Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekend Confirmed finally hits. Can it live up to the hype?

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me start off by saying the Jeff Cannata was one of my college housemates. We did plays together, we went on road trips together, we even moved to LA together those many years ago. So I am obviously, a little biased when I say that I have nothing but respect and love for the guy. He is one of the most intelligent, insightful, enthusiastic people I know.

When he started doing the Totally Rad Show it just felt like such a perfect fit for him. And the show's hordes of fans were well deserved.

The show is a little heavy on the Movie subject matter for my tastes, which is why I was so excited to hear that Jeff was planning on starting a game-centric podcast with former 1Up editor Garnett Lee, now of Shack News.

When Garentt was on the 4 Guys 1Up show, I always the passionate counter point to the l33t cynicism that seemed to underpin most of the opinions of the other editors on that show. I really couldn't wait to what Jeff and Garnett would bring to the table. Now the show has been out for a few episodes. It's still finding it's voice, but I feel that I've heard enough that an informed critique is at least possible.

So what do I think of weekend confirmed? Well, let me tell you.

Let's start with the hosts. Jeff, is bringing it home about how I'd have expected. If I had to describe Jeff's editorial voice, it'd be by saying that he is "insightful" or maybe "analytical". Have a discussion on almost any topic with Jeff and he will always strive to look at it from a different perspective. He constantly strives to achieve a unique understanding of whatever it is he is talking about. The standard arguments "take" on things is rarely enough for Jeff. He constantly attempts to find a deeper, truer meaning. And I'd say that most of his contributions to Weekend Confirmed are along these lines. From his impassioned arguments for the iPad to his surprising arguments against Microsoft game room. In either case I have to say he made me think about the subject in a different light than I had at first blush.

Garnett's role is surprisingly different. This feels like much more his "god damned show" than 4 guys 1Up ever did. Even though he was ostensibly the host of the 1Up show, it always felt like Garnett's grip on the proceedings was somewhat tenuous. With personalities like Shane and John Davison, throwing their weight around it often felt like a show without a true "guiding personality". On Weekend Confirmed Garnett comes of as much more comfortable, and seems to be "running the show" a lot more directly than on 1Up where it was more like herding cats. Interestingly, in the dialog Garnett comes off a lot more of the grizzled cynical game industry type, which is an interesting switch from his "role" at 1Up.

The third host Brian Leahy is the host with whom I am least familiar. I admit that I wasn't much of a shack news reader before this podcast, so I think that this is the first time I've ever come across much of Leahy's work, so my opinion on him is based solely on what I've heard in Weekend Confirmed. Brian basically occupies the same role that Ryan Scott had on the old GFW Radio show. And that is of the extremely jaded PC Gaming elitist. I'll be curious to listen to more of Weekend Confirmed to see if Brian is more open minded than he initially appears to be.

But what about the show itself? What do I think about that? Well let's start off with what I like. First off, I love the personalities on the show, I am very interested to hear these guys talk about games, industry news, and trade shows. The inside baseball kind of stuff, I just think they're all intelligent, informed, and insightful, so the discussions are a great listen. My only hope is that they really chew into this even harder. I miss the old Next Gen podcast with Gary Whitta and John Davison. That show was an NPR level of discourse about the game industry. Ever since that show's demise there hasn't been a replacement and I think /hope that Weekend Confirmed can pick up the mantle of in depth discourse about the video game industry.

Also, I like the segmented nature of the show, I think that the classic "4 Guys 1 Up" style of show, meaning the "what ya been playin, news, new relesaes, emails" format is kind of dated. Everyone is doing this now. I would say that it has been perfected by the Bombcast guys. Anyone else doin a podcast needs a new take. And I think the Game Informer show style of themed segments is a great direction to go in. I really hope that Weekend confirmed take it even further and not get to tied into a rigidly defined structure. I'd love to hear these guys talk about specific big releases, news stories, and trade shows in great detail. So that rather than having it be something where the "next segment" is always "4 minute warning" it would be more like "The next segment we're going to talk about Ubisoft's DRM problems".

It's a little too early too make any final judgement as I feel like the guys are still figuring it out. For example, I'm not too sure about the newly introduced "Drunk With Power" segment as I feel it removes Garnett a little too much from the discussion (although it does help to cement Garnett as the 'host'' as opposed to 'one of the hosts'). But it's obvious that they are experimenting and that is a good thing.

I guess for me I'd hope that this show ends up being a cross between the Next Gen and Game Informer Podcasts. The hosts are great, and I think it has a lot of potential. If you haven't checked it out yet you can download the episodes here. If nothing else these guys definitely get me thinking about games that I haven't thought about in years. This week it was SSX 3, which I will have to dig out of the closet. I never did finish the WHOLE mountain.

I'd love to hear these guys do a retro podcast as well. "Childhood Confirmed"? "Nostalgia Confirmed"?

Just an idea.