Image: ABC / Good Game Spawn Point
We’re sitting on the set of Good Game: Spawn Point, sharing oatmeal cookies and occasionally checking a screen as a PlayStation 4 downloads Fe. I’m chatting to Gemma “Gem” Driscoll, the newest face on the show.
I asked how Gem’s announcement had been handled, and despite only having met me minutes prior, the 20-year-old dropped a bomb.
“One dude who auditioned [who] didn’t get it said, ‘I can see I’m not a social justice warrior enough purely because I’m not a girl,’ and I was like hell, OK right-yo, and that hit me pretty hard because I’m not used to any of that.”
It makes sense that Gem isn’t accustomed to the savagery of fandom just yet, because the born and bred Novocastrian isn’t exactly a prolific social media presence. Despite initial assumptions following Steven “Bajo” O’Donnell’s departure, Gem doesn’t come into the role with an in-built fanbase and a profile of her own. In fact, had the Good Game auditions not worked out, she would be enrolling at university.
“Game design was one of the things I really wanted to, so I could learn how games work – so I could talk about games. So I kind of jumped the gun there,” Gem said.
Amdist running a small YouTube channel – only 160 subscribers at the time of writing, with a few hundred followers on Twitter and around 1000 on Instagram – the newest Spawn Point host was working shifts at EB Games in Glendale.
She says she didn’t have too many nightmare customers, although she did remember one instance many EB alumni can relate to: customers who want GTA 5 for their very clearly underage kids.
“I had a woman argue with me about GTA 5 once – I told her what was in it, and she told me I was lying,” Gem said.
“She brought it up to the counter – well her kid did – and I said, ‘Just so you know, it’s R18+, it’s recommended for kids who are over 18 years old, it’s got graphic violence, there’s sex scenes, there’s a scene very early with people having sex with binoculars, strip clubs, swearing, torture, rape, there’s stuff in there, bad stuff …’ and she’s like ‘I don’t believe that’.”
“I’m like … it’s right there on the box! It says it right there! And she said, ‘That’s ridiculous … [my kid] wouldn’t lie. It’s a racing game.'”
Not technically inaccurate, but still. Not a bad first argument to have with a customer, though. But for the most part, Gem just enjoyed talking with customers about games, particularly kids. “There were kids and grown adults who would come in, coming into the store and getting to talk to the staff was … their routine,” she explained.
“There was one man who would come in with his carer, a bit older than me, and he would come in once every two days. We would talk about anything; he was super into Monster Hunter and Digimon, and we’d just get to talk about that for half an hour and have a chat. If I needed to go do my job, he’d let me and we’d have a chat later. It was just cool getting to talk to people, because that was sometimes – when everything got crazy, when stock was crazy, when everything was crazy, that was something you could always rely on: someone would want to talk to you about their favourite games.”
It’s a conversation that Gem gets to continue having – but on a much wider scale.
Part of that wider scale for Spawn Point involves covering more M-rated games, at least through their YouTube channel. It’s important not just for the presenters – it gives them more options for coverage each week – but also for Spawn Point‘s audience, that age of kids who are in that weird middle ground.
“It frustrates me a little bit that there isn’t more leniency, and it’s subjective to every parent on what they want their kid to be playing. And we can’t be seen pushing something that isn’t going to appeal to a wider market, I guess,” Gem explained.
“When you hit about 10 to 14 [years old], there’s a blank gap in the market for those kinds of gamers before they hit MA15. There’s this very blank slate where kids aren’t really – LEGO kind of stops being entertaining around 10, for the kids that I see anyway. And then it’s straight to Call of Duty. I wish there were kind of more games that were adult-ish that still manage to fit into that PG category.”
One example, and something that highlights the problem of being a children’s TV show on the ABC, is Terraria. The collector’s edition was originally rated PG back in 2012, but was later reclassified to M in 2015.
“I can’t remember if Good Game or Spawn Point reviewed that at some stage, but it got reclassified … and now we’re not really allowed to talk about that. It’s kind of sad – I know heaps of kids who were really into that. I was into that for a while. It’s very rigid, I think; I just wish there was more leniency for games like that, because that’s what kids enjoy.”
Another change is a push to produce a lot more online content, an echo back to the Good Game: Pocket days. Apart from cutting up every snippet of the show for viewing online, the team has also streamed gameplay and chats through YouTube and Facebook Live, with plans to do more throughout the year.
The new set is a big plus as well, particularly for Gem: she still lives in Newcastle and trains to the office every day, a five hour commute every day. I asked if there were plans to allow her to work from home a couple of days a week to assist reviews, although it was still early days at the time and nothing on that front had been organised.
There’s a lot of peculiarities to working at the national broadcaster, especially around rated content. Shortly before our chat began, Gem asked colleagues about an upcoming AMA – she wasn’t sure if she could talk about M-rated games or franchises, which was bound to come up because the majority of comments tend to come from adults.
After a quick back and forth it was eventually agreed upon: M-rated content could be mentioned, because it was going through the ABC ME Facebook page (and not television), but there needed to be a small qualifier. If Gem mentioned Mass Effect as one of her favourite franchises, she had to add that it was for older gamers, so that way parents had an easy explainer for their kids.
It was a neat little window into the world that Spawn Point actually occupies these days. Rather than being a show for kids, it’s really a show about games that parents can watch with their kids. Children are still the main drawcard, naturally, and Gem has done an awful lot of thinking about what she says with that in mind.
But that doesn’t mean the freshest Spawn Point face plans on diluting herself one iota. While we’re talking, the PS4 continued to download Fe at a speed many gamers are familiar with: glacial.
“PSN is such trash sometimes,” I quipped, looking at the download speed.
“It’s such a dumpster fire,” Gem agreed. “I’m loyal to PlayStation still – [although] I have no choice.”
Update: Removed a reference to Dragon Ball Fighter Z regarding M-rated games, as DBFZ is a PG title (although some Dragon Ball properties, such as Dragon Ball Super are rated M). My apologies.