I’ve been watching some G4 recently. I’m thoroughly aware that it’s crap, but it’s hard to stop, since I get all the references. And besides, it’s not all crap – shows like Filter and Icon can be pretty interesting.

But I’m not here to talk about them. I’m here to talk about Arena. Yes, the rigged show Wil Wheaton used to host.

Arena bugs me in the worst way – the same way that Privateer II bugged me. It’s an idea that has potential, but because the people behind it were insufficiently motivated to see it through to its proper conclusion, it is therefore a shadow of what it could have been.

I think gaming as a spectator sport could be huge – you’ve got a level of frenetic action that you simply can’t get with any “real” sport, and casual viewers can appreciate and understand brilliant play without having to be brilliant themselves, which is absolutely crucial and is the reason far more people watch football than chess matches.

So if I were going to fix Arena, here’s how I’d do it:

* For God’s sake, populate both teams with players who can actually play! Every ep of Arena I’ve watched has been a complete blowout, with one competent team totally dominating a “team” made of strangers who are unfamiliar with the game. Good players aren’t hard to find, even if you need them to be in your local geographical area to cut down on air travel fees. Your server browser should be all you need to find decent players – look for clans especially.

* Show us the whole game, not just highlights! Since you can save the game data in most games used on Arena, do so and recam it afterwards to get dramatic camera angles and whatnot. An overlay map in the lower-right showing where every player is at all times wouldn’t be hard to do and would help viewers understand what’s going more easily.

* No “celebrities”, no “television personalities”. The commentators should be hardcore gamers themselves capable of putting together an English sentence (*cough*, we’re not that rare). They should know the games they are commenting on cold and should be able to quickly point out interesting circumstances and good play. It’s obvious that the two guys hosting Arena now know just enough about games to be able to tell when someone gets fragged, and that’s it.

* “Lagger’s Choice” (the team lagging after round 2 getting to pick the game for round 3) is a good idea, but in order for it to really mean anything the final prize can’t be awarded on a simple “best two out of three” scheme. But since you can’t really add up the points and award based on that (since the point schemes are vastly different between games – and some games don’t even have them), I propose an “Iron Chef”-style judging panel that judges both teams on each game on an out-of-ten basis and the highest judged point total wins. This means that a team that comes in and loses closely in the first rounds can still win the game overall if they blow out their opponents in the third.

* The entire crew should exhibit a heightened sense of professionalism. They should act like they’re working on the next Monday Night Football – because hey, they might be.

I’d watch such a show. Hell, I’d never miss it.

Update: I caught an ep that did feature a host who knew what he was talking about. That host was Kevin Pereira. He can stay. The rest need to either be replaced with either new hosts who are as knowledgable as Kevin, or a passle of Kevin clones if said hosts are not available.