show, and the reactions were generally “Who is this for?”

Me. It’s for me. For the people that only got a small taste of the web through Java Feature-phones or by carrying boxen up the stairs when a cousin went abroad. For the villages that don’t have internet, and for the people that need to hear that somewhere, out there, beyond the clouds of barbecue smoke and manele, there’s cool nu-metal and electronic music. So… for time travelers? None of that has been the case for over 15 years at this point. I’m a bit nostalgic about it, m’kay. They were the only ones showing “the mainstream” that a dirty word like “games” meant interactive art and not gambling. (oh how I wish that was still the case, between then and now gambling has infested both gaming and every street corner in this country. In retaliation, the gambling dens got infested by school children).

I think I also caught on TV something from G4TV, it was shown on MTV IIRC. Beyond those 2, anything gaming on TV was glossed over as fast as possible, maybe with the sales numbers for “The Creed of the Assassins” mentioned once a year. Big event if there was a Need for Speed ad on Eurosport.

COD montage on national TV, to announce a tournament. 2008 is still in the future istg

Or, more appropriately for what everyone was actually playing, a Counter strike 1.6 montage

2008 was definitely in the future. Holy shit I want those today, especially that folding e-ink thing.

So old good, new bad?

vampires in jeans
Vampires in Jeans.

Old bad. Or, at least, it got worse as it got older. For the game reviews, one thing that didn’t age well is the “plot analysis” that spelt out the basic premise followed invariably by “but I don’t want to spoil it :^)”. Sometimes some insults towards a few characters, but looking back now, after years of hours-long literary video essays, it was a bit of a nothing-burger. One thing I still miss is their flowery translations of English expressions, John becomes Ionescu, killing enemies becomes availabilisation/redundancy/lead poisoning. Jack gets a Beanstalk, and idle NPCs eat sunflower seeds. Imagine my sadness to learn that by the end, they were reprimanding writers for using “fancy” words. Alienating the audience my ass, the writing used to be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious :smiley:

More woes were the marketing. The show had weird ads, the network kept changing the airing hours and channels. The timing of their more involved retrospectives was pretty bad. I didn’t have an issue with the host, but I’ve heard complaints.

The tv host from way-back-when is still active on the show’s youtube channel, but it is treated as a more “normal” tech-tuber channel with personal rants, no links to TV left. (oh wow, they even changed the permalink to his name). They started a new gaming channel too, Playground, that I had forgot about until writing this. It seems “fine”, nothing special, they speak cliché-filled romglish just like everybody else nowadays. Let me clarify, I don’t complain about that out of nationalism, but because the translation of tech terms into expressions that my “normie” compatriots could understand is valuable work that nobody else does. Good luck explaining to your uncle what blockchain-based cloud live service means, on the spot, in a foreign language. They do tech reviews on that channel too, so idk what was the point, maybe to experiment with new hosts? Or to shed down dead subscribers.

Later on, the website “had associations” with bootleggy peripherals brands. In more recent years, it was the biggest IT news site left, with writers from pretty much every other site doing ~6-12 months of work before moving on. Tech journalism that meant hiding how Lenovo knowingly sold servers with “1234” as password to the government, only to praise Lenovo 6 months later for fixing the issue quickly.

By the end, it was nothing but Google-translated foreign articles, poetically returning to how it all started. Hmm, I talk like it closed down or something. No, it’s still there, and they’re getting better, they’re sending reporters to big conferences again. Information is a living thing, that’s why people become teachers, not librarians. But I haven’t checked it daily since I started high-school.

Extra pictures and links

windows 7 was supposed to have the middle dock taskbar
windows 7 was supposed to have the middle dock taskbar

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thumbnails never change.

Channels that still have old recordings: https://www.youtube.com/@TvManiak88/videos 2008; https://www.youtube.com/@ArealTV/videos; https://www.youtube.com/@BlueMaxBaiaMare/videos; https://www.youtube.com/@nicodan75

https://youtu.be/JfxTy8SaOVQ at the apple store opening: “we achieved the performance to have a store like you’d find in every corner of the truly civilized world”.

https://youtu.be/gXNkaJng13Q old intro. Not the oldest, but the one I’m most nostalgic for.

https://youtu.be/rYPzsLRDpeU alcatel rep talking in english about wireless internet. I like the little animated ad they have, with a steam deck among the gadgets, at 2:32. Sails manager(sic). They show sending movies and songs to your friends as a selling point, not a crime.

https://youtu.be/r6FGAUt8bKI&t=858 cool phones

https://youtu.be/9SXjqsd9P5o&t=52 lab501 hard drive test

ArenaTV

The next section is the exact opposite of Zona It. Where zona was a big media company shown on national TV, these guys built up a TV station, all about games and tech, on the internet. Where zona had a revolving door of writers, covering the newest shooters, this guy was writing about the oldest RPGs, moving between media homes. And I can call him a writer because he wrote a book :arrow_right: https://unacomn.itch.io/tale-of-doom

