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Current X-Play logo
|Directed by||Alan Wu|
|Starring||Morgan Webb (2003- )
Blair Herter (2008–)
Jessica Chobot (2011-)
Kristin Adams (2008–)
Adam Sessler (1998–2012)
Kate Botello (1999-2002)
Lauren Fielder (1998–1999)
Joel Gourdin (2007)
Alex Sim-Wise (2011)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||1,000+
(as of February 1, 2010) 
|Executive producer(s)||Wade Beckett|
|Editor(s)||Justin Dornbush (lead)
Brian C. Sullivan
|Camera setup||multiple-camera setup|
|Running time||approximately 22 minutes (without commercials)|
|Production company(s)||G4 Media, LLC|
|Original channel||ZDTV (1998-2001)
|Original run||July 4, 1998 – present|
X-Play (previously GameSpot TV and Extended Play) is a TV program about video games, known for its reviews and comedy skits. The program airs on G4 in the United States, G4 Canada in Canada, FUEL TV in Australia, Ego in Israel, GXT in Italy, MTV Россия in Russia and Solar Sports in the Philippines.
The show is currently hosted by Morgan Webb and Blair Herter, with Kristin Adams (nee Holt) and Jessica Chobot serving as special correspondents/co-hosts (Alex Sim-Wise and Joel Gourdin have also served as correspondents in the past). Adam Sessler was the original host of the program; he previously co-hosted with Lauren Fielder and Kate Botello.
X-Play began on the ZDTV network in 1998 as GameSpot TV, where Sessler co-hosted with Fielder for the show's first year, then co-hosted with Botello up through 2002 (the producers of ZDTV originally had plans to air a video-game program when the channel launched called Extended Play that would be hosted by Simon Rex; however, when an agreement was reached with the makers of the newly-created GameSpot website, plans for the original show's format were scrapped in favor of a GameSpot-branded program, and Rex was dropped as host).
The show assumed the previously rejected Extended Play moniker in 2001 after ZDTV changed to TechTV and the partnership with Ziff Davis' GameSpot ended. Botello left in early 2002, and Sessler hosted the show by himself up until April 2003, when Webb joined the cast and the show was renamed X-Play.
After the merger of TechTV and G4 in May 2004, X-Play became the only original program from either network to survive intact.
In the days of GameSpot TV, the show was filmed on a simple ZDTV studio set consisting of faux-brick walls, randomly positioned TV monitors, and functioning Gauntlet Legends and Rival Schools arcade game cabinets. For the occasional special episode, filming would move off-site to another location, such as the Sony Metreon arcade, and numerous game conventions such as the Classic Gaming Expo and E3. Each episode would start off with Game News, where Sessler or Fielder would give a brief overview of top news stories featured on the GameSpot website. Game reviews were run in a segment known as The Grill (games were graded on GameSpot's official 0.1-10.0 system), Spotlight showcased special content such as interviews with industry leaders, and Game Breakers featured strategy guides and hints for recently released games. New episodes would debut on weekend mornings at 10:00 a.m. EST.
When GameSpot TV converted to Extended Play in February 2001, the show moved entirely to the Metreon, and took on a very simple style and format. Filming consisted of co-hosts Sessler and Botello and a small single camera crew; the show featured strictly game reviews and game hints, and the 10-point grading system changed to a 5-point system. New episodes debuted once a week at 9:00 p.m. EST. Like GameSpot TV, certain special episodes would be filmed elsewhere. In August 2002, the series became a daily program with a mix of repeats and first-run episodes airing Monday-Friday at 4:00 p.m. EST, with Friday episodes remaining in the 9:00 p.m. timeslot. After the departure of Botello, Sessler continued to host at the Metreon by himself, until the change to X-Play in April 2003.
When X-Play debuted on April 28, 2003  the show moved back to the TechTV studios from the Metreon, and Morgan Webb came onboard as co-host, leaving her previous hosting duties on TechTV's The Screen Savers and Call for Help. X-Play had a larger scale than that of Extended Play, but it still maintained an extremely simple and spartan style. Filming was done in TechTV's Studio A, home to the sets of Call For Help, Fresh Gear, and TechLive. The filming setup was increased to three cameras; a main floor camera, a Jibcam for high angle shots, and a black-and-white handheld DV camera, which would be cut to suddenly and intermittently throughout episodes.
X-Play's primary set consisted of a single couch, coffee table and television (with working game consoles) positioned in the middle of the large studio floor, but hosts Sessler and Webb would migrate around various areas of the studio, normally not even going to their actual set until the end of the program. Each episode would typically conclude with Sessler and Webb playing one of the consoles on the TV. The show's format consisted primarily of game reviews and previews (with some previews being conducted as live in-studio demos by Morgan and Adam), with an occasional game-related sketch thrown in for comedic value.
