For almost half a century, BBC Radio 1 has been famous for having its finger on the pulse of youth culture.
The station has had the ability to make or break artists and bring new voices to the mainstream.
And now Radio 1 wants to have a go at covering video games.
Not that this is new territory for the station; Radio 1 has touched upon games in the past, such as media personality Julia Hardy’s special gaming programme last December.
But now it is launching a dedicated monthly show, the imaginatively titled The Radio 1 Gaming Show. It’s starting on March 11th with Hardy handling presenting duties once again.
Radio 1 has wanted to do video games for a very long time,” the BBC’s head of visual radio Joe Harland says
But games are a very difficult thing to get right, particularly when you are a radio station and the audience can’t see what’s happening. Now Radio 1 has an iPlayer channel on your TV, on all your devices. So we have our platform, we’ve got a presenter in Julia Hardy, who is brilliant and great at all the different disciplines of broadcasting that we need her to do, and has significant expertise.”
Each episode will focus on a specific title, but will also feature previews of upcoming releases, bring listeners exclusive first-looks at games, plus offer insight into titles still in development.
Harland is well aware that producing a show that will please every single gamer – from the hardcore Call of Duty players to casual fans swiping away on Candy Crush Saga – is all but impossible.
If you look for a musical comparison, you have people who like music, people who love music and people who live music,” Harland explains.
There are similar comparisons with gaming and we want to make programmes that can be viewed by hundreds of thousands of British gamers on iPlayer, potentially millions worldwide, and then offer them something that is true to what the BBC has always done, which is make great informative, educational and entertaining content. This time, it happens to be about video games. What I’m not naive to is the fact it isn’t possible to make a gaming programme that everybody will like.”
"Gamers spend hours and hours watching YouTubers.
We want to be in that conversation with that audience."
Joe Harland, BBC
But games are not new. The medium has a heritage spanning 40 years. So why is the BBC deciding to cover games now?
Radio 1 has always sought to reflect youth interests and things that are exciting them,” Harland says.
Games obviously go back several decades. Increasingly we have worked with YouTube superstars like Dan Howell and Phil Lester (on the Dan and Phil radio show) over the last four years as we saw that was where the audience was spending hours and hours.
We want to be in that conversation with the audience, just as much as we want to be in the conversation with them about music and live bands and festivals and social issues.”
Games are a highly visual medium, which on the surface presents a challenge when talking about them on the radio.
It is a challenge,” Harland admits. But as well as iPlayer, we have a YouTube channel with just shy of three million subscribers. We have a large social video following, so we don’t have to painfully describe on the radio everything that is happening. Now we can just say: ‘go online and take a look at this’.
The fact that Radio 1 is now not just a radio station is enormously helpful in that. Just as much as you’ll hear a movie reviewer on the radio talking engagingly and enthusiastically about a film, but you have go online to see what the film is about, that’s the exact same quality that Julia brings. She is able to excite even non-gamers about a title, but then creating video content that is of interest to people who want that slightly deeper journey.”