In an exclusive interview for ClownFish TV and CultureScape, my podcast and YouTube channel; I, your friendly neighborhood journalist, got to speak at length with Indiana “Froskurinn” Black; the person most blamed for sailing the G4TV reboot into an iceberg last year with her rant about sexism in gaming. What she revealed to me during the interview is shocking. Not only did Frosk make the case that she is almost entirely innocent of the demise of G4, but that In its handling of G4TV, Comcast Spectacor, the Comcast subsidiary run by Comcast CEO Tucker Roberts, which was responsible for reviving the long-dead gaming media brand; might not just have sullied a cherished games legacy; but if she is to be believed, may have perpetuated criminality.
Me: Did they (Comcast) understand what kind of Fallout was going to come your way?
Frosk: “No absolutely not. If they had asked me, I would have been like, do not clip that. Did I mean everything I said, yeah. But that’s in a context of like, I know that only 2000 People are watching and like, I can look directly at the Twitch chat.”
“They clip it, they put it obviously like G4 rides like the high of like, the internal of one’s like, ah, you know, good job, we really stand behind you. And then as soon as like the backlash comes, and it gets caught up in the YouTube algorithm, then obviously, like all of the harassment comes and G4 just hard bales that are like ‘we are really supporting you.’ But like way over here.”
Broken from the word Go:
From the very start of G4TV, everything went wrong. Black previously had been a successful e-sports caster for League of Legends and, in 2019, had decided to take a break. Her agent, in talks with Comcast already, offered to have her be brought on for her talents and experience in e-sports, which was a central focus of the network, with promises from CS leadership that she would be given the leeway and support for whatever projects she thought would be best for the new G4TV.
However, not long after production began and the new staff moved into their professional studio building, Black and other employees were constantly undermined by middle management. Nothing would be simple. Trying to figure out what format would work for the reboot, Frosk, and her team proposed a seemingly endless amount of pitch decks and verticals to CS to no avail. Among the killed ideas were game-specific e-sports shows, ala a League of Legends show or a CSGO show, or to host exhibitions that covered more popular “arena” party games like Mario Kart or Smash Bros. Frosk balked at the idea of treating all e-sports as one giant blob; instead as she observed that e-sports fans generally gravitate towards their favorite game over others and most potential audience members would be more interested in the games that they were familiar with.
For this, executives disagreed; they wanted Frosk to host a show like a primetime news network meets a variety show, supposedly in an attempt to get clips to go viral. When Frosk told management that she or the other staff had any experience doing comedy, nor would that be something their audience would be into, they were again ignored. When she started working with production to put the approved shows together, she assumed that as it’s a news show, she could use clips of video games and e-sports for G4’s headlining e-sports show; for which she was loudly shouted down.
Tonight on CultureScape👾#froskspeaks @Froskurinn finally shares her side of the story about what really went down at G4TV🤯 pic.twitter.com/fK90exbdbB— Peter Pischke-Friendly Neighborhood Journo (@HappyWarriorP) January 31, 2023
As Frosk shared and as recently alluded to by Adam Sessler in an interview on the podcast the Biggest Problem in the Universe, a common difficulty lay in the lack of a clear organizational structure and clear lines of leadership between Comcast Spectacor and G4. Whenever Frosk and other G4TV staff proposed ideas to executive production, those ideas had to be funneled to a shadowy amorphous middle management. If staff received a response from the executives, they would never know who gave it, if that person had the authority to give it, nor would they find out why the idea was declined.
This led to much confusion, and the company rarely took advantage of the experience and knowledge of talent and production. Though Black had over a decade in e-sports, and Jirard Khalil, a very successful YouTuber, knew the YouTube platform exceptionally well, in neither case was they given much control in the direction of their productions. Communications got so bad that to deal with this lackluster response, talent would bring in people from outside the company to help, as Khalil did when he brought on his own social media analysts and thumbnail creators, which significantly improved G4’s YouTube traffic.
