“The one thing I don’t like doing is explaining myself; if I screw up, I’ll own it.” – Adam Sessler.
Adam Sessler may not be a gamer, but he is a person that loves to play games.
Or at least, that’s how the former nerd-famous X-Play host described himself in a personal and revealing interview that took place Thursday night, sharing with many fans and gawkers some of the final clues necessary for understanding last year’s pathetic collapse of the G4TV reboot.
On the podcast the Biggest Problem in the Universe, featuring YouTubers Vito Gesualdi and Dick Masterson, Sessler finally broke his silence to reveal what it was like working at the doomed “TV for Gamers” reincarnation; and not only delved into the mistakes made at the network, including Froskurrin’s rant and the ill-prepared owner Comcast but also by seemingly agreeing with many of his critics on the errors of gaming journalism.
How and Where G4TV Went Wrong:
(In full disclosure, Vito is a friend of mine)
After some laughter in the opening, Vito asks Sessler to describe the end of G4TV, describing the end of G4TV as a weird, confusing mess. Sessler agreed, “a weird, confusing mess is a very good description.”
Vito then wonders, as many have speculated, if the reason G4 went down the way it did, was that it pushed too much money through & tried to grab attention too quickly without adequately building its organic audience base, which Adam also agreed with. Adam then refers to the situation and defends Frosk as “a very well written soliloquy” about “defending sort of women’s presence in the (gaming) space.”
However, Dick asks, “You knew she was going to do that ahead of time. Right?” For which Adam adds – in confirmation of previous reporting-: “No.”
Dick continues: “Would you have advised her to like, go through with it? Or delay?”
To which Adam responds: “I would never tell someone what to do? Yeah, I don’t like that. The only thing I would have probably said is what could happen. In terms of the attack.”
Adam then shared that his large concern about working at G4 was that he might have been a drag on the media venture, worrying that he had overshadowed his co-workers. But he eventually admits that as soon as the Frosk rant happened, “Well, I wouldn’t have kept it from happening. But I became pretty certain the shitstorm that was on the horizon.”
Adam wasn’t sure his coworkers, particularly Frosk, were comfortable dealing with all the negativity that came their way; for him, however, he felt comfortable facing it. At one point in the interview; Adam shared that his viral negative Twitter presence was a strategy to gin up ratings for G4, based on trying to grab hate views back in the day at G4 original.
“Yeah, it’s like, you know, I mean, there was a point where in order to keep ratings going, if I needed to bleed myself a little, okay, let’s do it. And that’s why I think people were like; I was so shocked how shocked people when I was being blunt on Twitter and saying, you know, I was, I was doing it. I was being paid by G4, so my interest was in the ratings and the survival of the show.”
Vito wonders about the adverse reaction from fans: “Was the network expecting the response?” And Sessler, after some thought, points out that defining what the network was -in terms of Comcast or G4- was hard to do. Overall, the network didn’t understand who its audience even was.
“There did not seem to be as well informed and understanding of what the internet can do, and more importantly, what the gaming audience was like. Yeah, that was a little too much faith in the general humanity; that everyone thought I was comically.”
Sessler ultimately didn’t feel comfortable working for G4 as it didn’t meet his expectations, whether that was due to what he had been told or had just assumed, he didn’t clarify: “I’ll be frank, I didn’t enjoy much of the revamp of G4. It doesn’t have to do with the people I worked with or anything like that. I could just tell early on that it was going to be moving in a direction that I wasn’t exactly aligned with what I had thought it was going to be.”
Vito asks for clarification. Is this because of the focus on E-sports? Sessler says no, “I thought it was actually going to try to be more like a formal television show. Like instead of the television, internet melange that it was.
Adam then goes back to the topic of the network being radically unprepared:
“When you go into the internet space, whether people do it deliberately or not, people overanalyze. They take the audience too much into consideration, I think, oh, will they get it? Oh, will they like it? Will it make them upset and it’s like, but the thing is, if you upset the audience, that’s not necessarily a negative. And you never know how the audience is going to react. Which is the other the flip of that is you can’t manufacture virality.”
Dick then makes a joke about the problem being women in gaming; Sessler laughs a little, then looks annoyed and adds: “There’s actually a kernel of something I do agree with is gaming.”
“We have a gaming network is already that’s too broad. Right. Right. Now, there is no movie network. There is no book network.”
“The eSports audience in the single player audience, like there’s very very little overlap that’s gonna happen there…But to your point, the one size fits all type approach to doing a gaming network period, regardless of gender predispositions, racial dispositions is really not terribly effective. Because there was no one who loves games so much they care about every facet of games.”
Vito asks what other mistakes might have been made. Was it a mistake for the new G4 to use the original G4 moniker and branding, including the name and the old masculine approach? Sessler thought it to be a poor choice.
“I was on X-Play, and we never looked at our audience being that male. Whereas Attack of the Show show? Yes. And I always forget sometimes how I had cut for the latter part of the existence of the network. We were the other show with Attack of the Show. We were not the big seller for them. So that aspect, that Olivia aspect, yeah, I think had the most lasting impression for some people.
I’ll put it to you this way. It did have that baggage. That baggage was not an inherent problem, but that was not addressed sufficiently, that it became a problem.”
Adam would later return to the topic once more, agreeing that the network needed to be more prepared for how the internet media ecosystem operates instead of treating it like a sure-fire success.