I wish I had more stories from these early days, but in my neck of the woods here in Romania it was all such a blur. Nobody trusted “entrepreneurs”, coming out of communism, the only people that could run a business or handle logistics were criminals. Now I’m trying to write about internet media when I didn’t have internet until 10 years after the fact. Some people managed to launch a 24/7 gaming tv station on the internet, ArenaTV. (With some live shows!) That ended with people having to deal with the worst of “forum culture”, targeted hacking and all. One huge contention point was that the website’s owner kept insisting on hosting their own server infrastructure. In hindsight we may see the benefits of that, but at the time, the writers were not happy at all to get no salaries for months on end for the sake of… having less storage? It definitely wasn’t enough to host all the video files… or the text files… and the forums were going down often.

“influencer” wasn’t a thing yet. I was calling pretty much anyone covering tech a “journalist”. They’re covering cold hard facts, right? Their personality was secondary. At least, it seemed that way at the time, people were demanding objective reviews. 15 years of clean corporate design did a number on what the audience wants.

As for blogs, there’s not much point in me linking romanian blogs full of 404s here, so I’ll link to the channel of one of the writers. Where Zona IT used to translate english news into romanian, unacomn (name drop) used to do lots of “gaming and tech history” episodes, and has been re-making them in english for years now.

He has been re-making them in English for years now.

Reviews, podcasts, live streams. There’s a documentary series going over every year in gaming history since the beginning, in 1967.

Years.Game

I could keep writing this thing about gaming media and how I “consumed” it on a Samsung Bada phone, “but I don’t want to spoil it :^)”. It’s in english and I would just quote this video until I find a conclusion. (and I heard there’s demand for gaming commentary these days.) I’ll specifically link the episode talking about his experience in early internet media and live streaming at ArenaTV and how he learned journalistic ethics.

If there’s anything of value in this forum post, it’s his channel and this video/ audio.

The coolest thing ever

He mentions a magazine called LEVEL at one point. A magazine made more sense than a TV show for gaming and IT, because they included DVDs. Useful software, demo-discs, and, the legends always included one FULL GAME with every magazine, like Mafia 2 or Need for Speed Shift 2. Those magazines are regarded as precious heirlooms by all the gamers I know. There’s plenty to write there, but frankly I can’t. I’ve only read a handful, I want to find more archives and go over the attempts to revive it, Nivelul2. I’ll contribute to the Demo Discs section when I find them, if it’s still here lol. It will take a while.

Screenshot mini_2024-03-21-12-44-40

Shout-out to https://videotutorial.ro/ , I’ve watched “like a desperate”.

Useful software

I found this neat little extension to be able to see missing items in playlists. It claims it gets them from The Internet Archive. Sometimes I can paste that link on IA and see the video, sometimes I can’t. Even for videos I already saw on there, sometimes it gives a missing error, but it works when I try again later. Is there a way to tell which videos are available? besides spamming requests and waiting forever.

Filmot Title Restorer :floppy_disk: ; More Searches :mag_right:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLasJqTymEfehBBmncasZyyJpmBamnzlLE the big playlist of gaming videos from Zonait, 309 of 321 restored
When I see this :arrow_down: player on the Internet Archive, I can watch the video but I can’t download it? I’ve been recording a couple of them with OBS.

Bonus amogus ඞ

A friend was throwing out a couple of old TVs. Maybe they still light up.

1 Like

This is crazy. We didn’t have anywhere near this level of gaming television in the states.
We had G4TV (evolved from TechTV) which had X-Play and Arena and a couple other gaming-focused shows, but that was IT.
For a brief period, MLG partnered with ESPN and I got the pleasure of watching a big Halo 2 tournament on ESPN, which was mind-boggling, but that was the end of it basically until ~2014-ish when Disney XD started putting some lets players on Disney kids channels.

Over in Ukraine video game TV shows as a thing in my memory were spearheaded by a single TV channel called QTV, which was probably the greatest thing ever at its peak that probably deserves an entire writeup of its own about how it turned from a weird adult humor-style channel to the prime destination for anime on Ukrainian TV, and how it then fumbled it all by trying to palate exclusively to kids.

Most videogame-related shows that ran on it were Russian imports, there was also an attempt to bring over X-Play (translated from English), and then closer to its peak they ditched all that and went all in on producing an all-Ukrainian video game show of its own called Ігронавти (Ihronavty, lit. Game-o-nauts), which I vaguely remember as being at least interesting, and it def had something Russian ones didn’t, that being all the interviews they made with Ukrainian developers, games media people, as well as people working in Ukrainian branches of foreign game companies like Ubisoft.

The intro for it will probably be etched into my mind forever.