X-Play, the end result of what happens when a Sketch Comedy show meets a video game review program, became the only show to survive the TechTV/G4 merger intact, one of the final original shows on the network (alongside Attack of the Show! and American Ninja Warrior, the latter of which moved to NBC), and one of the highest-rated programs on G4 until its end.
The show started in 1998 on ZDTV as GameSpot TV; Adam Sessler co-hosted the show with Lauren Fielder, then, a year later in 1999, Fielder left, and he hosted solo for a while, before being paired up with Kate Botello in 2000. When ZDTV rebranded itself as TechTV in 2001, the show became Extended Play; after Botello left the show in 2002, Sessler returned to hosting solo. TechTV filmed much of the show at San Francisco's Metreon arcade until 2003, when the show became X-Play, Morgan Webb came aboard to co-host, and the show received a brand new studio. The change to X-Play also marked the beginning of the show's focus on game-related sketch comedy alongside its reviews.
Originally, the show was a television version of GameSpot, with the ratings for each of the games duplicating that of the website, and the person who wrote the review on the website equivalent. When ZDTV became TechTV, and the show became Extended Play, the game reviews and previews were written by the shows' staff and on-air talent. On top of that, the GameSpot rating system was replaced with a 1-5 rating system, with 1 = "Poor," 2 = "Fair," 3 = "Good," 4 = "Great," and 5 = "Perfect."
After G4 purchased TechTV in 2004, it retained X-Play on the newly-merged G4TechTV network. Even though G4 basically left the show intact (a fate far better than all of TechTV's other shows and most of G4's shows received) the show's focus shifted on a frequent basis for the next few years as G4 began to go through a serious case of Network Decay. The show eventually ended up as a half-hour version of what G4 was before the TechTV merger: it ran down the latest gaming news stories, showed previews and reviews for the latest games, aired interviews with different industry personalities, and even ran a hints segment called "Cheat!"note The sketch comedy also disappeared, for the most part, but this had more to do with the show's former head comedy writer, comedienne/comic nerd Blair Butler, becoming an on-air personality for G4.
On April 26, 2012, Sessler abruptly left G4. Blair Herter took his place as host.
On October 26, 2012, G4 announced that it would cancel both X-Play and Attack of the Show! at the end of the year before undergoing its Esquire makeover. The show ended on January 23, 2013 alongside Attack of the Show! with a finale that had been taped a month before.
The first episode of X-Play was chosen to end G4's final broadcasting day on December 31, 2014, followed by a game of Pong played to completion, acting as the network's Game Over.
As a nice little shout out to the show though, Adam and Morgan reunited at E3 twice, in 2015 and again in 2016 to host the pre-show to the Bethesda press events. They also reunited with other G4 personalities in Thanksgiving 2020 for A Very Special G4 Reunion Special.
"It's Game Time!"
- Broke the Rating Scale:
- Blair Herter, the very self-aware third wheel.
- Sessler (before the 2008 retool) was this since the show's inception. And so are the interns.
- "Roger: the Stan Lee Experience" uses Bob Kane as one.
- "Brutally honest review." They used it almost once an episode. Usually, but not always, a heads-up that whatever game they're going to review was going to be panned.
- "We hate escort missions!"
- "And we here at X-Play give (insert game's name here) a (insert number here)... out of 5."
- Cloudcuckoolander: Crazy Adam, owner of the used games emporium. Crazy crazy crazy crazy CRAAAA-ZY ADAM!!! His character is pretty crazy, too.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Sessler and Webb acted in this manner, but tend to switch between it and sheer abstract goofball at times.
- Disposable Intern: During numerous skits/reviews, the hosts and staff would abuse, torment, and subject the "interns" to various punishments and horrors for the sake of comedy. Some of these "interns" weren't actually interns at all, though, and were actually other staff and producers of the show portraying a character.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The Extended Play episodes back in the TechTV days had a computer-generated version of Sessler voiced by himself.
- The '80s:
- Enforced Plug: Once an Episode, after reviewing a 3-star game, Sessler and/or Webb would try to segue into a plug for GameFly's game rental service. Some of them were funny, but not all of them worked. Later, the segment plugged a future program for G4 which would invariably bomb. Near the end of the TechTV era, they were forced to plug G4's award show, G-Phoria on occasion, and mention that it's brought to you by EB Games and Jeep, even though they hadn't moved to Los Angeles to be with them yet (G-Phoria would eventually be merged into X-Play's editorial control and fade away quietly into their year-in-review by 2009). In addition, Sessler and Webb's appearance at G-Phoria on July 31, 2004, was their first time as G4 employees, just two weeks after the final San Francisco episode was filmed. Their first appearance ever on G4 was two months prior, on May 12, 2004, during that channel's E3 coverage.
