Gaming “still a man’s world”
"When Hex came on board there was heaps of misogyny," says Bajo. In Good Game's 10th anniversary the show is achieving change.
Diversity may be the word of the moment in Television, but it’s also a hot topic in Gaming, according to Good Game‘s Steven “Bajo” O’Donnell.
“When Hex came on board there was heaps of misogyny, and that’s what got me really angry,” he recalls.
Referring to Hex (Stephanie Bendixsen) joining the ABC2 show in 2009, O’Donnell remembers a fan backlash over the exit of original host Jeremy “Junglist” Ray.
“People were saying we got rid of him to put in a girl, which was really frustrating. We just wanted to make the best show possible,” he continues.
“It was such a rough thing for her to come into all of that mess, but she did amazing things to overcome it, personally.
“When Jung left the show it was very sudden for the audience, although it wasn’t so sudden for us, especially because it wasn’t very amicable.
“Jeremy was upset naturally because he’d been there since the start. Everyone on the team was upset because we just wanted to make a great show. Our fanbase was upset.”
Indeed it was a baptism of fire for Bendixsen, joining a show under a volatile situation and entering the fray of a male-dominated arena.
“Looking back there were a million better things we could have tried to do but everyone was in so much pain,” O’Donnell recalls.
“It’s still such a male-dominated industry.”
Seven years on, the show has survived the furore so well that the controversy is acknowledged in Good Game‘s 10th Anniversary special.
“It’s a big part of something that happened. I still get people asking me today ‘what happened?’” he admits.
“But I hope we’ve proven to our audience we’re just trying to make a good show.”
O’Donnell believes gender issues still linger amongst the wider gaming industry.
“It’s still such a male-dominated industry. We went to E3 in Los Angeles and we managed to find 1 or 2 female developers out of 40 or 50 developers. And we had to fight to talk to them,” he insists.
“There was only 1 game we hadn’t heard of that had a female protagonist. So it’s still a man’s world in video gaming. It is changing slowly but we try to address it wherever we can.
“With the reboot of Tomb Raider they moved away from the sexualisation of Lara Croft to just a normal person who goes through some tough things.
“But I hear marketing people say ‘You need to market this to guys or you will not be able to sell enough to make your next game and survive as a studio.’”
“It took a long time to get a steady job in TV.”
O’Donnell joined the show in 2007, after spying an ad for a reviewer to join the show.
“About 30 of my friends and family emailed me at once to say ‘You’ve got to go for this!’ And I said ‘Of course! I’m doing it already!’” he laughs.
“So it was a dream come true. I’d done a little bit of TV presenting, a lot of independent stuff over the years on short films.
“But I’d had a love of video games and computers so it all came to a point. It took a long time to get a steady job in TV and it’s so great to have a job that has lasted!”
Good Game, which has led to kid-friendly Good Game: Spawn Point and online edition Good Game Pocket, has survived where rival shows attempted by commercial networks have ended.
“They seem to only survive by adding in lots of advertorial stuff and some often talk about things in a very broad way, which they need to do to get the biggest audience. At the ABC we’re so lucky you can make shows that you can’t make anywhere else,” O’Donnell remarks.
“They may not be the biggest audience but they are very passionate show.
“We’re creating a highly-produced, detailed review and culture show about games.
“So our strength is the detail and it’s why some stories take a couple of weeks. Sometimes our reviews will be two weeks late purely because it takes time to play the games and we can’t get them up ‘on the day.’
“But we hope people watch us for the personalities and the stories we produce.”
“I will take gaming over going to the pub or some sporting event that I don’t understand.”
Reviewing games may take anywhere from 4 – 40 hours of play he says, depending on the complexity of the game.
“Gaming can be a really solitary experience with an amazing journey or a wonderful social experience that brings people together.
“I will take gaming over going to the pub or some sporting event that I don’t understand.
“With my best friend in Sydney …we have spent 80% of our time together online as opposed to in person.”
Whilst publishers and developers send new releases to Good Game for reviewing, they can be assured of a comprehensive analysis from the hosts. Viewers are a critical bunch and have come to expect detailed reviews.
“It’s wonderful when you get put on the box with a quote. But what I really love is when the developers email the office or reach out on Twitter to say that they really liked what we said about their game.
“We always try to respect even the bad games, because nobody sets out to make a bad game.”
For their 10th Anniversary special, Bajo, Hex and Nichboy present a one hour special in front of a studio audience -their first in 10 years- joined by Andrew Hansen, Jordan Raskopoulos, Dave Callan and musical troupe, Tripod.
Whether as a group or solo experience, gaming is a passion for both ‘fanboys’ and ‘fangirls’ in all their diversity.
“When gaming connects with character it’s such a wonderful thing. Those games will live forever.”
Good Game 10th Anniversary Special 7.30pm tonight on ABC2.