“The thing is that where it was also, I don’t think what was also fully appreciated is that there was going to be no grace period. Yeah, if we were brand new, a brand no one had heard of didn’t involve me. It was a bunch of young people yucking it up, like the, like the Mystery Machine gang. Yeah, that’s one thing that’s gonna have some time to organically find its own footing and grow into it. When you’re taking an old brand that is rightly or wrongly perceived to have been something of a cultural behemoth, it wasn’t. And you’re bringing it back, the expectations are high, deservedly so, and you don’t have any time to make a mistake.”
Much later in the conversation, when Vito and Dick discuss how YouTube works as a platform, which was a significant focus for G4, Adam offers this criticism of people adopting the platform, which he relates to G4.
“And I’m gonna use an analogy. And please forgive me if it’s somewhat derisive of what the two of you were doing. But let’s say you try to build a career that is wholly dependent upon another company’s product. Yes. Like YouTube, for example. Yeah. And you have no ability to control nor influence what’s going to happen with that product in the future and you’re gonna have to live with it ebbs and flows. I mean, that’s the same thing. If you decide to create your identity around a corporate brand, a corporate product; that’s not smart.”
What may surprise readers about the interview isn’t the revelation that G4 was woefully unprepared for reviving an old dead favorite or that, according to him, his negative Twitter started as a rating play; but that Adam Sessler, as much as he hates GamerGate, in a roundabout way, agrees with them on games journalism.
Vito brought up the subject of GamerGate, for which Sessler mocked those that supported it like he attacked anyone that uses the “gamer” identifier.
“That was a stupid back then. It’s just stupid now, it takes the part that pissed me off the most was not just the hideous, slanderous attacks that had no basis in reality, because they were like one could disprove them without any effort. Right. But that there were legitimate publications that decided to take it seriously enough.”
But he didn’t just aim his fire at “gamers” – the identifier and not the hobby he articulated- but also at games journalism for enabling gamergate and then pretending to be journalists.
“Anyway, that was my little platform. But no, there was no merit to it. Why the hell people care that much about games journalism, to the extent that it exists? And there are, I would say there’s about three or four people that practice real honest to god good journalists.”
Vito then points out how nepotism in gaming news gets treated: “If I’m gonna be a game website and my buddy makes a video game like yeah, he might get some free coverage from me like that’s like it’s part of the entertainment industry. Adam agrees: “I work in the entertainment industry. It’s like everybody’s scratching everybody’s back.”
Adam refers to the game journalists: “I don’t believe (gamergate) was being engineered by people smart enough to pull that up, but it did happen organically. Were like, you know, Journalism Review. It’s like, yes, you want to think that a journalist is ethical, duh? Yeah, but most of them who they were attacking, but by no stretch of the imagination could be called a journalist.”
Sessler, if you are reading:
It isn’t newsworthy, but I cannot in good conscience share excerpts of this interview without emphasizing how open Sessler seemed to be for this conversation, especially compared to his former coworkers. What may surprise some , is that during the interview, Sessler shares uncanny insight into the person he is. He knows the appearance he gives off, admits to feeling angry and disappointed with how G4 collapsed and is humble about his time in the spotlight. He admits to struggling with addiction and being overly pessimistic; he cracks jokes about cocaine use, his obesity, and being a has-been.
Politically, he identifies as having “very open liberal leanings. I am actually not a Puritan progressive by any stretch of the imagination.” He makes fun of Antifa, and you get the sense from the interview that his common-sense attitude probably stuck out like a sore thumb at the new G4.
However, for all his positives, and Sessler does have many, including recent success with a major data company -which is how he funds his lifestyle – as you can see from the video above, he still frequently insults those that identify with gaming, even though while he doesn’t use the term openly, perhaps only subconsciously, still defines himself with the hobby.
If you have Twitter, then the negativity is already well-known, so it is not the focus of this article. Still, even when you try to give him the maximum benefit of the doubt as I did, it’s hard to get around the ridiculous amount of him being an -no other way to put this- asshole, mocking those that criticized Frosk and those former defensive feeling fans as “the strange lichen encrusted basement dwelling fuck-nuts that got upset by it are obsessive and can’t let go of any perceived slight that they have in their Trump addled world.”
Sessler seems to personally justify his anger and vitriol as fair play and doesn’t see the problem with blocking someone asking if he’s doing okay, assuming those aren’t the true thoughts of kindness but veiled attacks. He understands he was popular once upon a time but doesn’t understand that some still feel a lasting connection.
That is the tragedy of Adam Sessler, you watch this interview, and you remember why we old-timers that watched X-Play loved him. He is more often funny, witty, smart without being boastful, and rueful without being smug. He had a talent as a presenter in 2004; he still does now. But for some reason, he cannot seem to shake a certain toxic cynicism, or as he put it:
“I look at life as like; it’s a con game. And you’re either the mark, or you’re the player in it.
One last thing….
So, about that infamous seal clap, it turns out that was an inside joke.
A viewer commented near the end of the interview in a super-chat if Adam would please do the seal clap, which references the infamous clapping emote that G4 edited in during Frosk’s infamous rant. Instead of getting upset, Sessler starts laughing,
Adam: oh, that’s so funny, the one where I’m going like that (claps his hands).
What’s so funny is that I had done that so many times, and it’s mine overdone version of the Charles Foster (Citizen) Kane Clap.
Dick: He’s doing a bit. (Laughs hysterically)
Adam: the thing is, if you want to read into it, which I was not intentionally doing, was that it came from the scene where Citizen Kane watches his girlfriend sing at the Opera, and she’s not doing it well.
(Make of that what you will.)