- Every Episode Ending:
- 1998-2001: "Until next time, bye-bye."
- 2001-2003: "Until next time, game... over."
- Fan Disservice: Parodied in the "Naked Raiden" sketch, much to Sessler's dismay:
- And then there was the Viewer's Choice Episode, in which fans voted to see Adam get spanked by Yuna. Adam is totally on board until it's revealed that the one who's going to be doing the spanking is actually a large, fat, bearded man in a Yuna costume.
- Fanon Discontinuity: Referenced in the opening of one episode, where Webb said, "We like to pretend Perfect Dark Zero doesn't exist."
- Fanservice: They frequently pointed these instances out during reviews to make a joke about them. They also occasionally did skits focused on it, such as one about the history of breast physics in video games.
- Fashion Dissonance: Sessler's loud striped shirts early on, which he admitted made him look like a worker at a hard candy shop in response to a letter where the writer said they were so ugly they made his genitals run away.
- Flanderization: Sessler on Extended Play was a perfectly reasonable man. When X-Play started up, he turned into a complete buffoon with a near psychotic hatred of anything anime related. He has shifted right back in the 2008 retool.
- Four Point Scale: Averted. Their review system was deliberately balanced to include all spectrum of games and to be as helpful as possible. They had condemned the use of most other scales because of the tendency for most games to fall into the same ranking. Near the end of Sessler's tenure on the show, they introduced half-star ratings under the reasoning that they felt they were giving too many perfect scores. However, after going to Revision3, Sessler stated that the half-star ratings were introduced out of the control of the hosts and review staff after the 2011 holiday break by network management looking to pacify a certain game company and to get the show more influence on Metacritic, a site Sessler has criticized strongly for being used as a metric by gaming companies to withhold bonuses and pay to workers for games which didn't meet an arbitrary number.
- Foreshadowing: The review of Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home that aired on November 12, 2003 featured the G4TV logo on the top-right corner at one point.◊ Comcast would buy out Tech TV six months later. Some copies of the game came with a bonus "Backyard Wrestling Music & Mayhem DVD". It's possible that G4 produced some content for it. G4 produced content for other games of the era as well.
- The Gambling Addict:
- Webb during the 2003 episode about Japanese gaming culture in Tokyo. She even thought about trading her airplane ticket back to San Francisco for more Pachinko balls.
- In 2004, the show did a segment about gaming addiction, with a fictional organization called NAIII.
- Gamer Chick: Webb; from the very beginning, she'd been accused of being nothing more than eye candy and not really a gaming fan, despite her never ending insistence to the contrary. From 2001 to 2003, prior to her tenure as X-Play co-host, Webb was seen as an on-air Correspondent on another TechTV show in The Screen Savers. Among other things, she would often compete in the shows' weekly LAN Party every Thursday, playing Unreal Tournament, and was one of that game's top players.
- A God Am I: "Who is this 'Bob' of which you speak. I am Thor-Axe the Impaler" in Splinter Cell: Co-op Theater.
- Gonk: Sessler very reluctantly reviewed some sort of Disney Princess activity "game," where you could not only make a bloated prepubescent princess, but slap your own face on it. When he did so, the results earned some Ominous Latin Chanting.
- Groin Attack: Sessler had plenty of this happen to him, including the famous stapling of his own crotch. Most people don't remember the game in question, but it was during the review of a motorcross game called SX Superstar, which got a 2 out of 5.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: The Disembodied Voice, known for his witty host introductions during each segment, who was eventually eliminated. In episodes from 2003 to 2005, he was played by the shows' former Production Assistant, Jason Frankovitz.
- Hilarity Ensues: For some reason, one of the swag items advertisting Crysis 2 to the media was the infamous Shake Weight with the game's logo screened onto the handle. The hosts decided to use it on one episode for any prompter read they did and Herter really seemed to love it.
- Homemade Sweater from Hell: Gives the quote at the top of the trope's page.
- Hypocritical Humor: When talking about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance in his Best and Worst Comic Book Video Games segment from 2007, Roger the Stan Lee Experience said:"Look at all my little creations running around learning to work as a team. It's just like Jack Kirby and I envisioned all those years ago. And when I say Jack and I envisioned, I mean I envisioned."
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: May 2006-December 2007 episodes were titled "The *Insert Random Name Here* Episode".
- If I Had a Nickel: "But first, we start with World War II; oh, if I had a nickel for every time I said that, I could finally afford to buy myself a pony."
- Inherently Funny Words: The show had so much fun with the Kha'ak, the Big Bad of X2: The Threat. They also very much enjoyed "dik dik."