Goodbye Xplay and G4TV 🧡 pic.twitter.com/hqBwtzTSN4— Danny Peña (@godfree) October 19, 2022
Everything on G4TV looked expensive, and it was all a lie. For those of us on the outside, it looked like CS had given the G4 production teams every advantage in terms of finance and talent. However, nothing could be further from the truth. While at times there were indeed generous budgets set aside for productions; those rarely ended up going far enough to meet the production demands; either because the costs were underestimated; the budget had been blown through quickly on celebrity spots; or strange ‘friend-of-a-friend’ social media company sponsorships or; while nothing concrete could be pointed to; what seemed to some G4 employees as potential theft.
Nothing at G4 was as it was presented. Their coveted G4TV YouTube channel with over half a million subscribers and the rest of the old G4TV inherited social media apparatus, which seemed like a win to observers, was less a blessing and more a curse. Many things at the G4 Studios in Burbank were like that. Beneath that fancy chic architectural facade, if one pays attention to the video walkthroughs, you might notice there is only one production stage area, a long hall-like room with a dozen separate stages, which, if you are trying to run a single television channel, isn’t a problem. Still, if you are running a media company with multiple co-running productions, it most certainly is.
Though it’s not as if getting permission to use equipment or assets at the G4TV headquarters in Burbank was easy, Entire areas of the building went virtually unused. A room decked out with gaming pcs went nigh untouched. Sometimes these restrictions were just sheer incompetence, like the outrageously expensive designer sitting steps, with a dedicated projector screen for things like Tournaments, which couldn’t be used during the day as the room had a large skylight for the ceiling. Funnily enough, while the company did not let talent host a tournament for production, they would allow professional e-sports teams to borrow those facilities.
Frosk: “My favorite thing was that there’s a giant skylight in that room. And so they have the sitting step, because theoretically, there’s a big projector that comes down. And so you could have like, you know, big auditorium meetings there. At some point, I was like, why don’t we use this space for like a like a Smash Brothers eSports tournament.”
“There’s an eSports hub; It’s like a PC Bang. And there’s like just a bunch of computers. And at one point, we actually have the Tlon valorant team playing their tournaments from that space, because of the wired connection in the studio. And they didn’t have a practice room for whatever reason that was their temporary stopover. And I was like we should actually be using this more. And we never used that space.”
“But there was a skylight in the ceiling that you couldn’t cover it all, which meant during the day in Los Angeles, you couldn’t use the projector at any point, because the skylight would just mean that you couldn’t see anything on the projecter screen. “
Another major problem was that Comcast Spectacor had signed up G4TV staff to produce content for each show and have content made for five different platforms. They were expected to create content for Twitch and YouTube, plus two linear -traditional cable and satellite- and, later on, one more channel for streaming devices like Roku. This meant that for any one week, it was possible that Frosk and her small team of 8 people for just one of her three shows were being asked to produce as much as 15 hours of mint-fresh broadcast-quality entertainment. While the original X-Play did 3 to 5-minute reviews and focused on tight segments, the new X-Play would feature 30-minute reviews for decade-old titles and long-winded “table discussions.”
Frosk describes Live DnD RolePlaying:— Peter Pischke-Friendly Neighborhood Journo (@HappyWarriorP) January 31, 2023
"Cringiest, weirdest thing we ever did" while working at G4TV
Then describes that time Comcast fired/hired/fired her E-Sports team 3 times🤦@lincodega @TheQuartering @BoundingComics @EthanVanSciver @loftipixels @CassandraRules @RekietaLaw pic.twitter.com/ZRoj1DSChs
To meet this enormous demand, G4 often dumped talent into the hours-long segments to talk about subjects they had no knowledge of or interest in. There were also issues with scheduling as some talent, like Adam Sessler; didn’t live in the LA area, so CS would have him fly him to Burbank to record many different overly-long segments back to back. Hence, we got the clip of Frosk not knowing what Xbox titles consoles exclusives were because she had been told to prep a discussion of Starfield, not Xbox, and a dazed-looking Sessler worn out from five one-hour-long discussions.
Frosk: “And just the thing that I kept seeing in G4 for from so many different areas is everyone playing like this political game of clown cars where no one like really is saying what they are meaning and they’re trying to like align themselves with like certain producers or certain teams and there was like the in team fighting like the Attack of the Show team apparently didn’t want the X-Play team to succeed and anytime they attacked a show team failed and like the apparently they X-Play team is supposed to like happy about it. And like this is just like so toxic, just very strange and very toxic. And it was all from upper management people.”
