TV that works for both sides of this divide is a very recent idea, one that is particularly bubbling to the surface of late night TV. For those who don’t care to weed through websites to find the gaming news and culture you seek, some familiar faces are coming to your aid. Don’t touch that dial — the best way to keep up on your favorite games may just be to stay up a little later a night.
“Conan: The Clueless Gamer”
From the very first moment, Conan O’Brien states that he’s neither a gamer nor does he even like games very much — there’s then another thirty seconds of introducing the game before he brings Aaron Bleyaert, the gaming expert on staff. A joke or two get tossed his way before Bleyaert starts talking about being a nerd or playing a lot of video games, but what’s happens in such a short period is rather brilliant. Everything you need to know about their relationship comes out in a matter of seconds.
While O’Brien is playing a bit of a character at the beginning of the segment, Bleyaert comes off as genuine. He’s awkward and a little bit camera-shy, which is in complete contrast to Conan’s witty and over-the-top demeanor. Soft-spoken and unassuming, he plays the every-nerd against Conan’s “cool kid” persona, which works because of the way Aaron’s love of the games comes out in each segment. He knows each of the characters and talks about them with such passion that you ache inside as Conan fumbles through the game or makes fun of cut scenes. It captures the exquisite pain of trying to show a friend your favorite scene in a movie, only to look over to see them texting on their phone.
The segment takes the same course nearly every time: Bleyaert pushes O’Brien through the game until they hit a spot into which the famous redheaded host can really sink his teeth. The jokes start off focused at the game, then fall to the wayside with each new goal or objective to conquer. The comedy shifts gears as our intrepid nerd helps O’Brien succeed, and the two men who only moments ago couldn’t have been further apart ideologically are now screaming, cheering and laughing at the game together. The skeptic becomes a believer; the nerd becomes a hero.
And it works every single time, whether you are a gamer or clueless, because it reflects our own struggle with technology so well. If you are in the clueless camp, then you cannot help but laugh at the idea of some of these games: cats in armor, pink things fighting Mario, driving through virtual LA traffic. O’Brien acts as both the humor and the guide as he searches for that one spot to grab on to, that one thing that can keep you feeling cool even as you enjoy the game.
And for Bleyaert, you know the struggle is real as he tries so desperately to share what he loves with others. Coolness, be damned! This is the fight for acceptance, to be able to share an amazing experience with a friend. And when O’Brien is cheering, you can see Bleyaert cheering along with him as they play a game. In ten minutes or so, “Clueless Gamer” manages to connect gamers and non-gamers alike through laughter and the love of a good game.
“The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”
Not too long ago, you could readily find the latest video game news on TV. News, previews, interviews, and even reviews filled up 22 minutes of programming a week, thanks to shows focused on a very small audience of enthusiasts. But once that group turned to the 24-hour world of the internet, it was hard to pull them back or reach out to a broader audience with the same format. And though you can still find some great gaming TV shows, the golden age of gaming TV died off with travel agents and Borders Books.
Well, not quite.
Life is not lived at the extremes: Most people rest somewhere in the middle of ignorance and nostalgia. You know of games and may even play one now and again — you’ve begged for an extra turn on “Candy Crush,” thrown a couple of quarters at the local arcade and know about those irate birds. For you, staying on top of the gaming world only works if you have the time. You don’t have money for every console known to man, but maybe you’re thinking about bringing a new addition into the house. You are Jimmy Fallon, the everyman of the gaming world. Lucky for you, he has a TV show.
First with “The Late Show” and then with the “Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon and his staff figured out a secret that few network execs seem to comprehend — everyone games. The new host of “The Tonight Show” doesn’t come across as your average gamer, but it’s not beyond him to throw in a Nintendo or “GTA IV” joke when it’s available. And when given a chance, he’ll talk about the games he used to play as a kid — Pierce Brosnan learned that recently when Jimmy challenged the man who was once Bond to a game of “GoldenEye” for the N64.
During Fallon’s run on “The Late Show,” they managed to put together a week of games, looking at everything from the Wii U to the newest “Halo” title. He might not know every detail of every game that crosses his stage, but Fallon will gush over the crew from Naughty Dog about how their landmark series “Uncharted” is one of his favorite games of all time.
And to bring something that used to be niche to the NBC flagship says a lot how far games have moved. The median age for a gamer is now in the mid-30s and there’s a large demographic of women and new players getting on board. The late night shows may not be willing to fully embrace the virtual world, but they know that it’s not wise for them to completely ignore it either. Like a big movie premiere or album that just dropped, hopefully we’ll see the same sort of attention applied to games in the future, one where developers can share in the limelight that other artists in other industries enjoy.