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X-Play is what happens when a Sketch Comedy meets a video game review program. It's the only show to survive the TechTV/G4 merger, one of the last two original shows the network now has (alongside Attack of the Show), and one of the highest-rated programs on G4.
The show started in 1998 (on what was then called ZDTV) as GameSpot TV; it was hosted by Adam Sessler and Lauren Fielder, the latter of which left in 1999 and was replaced by Kate Botello. In 2001, the show was renamed Extended Play (at around the same time ZDTV was renamed TechTV). Shortly after Botello left the show, it was hosted by Sessler alone, and it was filmed San Francisco's Metreon arcade until 2003 — when the show was renamed X-Play and Morgan Webb came aboard. Along with Webb came a brand new studio and the beginning of the show's focus on game-related sketch comedy alongside its reviews. The show was retained by G4 after that network purchased TechTV in 2004, and even though it was basically left intact (a fate far better than other TechTV shows (and even most G4 shows) received), its focuses swung frequently for the next few years as G4 went through its frightening Network Decay. The show is now essentially a half-hour version of what G4 was before the merger. It is now comprised of news, previews, reviews, interviews, and even a hints segment called "Cheat!" (which itself was a half-hour show on G4 years ago). The sketch comedy has also been done away with, for the most part; this might have something to do with the fact that the show's former head comedy writer, comedienne/comic nerd Blair Butler, became a G4 on-air personality.
On April 26, 2012, Sessler abruptly left G4 over what's believed to be a contract dispute, putting the future of X-Play in question. Sessler's last episode aired later that day, after the news broke, and there's Wild Mass Guessing as to where he'll end up next.
Tropes used by this series:
- Badass Long Hair: The Golden Mullet Awards that they've been doing since 2004 to honor the worst games of the year. It was named in honor of Aquaman the standard in which all bad games were based on.
- Bias Steamroller: Against RPGs, mostly JRPGs, along with Anime, World War II games, licensed games, escort missions, minigames....
- Broke the Rating Scale: They refused to rate Big Rigs Over the Road Racing (because their rating scale didn't feature a 0), then gave the ET game a ceremonial zero.
- Butt Monkey: Blair Herter, the very self-aware third wheel.
- Sessler (before the 2008 retool) was this since the show's inception. And so are the interns.
- And "Roger: the Stan Lee Experience" uses Bob Kane as one.
- Catch Phrase: "Brutally honest review." They use it almost once an episode sometimes. Usually (but not always) a heads-up that whatever game they're going to review is going to be panned.
- "We hate escort missions!"
- Cloudcuckoolander: Crazy Adam, owner of the used games emporium. Crazy crazy crazy crazy CRAAAA-ZY ADAM!!!
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Sessler and Webb act in this manner, but tend to switch between it and sheer abstract goofball at times.
- Did Not Do the Research: On the episode where they reviewed the North American version of beatmania, Webb claims that it is a ripoff of Guitar Hero. Bemani fans did not take it well, since beatmania dates back to 1997, while Guitar Hero started in 2005.
Thought to be phenomenal (at least in the FMVs) for their time.
- More recently, their review of Resonance of Fate very conspicuously only shows footage from the first hour or two of gameplay. Also, they dismiss the characters as "whiny" when the game is filled with wisecracks and sex puns from practically all main characters, even in the first few hours of play.
- At E3 2011, Sessler said that Heroes on the Move was not yet released, even though the game was renamed Playstation Move Heroes and was already released in March of that year.
- The Eighties: Parodied in an episode reviewing compilations of Older Than the NES games.
- Also used as a form of Stylistic Suck for the intern training video which has clearly not been updated since "Like a Virgin" was a number one hit.
- Enforced Plug: Once an Episode, after reviewing a 3-star game, Sessler and/or Webb would try to segue into a plug for GameFly.com's game rental service. Some of them were funny, but not all of them worked. Now they plug whatever the new show is on G4TV.
- Near the end of the Tech TV era, they were forced to plug G4's award show, G-Phoria on occasion, and mention that it's brought to you by EB Games and Jeep, even though they hadn't moved to Los Angeles to be with them yet. In addition, Sessler and Webb's appearance at G-Phoria on July 31, 2004, was their first time as G4 employees, just two weeks after the final San Francisco episode was filmed. Their first appearance, ever on G4, was two months ago, on May 12, 2004, during that channel's E3 coverage.
- Every Episode Ending:
- 1998-2001: "Until next time, bye-bye."
- 2001-2003: "Until next time, game... over."
- Fan Disservice: Parodied in the "Naked Raiden" sketch...much to Sessler's dismay. "This is so uncomfortable.."
- Fanon Discontinuity: Referenced in the opening of one episode, where Webb says "We like to pretend Perfect Dark Zero doesn't exist."
- Fan Service: They frequently point out these instances during reviews to make a joke about them. They also occasionally do skits focused on it, such as one about the history of breast physics in video games.
- Flanderization: Sessler on Extended Play was a perfectly reasonable man. When X-Play started up, he turned into a complete buffoon with a near psychotic hatred of anything anime related. He has shifted right back in the 2008 retool.
- Four Point Scale: Averted — Their review system is deliberately balanced to include all spectrum of games and to be as helpful as possible. They have condemned the use of most other scales because of the tendency for most games to fall into the same ranking.
- Near the end of Sessler's tenure on the show, they introduced half-star ratings because they felt they were giving too many perfect scores.
- Gamer Chick: Morgan Webb; since the show's beginning she's been accused of being chosen just to be eye candy and not really a gaming fan, despite her never ending insistence to the contrary.
- A God Am I: Who is this "Bob" of which you speak. I am Thor-Axe the Impaler.