The Disembodied Voice was also introduced to the show at this phase in its history. This unseen announcer would begin each episode with an often over-the-top introduction to which the hosts usually responded or commented (these comments varied widely, ranging from total non-sequiturs to Gilbert and Sullivan references to current events, along with viewer-submitted intros taken from the show's web forums).
Unlike its predecessors, X-Play had more of an edge, containing some adult language and more mature (sometimes controversial) subject matter. As a result, it was paired in a programming block with the network's other new show, Unscrewed with Martin Sargent. X-Play originally ran five nights a week at 11:30 p.m. EST, but it was moved up to 11:00 EST soon after. X-Play aired four brand new episodes for their first two weeks, but would ultimately air three new episodes a week for the majority of the show's remainder on TechTV.
Many of the episodes created during this time period aired on the G4 Rewind block of retro programming in 2008.
The new set designed for the show resembled a lounge - or rumpus room - where the hosts could sit around while discussing their latest reviews (during the 400th episode, which originally aired on May 8, 2006, all chairs were removed from the set so that Adam and Morgan had to stand throughout the duration of each episode).
While originally maintaining its late-night time slot, new episodes were eventually moved to 4:00 p.m. EST in the afternoons (usually airing on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays) starting on April 10, 2006. This changed to 3:00 p.m. EST on September 5, 2006, before X-Play returned to prime-time on November 6 of the same year, to their current 8:00 p.m. EST timeslot.
On March 4, 2007, it was announced that the G4 Studios in Santa Monica would close on April 15. Production of G4 programs was relocated to the Studios of the E! Television Network situated elsewhere in the Los Angeles area. As a consequence, there were new sets designed for X-Play, and many G4 employees involved in production were laid off.
The E! Building's set was smaller than the Santa Monica studio, thus some aspects of the studio had to be shrunk down. The X-Play logo was retro-fitted to sit above the stage on the right-hand side of the set, with curtains surrounding the entirety of the space to create a sense of intimacy; a large flat-screen monitor was also placed in the background, and several small decorative glass balls were strategically placed around various spots on the floor (Adam and Morgan would often joke of their fear that they would trip over one of these balls and hurt themselves). During video-game analysis and viewer mail segments, Sessler and Webb would sit in orange recliner chairs as they debated over the issue at hand.
On January 14, 2008, the G4 network commenced with a complete overhaul to the show's entire format, branding the move as X-Play "jumping to the next level".
Both Adam and Morgan have stated that this new format represents "the type of show that they've always wanted X-Play to be", whereby a strict focus on game reviews was replaced with a broader range of topics relating to the video-game field (including more in-depth gaming news, first looks at game demos, and game cheat-codes/strategies with Kristin Adams twice a week).
The set was once again refurbished to coincide with the change, as the studio now has blue-tinged walls covered with several flat-screen monitors, and a giant orange X-Play logo (also newly redesigned for the relaunch) covering the floor. In addition, G4 took advantage of the new set and show format by expanding X-Play's schedule in order to air new episodes five days a week.
However, economic factors forced G4 to contract X-Play's schedule back down to only three original episodes per week, starting on March 2, 2009; in addition, the show's timeslot was moved out of prime-time to 6:30 p.m. EST (although reruns still air at 8 o'clock) and a number of X-Play staff members were laid off.
In December 2008, the show aired X-Large one-hour episodes every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. According to G4 television president Neil Tiles, this was an experimental change with the possibility of having all episodes run 60 minutes long sometime in the future where new segments were incorporated to see if X-Play could "go deeper than the current half hour show allows." Tiles also stated that the writers will be looking to add "more comedy" back into the program "as requested."
On February 1, 2010 X-Play aired its 1,000th episode; to commemorate this television milestone, G4TV featured a 6-hour marathon containing favorite episodes of the series, leading up to the premiere of the actual new episode.
In April 2012, it was announced that Sessler would no longer be part of the G4TV network . This happened to coincide with the latest re-design of the X-Play set, which made its debut on the June 18th (2012) episode and features giant white-tinged flatscreen monitors (displaying two large orange-and-black "X" logos) positioned behind the hosts, as well as the addition of a studio audience (making the presentation of the program similar to that of Attack of the Show!). Also, there is an area of the studio with two large reclining chairs and a glass table, used as a place to interview featured guests (such as Mark Lamia from Treyarch and Ted Price from Insomniac Games).
The video game reviews on X-Play use a five-point rating scale, based on such factors as graphics, sound, gameplay, and playability (i.e. replay value).
