The host was one of the nicest, most enthusiastic people I've ever met. She'd played 17 minutes of videogames in her life. She wanted very much to be a good host.


The guest star was like a cross between Fred Savage and Caligula. They kept him chained and fed him raw meat and praise until camera-time.

The original schedule was to make 10 episodes within four weeks. This made perfect sense on every level except one: Games aren't released that way, and good previews weren't often available. By the airing of the 10th episode we'd be six weeks out of date. Imagine GameSpot reviewing Christmas releases in February.

The Public Relations firms smiled a lot. They wanted one thing: the game on the top of their list on the top of our list. If that happened, great. If not .. they were working to highly structured performance bonus targets. Mess with a smiley person's highly structured performance bonus and you'll see barracuda teeth. From the inside.

The Network Masters liked us. They understood what we were doing. Just watch out for the timeslot. You're on Saturday afternoon, that means kids, that means no blood. Or shooting. Or death. Or implied death. Now go do your Counter-Strike review.

Me? I was just trying to play, record and review nearly every single game release of the period. Easy. I cranked it out, didn't sleep much and when I did, I'd wake up with the word "HACK" auto-scrawled on my bedside mirror like some kind of horror film.

The big day came. The first episode aired. The usual TV feedback process occurred - a few phone calls, a few congratulations from the executives, an early indication of solid ratings for the timeslot.

Then we checked the online forums. Welcome to the full fury of the internet. This relationship just got violent.

Screenshot was a middling, up-and-down TV production, a Home Improvement, if you will. It was created to fill a timeslot, meet payroll and advertise products. This is the entertainment/revenue model that kicked the tar out of movies back in the 1950s and had worked ever since. For the past half century, massive audiences have accepted television passively, with only a small minority providing qualitative feedback of any kind.

Television, meet videogames. Videogames, meet television.

A locust army descended. They screamed. They howled. They acted in all the ways that we now call the internet. The anger, vitriol, hate and above all disappointment was like a bonfire.

"How could you do this to the things we love? You think half-assed is good enough? You think being on TV is some kind of privilege?"

We staggered on through the season run. I hated watching the show, dreaded reading the forums. You just couldn't hide, which five years ago was still something new. The bad feelings around it all became a black hole. Knowing you're doing hack work is awful, but far, far worse is seeing negative energy spewing into the world as a result.

We limped across the finish line. Make it all stop. Please.


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