- The Great Video Game Crash of 1983: The topic of one episode, with Sessler and Webb going on a road trip to find the supposed burial site of the excess E.T. cartridges.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: The announcer, who has been all but eliminated in recent episodes.
- Hilarity Ensues: For some reason, one of the swag items advertisting Crysis 2 to the media was the infamous Shake Weight with the game's logo screened onto the handle. The hosts decided to use it on one episode for any prompter read they did and Blair really seemed to love it...
- Homemade Sweater From Hell: Gives the quote at the top of the trope's page.
- Hypocritical Humor: When talking about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance in his Best And Worst Comic Book Videogames segment from 2007, Roger the Stan Lee Experience said, "Look at all my little creations running around learning to work as a team. It's just like Jack Kirby and I envisioned all those years ago. And when I say Jack and I envisioned, I mean I envisioned."
- If I Had a Nickel: "But first, we start with World War II; oh, if I had a nickel for every time I said that, I could finally afford to buy myself a pony."
- Ms. Fanservice: Webb, and she's been accused of being solely this, and not really a gamer, since the show's inception. Parodied in one episode where Sessler wore the outfit she wore in her Maxim shoot.
- Murder Simulators: Addressed from time to time, usually when a controversial game is released that that Moral Guardians are claiming is one. The show's position, of course, is to either parody of deconstruct these claims.
- The Musical: Two actually. The first is a tribute to the viewers of the show called On the X-Play Board... which makes fun of viewer reaction to the scores certain games receive and their responses on the G4 message boards. The second was a full episode musical about Sessler and Webb getting an offer to make their own video game which of course turns out to be a disaster. It's actually pretty funny.
- The irony is that they ALREADY had their own video game on the X-Play page. It was a side scrolling beat-em up where Webb uses her fists as a weapon, Sessler uses Slippy the Fish as his weapon.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: X-Play wishes all of its viewers a "Happy Non-Denominational Winter Season".
- Put on a Bus: Many of the recurring sketch characters, most notably Ratty and Roger the Stan Lee Experience.
- Lampshaded when Sessler was forced to get some of the characters to help co-host an episode when Blair and Morgan were unavailable. Guess what happens when the characters help out during the episode.
- Reckless Gun Usage: Sessler went to a SWAT training session, and got chewed out for having his finger on the trigger.
- Running Gag: Plenty, but one of the earliest ones from a particularly bad snowboarding game: "What if it snowed in San Fransisco?"
- Early episodes of X-Play had jokes based on Sessler's obsession with fudge.
- TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES! TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES! TWO MEN ENTER! ONE MAN LEAVES!
- Self-Deprecation: Overused is putting it lightly. Sessler being shown as the butt of the joke used to be extremely frequent in the early years.
- Shout-Out: Numerous.
- Show Within a Show: "When America needs a hero...when freedom stands alone...when justice needs to be upheld, there's only one place to turn. Through the cover of night, America's top agents will defend our liberty from those who wish us harm. Let us join Special Agent Bob and Secret Agent Steve: two of the finest official unofficial Splinter Cells."
- And within Splinter Cell: Co-op Theater is it's own show within a show (within a show), Grabnar The Wanderer.
- The Scrappy: There's an in-universe example in their review of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: they said the game was like "Scrappy-Doo getting his own TV Show."
- Small Name, Big Ego: Parodied in universe. A skit had Sessler tackling problems in the form of an RPG random encounter, in one of which the enemy was a bouncer at a club, and Adam's attack was to say, "Behold my celebrity," (which fails).
- Story Arc: There was at least one running thread across a few episodes of Johnny Xtreme seeing to the production of his ill-defined game. At the end, Morgan gives a straight-faced review of the (fictional) product, where he is disappointed to see it given a three out of five, and Johnny is more upset about it being taken in the spirit of So Okay It's Average than if they'd called it "extremely bad".
- Take That, Audience!: The show's received a lot of flak for blatant unprofessionalism with their reveal of the Viewer's Choice for 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, implying they think it won due to the fanbase's anger at them not nominating Skyward Sword for Game of the Year. See the offender in all of its glory here.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis! - Several examples, though far less hammy than the actual quote itself from 300:
- Webb: (about 50 Cent Bulletproof) So why was this game even made? Cash, my friends. Cold. Hard. Cash.
- In the review for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, "In what should be the most badass moment of the entire game, you're reduced to slowly rotating a faraway ship into some arbitrary position so you could slowly pull it a couple of feet down before fending off a wave of TIE Fighters. Then you do it all. Over. Again. This isn't even interesting, let alone awesome.
- Averted, however, while reviewing the PSP game that is based on 300.
- Too Soon: Parodied. Sessler makes a jab at a GTA knock-off's controls stinking worse than archduke Franz Ferdinand's rotting corpse...to which he pauses before adding a "Too soon?"
- Troll/FlameBait - Certainly, they do seem to get caught up in the flame wars they so heartily make fun of sometimes--see the aforementioned "Your Childhood Sucks" segment, for instance. At some points it seems they forget that they are at least ideally supposed to avoid bias in their reviews, which tends to fuel the problems with the Unpleasable Fanbase even more. Yes, a lot of fans are unreasonable, but it doesn't help when you give them an excuse.
- Valley Girl: Webb in the eighties flashback episode.
- Video Game Movies Suck: Addressed in-universe. They've talked about this topic several times. They once had a segment called "I Have a Dreamcast" in which they describe how they would ideally like films based on games to be but then describe the ways the ways they will inevitably end up sucking.
We give this TV Tropes page two presses of the "random" button...out of five.