On X-Play's original TechTV homepage, the ratings system was broken down in the following way:
In a 2007 episode billed as a "primer on our scoring system", Adam and Morgan further elaborated on their ratings scale:
During this episode, the hosts also explained why they use a 5-point ratings system, rather than a 10- or even 100-point scale:
Morgan: Our system is better because it recognizes that scores are broad generalizations.
Morgan: Both games suck, all the score is gonna be able to communicate to you is that the game is bad. If you want more nuance on the suckage, you have to actually go and read the review. See, in a 10-point scale, everything under 5 just means 'this game ain't worth buying', so there's no real difference.
Adam: And there's no real nuance to a score difference of two- or three-tenths of a point. Our scores at least give sweeping generalizations for you to use as a guide.
On the January 24th (2011) episode, Adam and Morgan gave an updated ratings primer in response to confusion spawned by aggregator review sites like Metacritic. To that end, the X-Play review scale was broken down in the following manner:
1 out of 5
2 out of 5
3 out of 5
4 out of 5
5 out of 5
During the 2012 season premiere (January 17th), the "half star" was introduced to the X-Play ratings system, with the hosts explaining that they felt a change towards a "more granular ratings scale will help distinguish the great games from the really great games from the really really great games." They also believed that over the years it had gotten "a little too easy to score the coveted 5 out of 5," and that the change will make such an accomplishment "more of a rarity"; it also means that the lowest score a game can achieve is now a "point-5 out of 5."
In addition, the review scale was again broken down to make the show's criteria clear to the viewing audience:
The hosts concluded this explanation with the following caveat:
Adam: I do wanna emphasize that while numerical scores are a convenient synopsis of the reviewer's opinion, they are incapable of encapsulating the nuances of the English language.
Morgan: That means read the text before you scream at us! We prefer informed screaming, or if you can't read, you can watch the video review ...
Various recurring segments and comedy skits have been used throughout the show's history by the X-Play writers.
X-Play has amassed a large group of fictional characters that will appear from time to time, often to bring some humor during game reviews.
X-Play has its own cast of interns (students from local universities who have signed up with G4 to gain valuable work experience in the television production field), who will sometimes appear as characters on the show. When appearing on camera, they are commonly outfitted in a white undershirt with the word INTERN scrawled across the chest in black Sharpie.
Their roles are not relegated to simply being on-screen comic relief, as the interns are accountable for much of the game footage used during reviews/previews. X-Play interns also play a role in other behind-the-scenes work on the show's set; some of the former interns have eventually been hired full-time within the G4 company itself. Examples include Leticia Caparaz (the first intern to be offered a full-time position in 1999 as a Production Assistant and later the program's Web Producer, before leaving the company in June 2004 as a result of the G4/TechTV merger), Jason Frankovitz (he would leave the show in early 2005), Albert Iskander (who has worked as a Production Assistant for G4's Video Game Vixens and G4tv.com), Gene Yraola (now a part of G4's Games Editorial Department, the liaison between the shows and the actual software/hardware companies), Eric Acasio (a production assistant for X-Play) and Emily Mollenkopf (hired as a production assistant on Attack of the Show in 2006).
A near-complete list of interns who have worked on the show follows:
The Screaming Intern (played by Robert Manuel) was actually not a true intern, but instead was an editorial coordinator for the show.
When X-Play was still a part of TechTV, personalities from other shows on the network would often make guest appearances (including Leo Laporte, Yoshi DeHerrera, and Unscrewed's Martin Sargent and Laura Swisher). This continued after the merger with G4, with names like Kevin Pereira, Tina Wood, and Julie Stoffer.
There have been several gaming titles/genres/trends over the years which the hosts have displayed an exaggerated sense of "hatred" towards (often playing up their dislike for the cameras in order to make for humorous television). These include:
For comedic purposes, the X-Play writers have portrayed the show as an exceedingly violent working environment; interns are often depicted as suffering from sexual harassment and physical abuse at the hands of the hosts (such as being forced to use a bucket to relieve themselves - instead of the bathroom - or retrieving items suspended over the "X-Play snake pit").
This violent dynamic has also manifested itself within the interactions between the hosts themselves (like when Morgan Webb continuously struck Adam Sessler with a baseball bat during X-Play's mockumentary on the history of violence in video games).
The producers of X-Play have used a number of internet-driven initiatives to engage the show's technologically-savvy audience.
The show's hosts have often been the subject of numerous negative comments (including "Morgan's not really a gamer!" and "Sessler doesn't know gaming because he hates Final Fantasy!") through the show's official message board. The vitriol spewed forth on the forums has become so well-documented that the X-Play staff even produced a music video dedicated to the message board's denizens entitled On the X-Play Boards (MP3 format).