- Ms. Fanservice: Webb. She'd been accused of being solely this, and not really a gamer, since the show's inception, even as she did an independent tech news video podcast during the course of the series. Parodied in one episode where Sessler wore the outfit she wore in her Maxim shoot.
- Murder Simulators: Addressed from time to time, usually when a controversial game was released that that Moral Guardians were claiming was one. The show's position, of course, was to either parody or deconstruct these claims.
- Musical Episode: Two actually. The first was a tribute to the viewers of the show called On the X-Play Board... which made fun of viewer reaction to the scores certain games receive and their responses on the G4 message boards. The second was a full episode musical about Sessler and Webb getting an offer to make their own video game which of course turned out to be a disaster. It's actually pretty funny. The irony is that they already had their own video game on the X-Play page. It was a side scrolling beat 'em up where Webb uses her fists as a weapon, Sessler uses Slippy the Fish as his weapon.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: X-Play wished all of its viewers a "Happy Non-Denominational Winter Season".
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Several examples, though far less hammy than the actual quote itself from 300:
- Webb: (about 50 Cent: Bulletproof) So why was this game even made? Cash, my friends. Cold. Hard. Cash.
- In the review for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, "In what should be the most badass moment of the entire game, you're reduced to slowly rotating a faraway ship into some arbitrary position so you could slowly pull it a couple of feet down before fending off a wave of TIE Fighters. Then you do it all. Over. Again. This isn't even interesting, let alone awesome."
- Sessler (about Will Rock): "And it just gets harder. And harder. And harder. And harder. Just like in all the other Serious Sam games".
- Sessler (about Aquaman): "You swim. And you fight. You swim some more. And you fight. That's it. And it still barely works. Reminds me of another superhero game, the infamous Superman 64 on the N64. Looks like the Man of Steel's got a buddy."
- Averted, however, while reviewing the PSP game that is based on 300.
- Put on a Bus: Many of the recurring sketch characters, most notably Ratty and Roger the Stan Lee Experience. Lampshaded when Sessler was forced to get some of the characters to help co-host an episode when Hertsr and Web were unavailable. Guess what happens when the characters help out during the episode.
- Put Their Heads Together: In the segment "Kung Fu Master Chief", the title Video Game character did this to a pair of ninja.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Sessler went to a SWAT training session, and got chewed out for having his finger on the trigger.
- Running Gag:
- Plenty, but one of the earliest ones from a particularly bad snowboarding game: "What if it snowed in San Fransisco?"
- Early episodes of X-Play had jokes based on Sessler's obsession with fudge.
- TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES! TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES! TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES!
- Self-Deprecation: Overused is putting it lightly. Sessler being shown as the butt of the joke used to be extremely frequent in the early years.
- Shout-Out: Numerous.
- Show Within a Show:
- Splinter Cell: Co-op Theater. "When America needs a hero...when freedom stands alone...when justice needs to be upheld, there's only one place to turn. Through the cover of night, America's top agents will defend our liberty from those who wish us harm. Let us join Special Agent Bob and Secret Agent Steve: two of the finest official unofficial Splinter Cells."
- And within Splinter Cell: Co-op Theater is its own show within a show (within a show), Grabnar the Wanderer.
- The Scrappy: There's an in-universe example in their review of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: they said the game was like "Scrappy-Doo getting his own TV Show."
- Small Name, Big Ego: Parodied in-universe. A skit had Sessler tackling problems in the form of an RPG random encounter, in one of which the enemy was a bouncer at a club, and Sessler's attack was to say, "Behold my celebrity," which fails.
- Take That, Audience!:
- In the 2008 April Fools' Day episode, they did a "re-review" of Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. They basically took the original review and dubbed over their criticisms with a Straw Fan blindly praising it and giving it a 6 out of 5.
- The show received a lot of flak for its blatant unprofessionalism with their reveal of the Viewer's Choice for 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, implying they thought it won due to the fanbase's anger at them not nominating Skyward Sword for Game of the Year. See the offender here.
- Troll: Certainly, they did seem to got caught up in the flame wars they so heartily made fun of sometimes. At some points, it seemed they forgot that they were at least ideally supposed to avoid bias in their reviews, which tended to fuel the problems with the fanbase even more.
- Valley Girl: Webb in The '80s flashback episode.
- Video Game Movies Suck: Addressed in-universe. They've talked about this topic several times. They once had a segment called "I Have a Dreamcast", in which they describe how they would ideally like films based on games to be but then describe the ways the ways they will inevitably end up sucking.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: At the outset of one episode, the disembodied voice breaks off from his introduction of the hosts to ask what the hell he just said.
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