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From Stacy’s Mom in The Sims 2 to BloodRayne singing Evanescence, MTV2’s Video Mods imagined video game characters performing 00s hits.

The mid-00s MTV we remember leaned into low-brow celebrity culture, pioneering reality TV with MTV CribsMy Super Sweet Sixteen and The Hills. But alongside streaming charting videos 24/7 and perfecting its formula for trashy documentary-style shows, the channel ran a range of more experimental series tapping into other cultural trends. Amongst them was the not-so-successful Video Mods – a venture that capitalised on the popularity of the PlayStation 2 at the time, portraying iconic gaming characters performing in animated music videos.

Artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Missy Elliott had already dropped video game-inspired visuals in the late 90s with Californication and Sock It 2 Me, but the early 00s crystallised the cultural crossover between music and gaming. In 2002, G4techTV released Cinematech – a precursor to Twitch livestreaming that showed clips from computer games on loop. The following year, TV network Spike launched the Spike Video Game Awards, which recognised the latest drops with categories like ‘Best Music’, ‘Best Animation’ and ‘Best Performance by a Human’. In 2004, the year Video Mods officially launched, the VGAs were hosted by Snoop Dogg and featured performances from artists including Ludacris, Method Man and Pharrell. With Pharrell and Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot sitting at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as the awards show aired (and before the latter started partnering with the likes of Klarna and Just Eat), the co-signs were significant: gaming culture was very much mainstream, and was becoming increasingly intertwined with the entertainment world.

Created by Tony Shiff and made in collaboration with Electronic Arts, the series was an early iteration of a TV brand partnership, with its pilot referencing Electronic Arts franchises The Sims, SSX 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Shiff handled production and direction throughout 2004 with the help of Animation Director Kris Renkewitz, and later episodes were animated by IBC Digital before Video Mods was pulled in 2005 – making it MTV’s shortest running show.

Where everything went wrong remains left to the imagination, but it might have had something to do with the show’s uncanny aesthetic, out of time lip-syncing and clumsy animatronic figures. Guitar Hero took video games in a more developed musical direction that year, but before Video Mods became a haunting mid-00s MTV memory, it gave us Fountains of Wayne’s Stacy’s Mom imagined in The Sims 2, Christina Milian’s Dip It Low in Jade Empire, T.I.’s Do Ya Thing in Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Evanescence’s Everybody’s Fool in BloodRayne 2, Blink-182’s All the Small Things portrayed in SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, and so much more.

In true early 00s style MTV never cleared the music rights beyond TV, but most of the episodes have been uploaded to the playlist below.