The sacking of one of the hosts of the ABC’s video game review show, Good Game, has been discussed in gaming and tech circles over the past couple of days. Today the SMH published an article which revealed that the sacking of Good Game founding presenter Jeremy “Junglist” Ray has turned into an online stoush between Ray and the remaining Good Game team. But this “PR disaster” could turn into a good thing for the show, if the ABC is willing to listen to its viewers.
As the SMH reported, the ABC had announced Junglist’s departure via a press release. However, there was a backlash by viewers who were upset at the news that Ray had been sacked. (Hint: tell your loyal viewers first, and honestly, via the forums before going the generic press release route). Good Game responded by posting on the show’s message board, saying “The decision to take Junglist off air was not forced upon us by ABC Management and it’s one that is fully supported by all the GG team. We are gutted that it has come to this but in our opinion it absolutely had to happen.”
And then, the online bunfight was on. Clearly smarting from his sacking, Ray is now claiming he was sacked so the show could broaden its appeal by bringing a female presenter on board (he was replaced by Stephanie Bendixsen). Leaving aside the fact that it’s pretty insulting to insinuate that bringing a female presenter onboard is “dumbing down” the show… it was poor of the ABC to set up their new presenter to cop all the flack as Ray’s replacement.
The ABC is now in the unenviable position of having to defend not only the sacking of Junglist, but also their decision to appoint a female presenter in his place. Hopefully they’ll resist the temptation to shut down the discussion on their forum, or delete Junglists’ posts – two things which would be guaranteed to fan the flames of its already disgruntled fanbase.
If GG really had no female presenters to call on (not even guests or occasional segment hosts?), they could have made the transition a lot easier if they’d introduced Bendixsen via a few guest appearances or segments before bringing her on as a permanent presenter (let along the replacement of one of the co-founders of the show). Apparently the show’s followers are angry they weren’t consulted. Why weren’t they? Good Game has an active forum, why wasn’t there a poll asking people what was important to them in the choice of the next presenter? Then, if the ABC was concerned about hiring a female presenter, they could have looked for one who fit those criteria. Or they could have help a competition to find the next GG presenter. That would have been a great TV/online crossover – hell, why not set up an SMS competition to vote for the winner and make some dough while you’re at it? If the ABC Charter allows you to, of course. Tech savvy audiences really, really like to be involved. Being excluded from decision to bring on a new presenter, and learning about Junglists’ departure via a vague press release just isn’t going to go down well.
One interesting fact which the SMH article brought up which is really worth noticing for those who care about games journalism, is that both Junglist and the show’s producer confirmed that one source of tension leading up to his sacking was “time management” – or in his words, the amount of time the show was giving reviewers to spend with each game. GG viewers will probably have strong views on this – if a reviewer only gets an hour or two to play a game, do you really want to rely on that review and drop a hundred bucks on the game? I hope that some of the GG readers pick up on this and ask the show to disclose how much time reviewers get to evaluate games.
Disclaimer: I don’t watch Good Game, and I don’t know the journos involved. But I have done games writing in the past, and have been known to get grumpy about games journalism and the tricky issue of how long reviewers should play a game before passing judgement on it.