Mark DeAngelis on Gameplay HD, the High-Definiton Game Channel

Joe Blancato | 3 Apr 2008 17:00
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Nestled high on the Dish Network's channel list is Gameplay HD, a 1080p channel where videogames take priority over videogame reviewers, professional gamers get treated like NFL athletes and cut-scenes run like feature-length films. I initially found the network via ESPN, who aired a shortened version of The Madden Challenge, a 24-man Madden tournament with a $10,000 purse, on Superbowl Sunday. From there I got into contact with Mark DeAngelis, Gameplay HD's creator, to ask him about his philosophy of televising games. Here's what he had to say, as he shouted over the sound of fire trucks rolling out of New York's Station 1 (their offices are on the same block).

The Escapist: Give me a rundown on Gameplay HD's history. When did you get started, and what have you been doing up until now?

Mark DeAngelis: I'm a first-generation videogame head. I'm a hardcore gamer. I was hardcore PC, but I've been corrupted. I'll now play anything that has moving video images on it. For instance, I bought my 6-year-old and my 4-year-old DS Lites for Christmas, and I'm playing Strawberry Shortcake. And it's a lot of fun! Right now we're doing this thing with a snorkel, and you gotta follow around this big fish with big fangs to get more strawberries. It's hysterical. And it's really cool to see the girls progress in their skills, because I believe videogames, if monitored and controlled and balanced, like anything in life, can be a good thing. And there's countless hours of fun that I have with my children on the couch playing LEGO Star Wars and Spyro.

Somewhere along the line in my gaming career, I played StarCraft. I fell in love with the cinematics. ... I always felt that it was a shame that after I played that game - and StarCraft is an anomaly because I still continue to - but most games, they have these beautiful, multi-million-dollar cinematics and they get put away on the shelf and no one gets to see them. So, flash forward "X" amount of years and I end up getting into television and film, producing commercials, independent features and television. And then flash forward another 14 years, I had the opportunity to pitch a new channel concept to the Voom network.

It was gonna be a high-definition channel. Lots of kudos to G4 for being a pioneer out there, but I always felt a little underserved to a degree, or I feel like they missed some of the things I wanna see as a videogamer. ... I said, 'Listen, I wanna make a channel that makes the videogame the star, and the tournament player and the community player, not who's talking about games.' That in a nutshell was our philosophy.

It's not much different than MTV when they started off with the music videos. ... I'm a huge fan of the graphical design, the environment, the artistic work that goes into these games; it's just stunning and jaw-dropping. When I play Halo 3, there's a lot of my time that gets taken through the cinematics and the storyline. ... I always thought there was room for more passive entertainment. I mean, it can be exhausting to go for eight hours in Call of Duty 4. At some point, you gotta sit back and chill. ... And videogames have a lot of assets you can create based on those videogames that are entertaining in that format.

TE: You could string together a lot of the story elements from a number of games and create something worth sitting down and watching.

MD: Exactly, and taking that premise, there's three major buckets for Gameplay HD. One of those is original programming, and within that is a series called Cinematics. And we go in there and we take out the cinematics with a little bit of gameplay if it needs it, because sometimes it needs it to weave the story together, and present it as a movie of that videogame.

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