As you can imagine, working at G4TV was highly chaotic, with uncertain management and multiple counter orders and demands from CS to G4. In one memorable example, Frosk’s e-sports team members -as in the same employees- were fired on three different occasions. This was typical at the company; there would be endless political office games that executive management inflicted on production; trying to antagonize staff against each other, as they would feed rumors that the X-Play team hated the Attack of the Show team; even though they all shared the same workspace and many of the same staff.
Worse yet, and highly illegal, management would routinely not uphold contracts and dangle possible continuation of employment as a carrot to get more underpaid to no-pay overtime from employees.
But what about that speech; you know the one.
Admittedly there were many problems at G4TV long before Froskurrin complained that gamers found her less bangable. It’s likely the venture was already doomed way before January 2022. But as I’ve reported previously, the rant put out any ignition sparks for the G4TV media brand to take off as that became the only thing the public associated with the new G4. However, contrary to the image of not being self-aware, Frosk admits it damaged the company.
In context, I believe Froskurrin is the wrong person to blame. As described above, she was constantly expected to churn out new content, never able to think long-term or know if what she was working on would be allowed to go on-air. The plan for that January afternoon was to do another throw-away droning segment, this time on “gaming grievances” -she originally was going to talk about Rock Star neglecting Red Dead Online – and have the talent give their soapbox speech to their 2,000-strong audience on Twitch, and then forever be forgotten.
It’s always seemed curious that when I talk with former G4 employees, I will get different, equally persuasive answers to whether Frosk had permission to give the speech. Adam Sessler says no; Frosk says yes. A likely reason for this discrepancy, as explained by Frosk, is that by design, the producers that day encouraged talent not to tell each other what they would be saying, with only two producers, a report to executive management, and possibly the teleprompter guy knowing about it. Plus there is the issue of post-production. Also, Frosk wasn’t the only one that planned to do an “attack gamers” type speech, as Jirard’s speech got canceled as the producers felt it was too similar to Froskurrins.
Frosk tells me about how her time at Riot Games inspired her Sexism in gaming rant🕹️— Peter Pischke-Friendly Neighborhood Journo (@HappyWarriorP) January 31, 2023
How Comcast Spectacor blew it up on social media without asking, & then once Frosk came under fire, decided to abandon her to the wolves🐺🦴@GenePark @TaylorLorenz @bendreyfuss @jasonschreier pic.twitter.com/nCJiWrin6X
What transformed the throw-away speech from just another Tuesday on January 11th, 2022, was that management and marketing came up with the bright idea of blowing up the speech to be as big as they possibly could make it on social media. As far as Frosk and others I’ve spoken to could tell, there was no plan past getting a clip of G4 to go viral, and especially no thought on how it might affect Frosk or start an avalanche of negativity against the G4 brand.
What is funny about former G4 fans attacking Frosk is that Frosk was against making the clip go viral. That while Frosk does believe in what she said, she only meant those remarks for the audience on Twitch she would engage with daily, and also was a reflection of her time working for Riot on League of Legends as a caster, which by the way after she left, Riot Games would lose a 100 million dollar lawsuit for gender discrimination.
At first, when the speech was made, Frosk was treated as a hero inside the company; but as soon as the interest in the topic from the mainstream and gaming press waned; the angry audience remained, and CS tried to hide her under the proverbial “blame her” rug. Many of you will remember announcements of Frosk possibly going on shows like the Quartering at this time, only to withdraw. As I can tell you, working in media, this is strange behavior, as it’s expected when you have a viral moment; you capitalize on it with as many appearances as possible.
Looks like the @Froskurinn interview is still on. Details early next week.— TheQuartering (@TheQuartering) January 28, 2022
Frosk was open to going on shows; she petitioned management to know what strategy she should take for her social media and appearances. The problem was that Comcast Spectacor operated G4TV through fear by two sets of rules; one on paper, another in practice. So, G4TV contractually had no control over her social media nor could do anything about it if she went on the interview circuit. But as she would be eventually told to shut up by then-CEO Russel Aron; the company could make her life very difficult if she did something they didn’t like; and the company didn’t like their employees to know what that was.
