Revenge of the nerds

By MIKE MILIARD  |  August 9, 2006
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"I just wanted to let them be themselves," says MTV's Porter. "They're such dorky, real guys."
We’re deep in the bowels of the “Gamer’s Lounge” — which is actually a sunny romper room in the basement of the Rosenblum homestead. Sitting in the corner, looming like the black monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is a massive 51-inch TV. Arrayed below it is a panoply of just about every gaming system known to man, surrounded by the tangled wires of all their necessary controllers and peripherals — from the original Nintendo to the Microsoft Xbox.

Andrew and Alex, both 19, have known each other since preschool. They met Dave, 22, later, at Needham High. (“You were a freshman and I was a junior,” Dave admonishes, lording it over his younger friends with manifest glee.) From the beginning, there were video games: Duck Hunt, Super Mario 3, Streets of Rage. Dave, the geezer of the group, claims his first game experience was Pong.

At this point, it might be instructive to lay out the gaming bona fides of the author. For all intents and purposes, they do not exist. I haven’t played video games on a regular basis since roundabout 1991. My first cartridge (ca. 1983), for the paleolithic Atari 2600, was E.T. the Extra Terrestrial — which Snopes.com rightly calls “an unplayable game with a dull plot and crummy graphics in which frustrated players spent most of their time leading the E.T. character around in circles to prevent him from falling into pits.”

But despite the fact that I don’t particularly care for video games, I enjoy watching GameLife. I like how Andrew is shy and sort of nebbishy. How Dave is self-assured and brash. How Alex is quiet, a counterpoint to Dave’s bombast, but gets a little cocky when he has a controller in his hand.

And I like how these guys may be new to the whole Web-TV thing, but they’re secure in the fact that they have as much right to put their mugs in front of the camera as anyone else. “It’s kind of an unwritten rule that almost every TV star has to have a friggin’ perfect body and, like, everything’s perfect,” says Dave, who clearly doesn’t believe that should be the case. “And on top of that, they can’t even act. Get me a guest spot on friggin’ King of Queens or something, and I’ll show them how acting’s done.”

On the couch, Andrew curls up with a staccato laugh. “Well, I wouldn’t be taunting!” he says. True enough, GameLife won’t be winning any Webbies anytime soon. But that’s just the thing. The reason it’s so compelling is precisely because the guys aren’t really acting: Hollywood could never create something so genuinely, sometimes painfully, awkward.

Andrew, Alex, and Dave are the show’s principals, but there are two more regular hosts. After the second episode, the Needham guys supplemented their cast with a couple of far-flung correspondents who decidedly change the tenor of the show and attract wider audiences.

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