So I watched the second season opener for SyFy’s WCG Ultimate Gamer reality show last Friday. (Starting this autumn, it airs on SyFy channel, Thursday nights at 11pm.) I haven’t had a chance to check out the first season, so as I watched it buffer up on Hulu I expected the staid reality show formula: manufactured drama, Machiavellian political maneuvering, two arbitrarily formed teams, and some sort of single elimination culminating in a walk of shame for some poor schlub at the end of the show. When it came to this angle, SyFy Ultimate Gamer did not disappoint me.
But, much like CrunchGear reviewer, Nicholas Deleon, it did let me down when it came down to pure gamer connection, as he writes,
The final 10 minutes, when the gamers actually played a game (it was Tekken 6 last night), wasn’t bad at all. It was exactly as gripping as watching a Quake 3 competition, but it was more than OK. I’ll keep DVRing the show, but in the future I will skip to the last segment. You know, the game segment.
The first 50 minutes weren’t very good at all. The gamers introduce themselves, and none of them had anything particularly interesting to say—Chael Sonnen these people were not.
I agree with Nicholas here, while the show was fun (even with the situational drama) it really fell down when it failed to introduce the video game the players would be completing with early on—Tekken 6. They named it, and told the audience what it was—mostly through the reaction of the contestants—but it ranked barely any other exposition. In fact, while the video game did happen to be the center of the climatic event, it seemed to be the show’s gimmick. Introducing the audience to the video game being played in the end elimination round early (actually giving viewers a chance to understand and experience what a “fighter style” game really it) would have been a good move. Such presentation would have helped bridge them gap between reality show viewers and gamers. The players themselves did have plenty of experience, and while the show spent a lot of time on their human interest, it could have leveraged their video game experience to show how the game connects to gamers.
To be fair, though, I have to mention that this happened to be the first show of the season and introductory interviews of the different players were needed to connect the audience with the players. This did eat a lot of time that could have been spent on my above suggestion.
The physical event—which are extremely common to these sorts of reality game shows—did do its job in entertaining me. They used a wire-fu simulation that played off the kung-fu movie nature of fighter style video games, like Tekken 6. From the previews, I see that they tend to choose their physical challenges well: actual car driving courses to go with car video games, paintball teams for shooters, etc. I really look forward to that in the upcoming shows.
To my great amusement, at the very beginning, the new player, Faye, cheered for the camera with a homage to Street Fighter’s Chun Li: “Yata!”
Season two did not have a strong start on the video game or video gamer angle; and I expect a show to put their best foot forward.
The one saving grace the premier episode did manage was the excellent job of ramping up the drama for the Tekken 6 elimination round at the end.
I did find myself on the edge of my seat when the two contestants went head-to-head in their virtual environment neither of the contestants was in any way a pushover.