Frosk: “Comcast was like, kind of low key threatening, I got called into like, a meeting because again, like, on the surface of everything, everything that was like, put into writing, they were like, very positive about and then it like, very suddenly shifted, where I was suddenly having like a meeting with Russell Aaron (then CEO of Comcast Spectacor),
She took me for a walk. And she was like, you know, I was there at EA when that when the active shooter was there, and I realized how things can get out of hand, I just want to make sure that you’re safe. I’m like, why are you telling? Like, why are you freaking me out. What is happening. And then I got called into an office by I think she was head of programming. And she was just like, this is a safe space, I just want you to know, they want you to stop talking.”
And it’s not as if Frosk was trying to feed the flames; when contacted by Kotaku for an interview, Frosk politely declined, telling them: “a Kotaku article is the last thing I need right now.”
Simping for FroskBite?
On CultureScape:— Peter Pischke-Friendly Neighborhood Journo (@HappyWarriorP) January 31, 2023
Frosk apologizes for her "I Survive" tweet & explains how it was meant to mock haters & management,
which gutted her production team🙏https://t.co/QGAC2hpNPY #frosk #g4tv @ggreenwald @Sargon_of_Akkad @Timcast @libbyemmons @RekietaLaw @MrAndyNgo @andysignore pic.twitter.com/EbQUovvX72
Here is my mea culpa. As you can tell from just this summary of a short piece of the interview I’ve shared here, this discussion from Frosk was chock full of vulnerable information. It took courage on her part to share it, and I hope you will take the opportunity to watch or listen. Against perhaps her better judgment, she trusted me to tell her story, someone that’s been one of her fiercest critics.
Yes, she can be blunt and foul-mouthed, which she owns up to. But instead of what most assume about her being unapologetic, she is very sorry for how things turned out. She apologized to me profusely, with her wife sitting in the same room, several times for having hurt her coworker’s feelings for the “I survived” lizard tweet. She’s funny, sarcastic, and sometimes sardonic, but she is also sincere in a way that the media machine usually tears out from humans. While she claims not to have followed any of the YouTube trends about him, she told me she is happy when she hears that people like Jeremy Hambly are making money because of her.
Frosk: “Kotaku reached out to me like, immediately after it happened, and I literally responded, I was like, the last thing I want is a Kotaku article right now.“
That denial of an interview with Kotaku is not abnormal for her. Frosk may self-describe as a “500-foot lesbian” and a progressive. Yet, she told me she doesn’t want to be another member of the culture war, telling me she doesn’t want to be the problem.
She is more like her ardent critics and less like her friends in the gaming press than anyone is comfortable admitting; for instance, in her way believes in ethics in games journalism, refusing to review games on-air that she hasn’t played. When she does review a game, she demands that she play it at the default setting instead of the easy mode, like so many others.
On CultureScape:👾— Peter Pischke-Friendly Neighborhood Journo (@HappyWarriorP) January 31, 2023
Frosk reveals G4TVs deepest, darkest secret🦎
& shares some of the genius designs at the G4TV Studios🤦@THEREALRTU @RLewisReports @Thorin@MonteCristo @DrDisrespect @LastFreeNation@Completionist @GoldenboyFTW @TheBlackHokage @xpatriciah @xoxogossipgita pic.twitter.com/GvxLPsH0P7
Having got to spend time with Frosk, I genuinely like her, and it bothers me how wrong I might have gotten her story before now. We come from very different cultural and political backgrounds. However, I’ve never had a guest treat me with more respect or be more open. She gains no advantage for taking this interview, not for money, politics, or attention. She could come under massive consequences for rocking the boat, yet here she is.
Writing this, I know I will be called a simp. I’ve always believed that as a journalist, I must tell the truth and live by the spirit of it especially when it is unpopular. By examining the facts as we have them, hearing the case of those involved, and using context, try to get as close to the truth as possible. Considering how dishonest media companies like those in the gaming press or working at Comcast sometimes are, nerds should be familiar with the idea that the image being sold to us on our phone screens does not reflect the reality of the people involved.
Frosk told me she prides herself on believing that if she met any of her critics in person, she could hang out with them and get along just fine. I, for one, believe her. Those who strive for a better, more truthful culture should hear her out and consider doing the same.
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