The song was written and performed by Marque Phahee and the Bling Dongs (in reality X-Play segment producer Mark Fahey playing an acoustic guitar), featuring the X-Play After School Choir (composed of Morgan, Adam and various recurring X-Play characters). It is also supposed to be the lead track from the X-Play: The Musical motion picture soundtrack (even though X-Play eventually created an actual all-musical episode which made no mention of On the X-Play Boards).
When X-Play was still a part of TechTV, the show would host an online chat every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. EST. After the merger with G4, X-Play's official IRC chat room was re-designed by Philippe Detournay and Raphael Seeqmuller using the PJIRC chat client.
On November 6, 2006 (to coincide with the show's move to prime time), the G4 network integrated X-Play's chat feature into the actual broadcast of each new episode. Using an idea similar to their production of Star Trek 2.0, a window covering the bottom half of the screen would pop up during reviews and display messages typed out by G4 users on X-Play's official web site in real-time (with moderation for broadcast standards to avert profanity and other inappropriate responses). The presentation of the X-Play chat function was later redesigned for the show's 2008 reformatting, so that chat messages would display on the left-hand side of the screen during a review.
The interactive chat feature was abandoned in late 2009, in order to take advantage of the increasing popularity of the micro-blogging site Twitter. The show's producers now present X-Play viewers with a question relevant to the day's news/reviews via their official Twitter feed, then display the resulting answers during that night's episode through a scrolling ticker on the bottom portion of the screen.
Starting the week of June 13th (2011), the show began the practice of having their on-air personalities live-tweeting during reruns of the show airing on Thursdays and Fridays.
The brief intro sequence begins in the fictitious X-Play Labs (which made an appearance on the show during the X-Play X-Plentions skit), where Morgan is about to put the finishing touches on the X-Play online game. An excited Adam asks if the game can have "fudge zombies and stealthy ninjas and drunken pirates and radioactive Dik-diks", then haphazardly presses a large red button which "digitizes physical matter and materializes digital matter"; this causes all of the bad guys from the X-Play video game to escape (much to Morgan's chagrin).
Once the game begins, players can choose from big-headed versions of either Adam (whose main weapon is Slippy the Fish) or Morgan (whose main weapon is her fists), and battle their way through a few continuously repeating levels of action. Controls comprise of the arrow keys for movement, the "A" key to punch, and the "S" key to kick.
Culled from the theory that many viewers of TechTV both watched the network while using the internet, TechTV's Hyperactive was launched in 2004.
Designed to be used as a combination trivia game and chat room which would run concurrently with the 11 PM weeknight block of X-Play and Unscrewed with Martin Sargent, participants could compete against one another by answering questions relating to, and revolving around, video games, pop-culture and host references from episodes that were currently airing. Leaderboards were synchronized with the episodes as they aired, often showcasing the names of the 10 highest scoring contestants as the show came back from each commercial break.
After the merger of TechTV and G4TV, Hyperactive was abandoned.
On November 11, 2005, G4 started offering X-Play segments (reviews, skits, etc.) for free in podcast form via their website and the iTunes store, giving viewers the opportunity to watch segments on-demand with their computers and portable devices. These podcasts have since become available through other podcatcher software (such as the Zune Marketplace) as well.
On August 14, 2008, a special weekly wrap-up show called X-Play Weekly was made available for download on the Xbox LIVE Video Store, allowing Xbox 360 owners to view highlights from the previous week's episodes for 160 Microsoft Points ($2 US).
Beginning the week of June 15, 2009, X-Play Weekly was also made available for download through the Playstation Network, also at $2 per weekly program.
In September 2009, G4TV.com rebranded its Feed Nightcap vodcast (a web spinoff of the Attack of the Show segment "The Feed") with the new title Feedback. This weekly segment was hosted by Adam Sessler (before Blair Herter took over official hosting duties with the October 19th 2011 episode) and features a rotating panel of co-hosts drawn from X-Play's editorial staff with the occasional guest from the gaming industry (such as Tim Schafer and Cliff Bleszinski). The show's stated goal is to deliver "intelligent, informative, and very very humorous discussion about games" by reviewing current news stories as well as answering viewer questions, and is filmed via a roundtable format in G4's audio recording studio. Even though the show could be considered an extension of the AOTS brand, all of the content for the program is drawn from and presented by X-Play staff.
On October 22, 2004, TechTV (in association with Peachpit Press) published the book The X-Play Insider's Guide to Gaming: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Video Games From G4techTV's Brutally Honest Experts. Written by Marc Saltzman (along with the X-Play Cast) and weighing in at a hefty 468 pages, the book contains game reviews, cheat codes, and Q&A sessions with the cast and crew. Adam and Morgan even went on a nation-wide book-signing tour to help promote their literary endeavor.