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By the time you read this, G4 TV will have cashed in its extra life and restarted a leveled-up new broadcast game on an array of web streaming platforms as well as good old fashioned linear cable. A mix of the now-nostalgic gaming and pop culture roller coaster ride that lurched fans forward a decade ago, blended with the bleeding edge of today’s always-online entertainment landscape, the network relaunch means a fresh start for old school appointment viewing like Attack of the Show! and X-Play.
The gaming-focused X-Play is exhibit A in the network’s formula of making a tasty 2021 TV frappe with the best ingredients from the past as well as the present. Returning for 2021 with the slightly tweaked, hyphen-free title of Xplay, the relaunched show highlighting game reviews, previews, insider access, and more will once again be anchored by original co-host Adam Sessler — now an iconic name among players of a certain age.
Joining Sessler on Xplay’s pixelated new journey is a slew of new-to-G4 faces, including those — like Jirard "The Completionist" Khalil — that are likely familiar to anyone who’s been recently plugged in to the world of gaming news and reviews online. As the creator and host of the immensely popular gaming web series The Completionist, Khalil brings a swirl of instant credibility (his reviews are deep, honest, and sometimes hilariously brutal when it’s called for) and a built-in fan base to his Xplay corner of the hugely-hyped network reset.
“A thousand percent, it’s very surreal for me. It’s really a dream come true in terms of this whole full circle, Cinderella-esque story for me and my journey joining the team,” Khalil recently confessed to SYFY WIRE, while assuring fans of The Completionist that the web series isn’t going anywhere anytime soon just because he’s taken on a big new gig.
Still, he freely admits, landing an Xplay spot right alongside one of his longtime gaming heroes feels like a “surreal” trip. “Oh, I’ve been a Sessler fan from far away,” he says of his early days as an original G4 fan.
“He’s a big reason why I got into the industry,” Khalil says. “I’ve run into him as a fan several times. And of course I had weird emotional outbursts of fandom, in those moments, in my younger years. I think when my career finally got to a nice spot where people started respecting me and I started kind of getting a lot of traction, and once I joined the G4 team, having a clean slate with him was great — because he didn’t remember those interactions with him!”
The old X-Play was perhaps G4’s strongest mission statement as a brand. Sessler and former co-host Morgan Webb — who’s shown up in G4’s recent promotions to support the relaunch, but won’t be returning to the show — used their bully pulpit to score games with a regular player’s eye, giving credit where it was due, and directly calling out studios whenever a title simply didn’t make the grade.
Khalil says the spirit of that fan-facing honesty remains a core component of the new Xplay’s ethos, which has tons of on-camera fun with the medium even as it takes the players’ side in seriously reviewing new games. “We’re not afraid of anyone,” says Khalil. “We’re coming in hopeful that returning brands and companies that have worked with us in the past will show up. But if they make a bad product, we’re gonna tell them, ‘You’ve made a bad product.’ The audience will know.”
But what about the format of the show itself? Will the new Xplay instantly resonate with longtime fans? “Honestly, in its current form, it’s going to feel very close to it,” says Khalil.
“Xplay is probably gonna be the more ‘return-to-form’ show out of the original lineup,” he adds. “It’s a combination of, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ but also, it’s kind of ‘Return-of-the-King’-ish. It’s kind of about going back to basics and figuring out how X-Play kind of shaped the zeitgeist of the modern-day game review.”
Anyone who’s gotten hooked on Khalil’s, well, complete approach to dissecting video games on The Completionist knows he’s always put a heavy premium on examining a game from the inside out — its setting, its development backstory, its mechanics, and its overall appeal. Even amid a modern-day sea of gaming influencers online, he puts in the work to give players a deep sense of what they’re in for — which, of course, makes Khalil a natural fit for a show like Xplay that plans to pull no punches when it comes to even-handed criticism.
“I think, because I’m a crazy person, I got the gig because of it,” he half-jokes. “It’s one of those things where my insight, going so far in — you can tell, based on my content, that I’ve turned everything over in these games. I’ve learned everything there is. I’ve put myself through hell in these games!
So, when it came time to audition for the new Xplay cast, “The one thing I wasn’t worried about was my knowledge and expertise in the gaming field,” he says. “…Joining G4 has validated my 10 years of struggle as a content creator through and through…If I have a crazy idea, everyone goes, ‘That’s so crazy — let’s do it!’”
All that’s left is to remember not to be too geekily star-struck as Khalil takes his place alongside Sessler on a G4 gaming stage he never thought he’d get the chance to step on. Back when he was a film school student working his way through school in the gaming department at a big-box retailer, G4 was the network he couldn’t get enough of — even staying dialed in to shows like Ninja Warrior, Attack of the Show!, and, yes, X-Play on the TV in the break room.
“I was glued to the television watching Sessler and Webb doing their thing…it really inspired me, even in just how I built the [video game] displays!” he says. “I was just so in tune with what Adam was doing.
“Using the knowledge I kind of absorbed from what I knew of X-Play and Adam and his career and what he was doing….fast forward 10 years later, and I’m part of the Xplay team," Khalil continues. "It truly is like this wonderful Cinderella story of how Adam Sessler didn’t know how much he impacted me. I don’t think he knows; I haven’t even told him this — how much he impacted me in my career. And then fast forward: now we’re sitting across the table, laughing at the fact that we’re reviewing Call of Duty and talking about it. It’s very surreal.”
One thing’s for sure: Khalil and Sessler, along with new Xplay cast members Corey “The Black Hokage” Smallwood and Indiana “Froskurinn” Black, are all-in on making the new show one of the relaunch’s flagship series. “We’re going in hard,” he says. “It’s not just, ‘We’re gonna see what happens.’ Everyone is committed.
“That’s the thing I love most about the team, is that everyone gives a s*** — I can confidently say that we are delivering some of the best content that we are producing across our [entire relaunch] team," Khalil continues. "I’m the kind of guy who’s like, ‘If it’s not good, I’m out.’ …and since I’ve joined, this has been the opposite of that…We are putting pedal to the metal with this.”
Starting today, you can catch Khalil and the new Xplay as part of the big network relaunch of G4 on cable, Twitch, YouTube, and Philo streaming TV.