Written by Bobby “Weenus” Hicks
(This is an editorial piece. The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of compLexity Gaming or its parent company.)
As many readers out there know, the compLexity family’s very own Adande “sWooZie” Thorne has been featured on the Sci-Fi reality competition show, WCG Ultimate Gamer. While under any normal circumstance, I would be wary on a show on television that claims to show us who the Ultimate Gamer in the USA is, having spent just about every waking moment of the summer with him, Adande is a good friend of mine and I’ll support whatever he does (or at least I thought so before I watched the events of the first episode… but more on that later).
After watching the first episode of Ultimate Gamer, I had so much to say about the episode and the show in general, that I decided to join in on the ever popular show blogging fad and start blogging after each episode right here for the compLexity Gaming site. As an introductory blog, I’ll be giving you one of my favorite review formats, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, of the show based on my first impressions, as well as a general format blog about the events of the episode. I’ll jump straight into it.
The Format – I really expected to be violently ill at the format of the show after watching the previews, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the “real world application” of many of the gaming skills was the first challenge rather than the main challenge, taking on the life of the warm up challenge that you may know from other reality competitions. Gaming is also the most important factor, being the platform for elimination battles.
Competitive Gamers – Despite a couple of major mix ups, for the most part, every member of the cast has a competitive gaming background. While there may be an over abundance of girl gamers who’s competitive experience is in some smaller games, a good portion of the females on the show can back their reputations up in at least a couple of games and I wouldn’t consider them to be mislabeled as competitive gamers. Having personally watched StarSlay3r destroying some tough Guitar Hero songs at a LANFest a few years ago, I know that her claim to Rhythm Games is more than well earned.
The Loft – I don’t think there is a viewer out there that can say that loft doesn’t look amazing. Nuff said.
sWooZie – I may not agree with some of the things that went on in Episode One, but sWooZie has more charisma than any two cast members combined, and I know that the way he acts on the show when the cameras are in his face is genuine. I’m excited to see someone that has honestly had a major affect on my life completely smoking the competition right off the bat, and being featured on a major television (CABLE TELEVISION) network. Is there anything cooler than being able to tell friends and family that my old roommate is on the Sci-Fi channel? Well, maybe MTV I guess. Pick it up, Adande.
The Samsung Rock Band Shenanigans – I still have to talk with Adande about it, but those televisions didn’t look calibrated AT ALL. Being someone who plays a ton of Rock Band 2, I know that playing Rock Band on an un-calibrated TV is like playing Counter-Strike with backwards interp (for the uninitiated out there, imagine shooting at an enemy in an FPS who is on your screen in one position, but actually about ten feet away from that position, causing your bullets to miss them). If you watch the band challenge portion, every drummer misses the green note on the drum fills, causing them to miss overdrive (or star power). It’s a tell tale sign of bad calibration. I don’t know if it’s cause of the Samsung TVs, because I have heard specific complaints about Rhythm Games with Samsung, but something was up and I feel pity for the players. The projector screens during the elimination battle seemed to be much better though. I can only hope the rest of the competition will have better attention to major details like the calibration of a TV for rhythm games.
Robert “Prod1gy X” – While I have heard good things about the guy on a personal level, I take issue with anyone who wears completely unnatural colored contacts on a consistent basis for anything but fiction. Couple that with a sideways slipknot hat that’s bill has been curved into all oblivion, and you become a man who looks like he literally tripped out of a Hot Topic and into a Hollister, which is a pretty miserable combination by any standards. Worst of all, at least from the editing, Robert seems to have sinister intentions that really only seem to be geared towards greasing his obvious gaming ego.
Jamal “Zopher321” – If only for the fact that he comes off like a poor man’s Dr. Dogg, but mostly because of the comment I’ve seen in a few previews of Jamal saying “We can play all day, and he’ll never beat me.” Now, my major assumption is that he’s talking about Adande since they’re the two fighting guys, and I’m pretty sure that if they played any fighting game all day, Adande would be able to take rounds on him. Say what you want about Dead or Alive on the Fighting Games ladder, but I’ve personally seen Adande’s ability to learn a new game and turn that competitively on someone, and I watched him handle just about every CGS DoA player in the practice rooms and in our apartment, as well as win rounds against high level west coast Capcom gamers at the Street Fighter 4 preview event over the summer. Watch your damn mouth, Jamal!
JD “KosherHamm” – Perhaps I’m just out of the loop as I’m not in a frat, but does a fraternity tournament for Madden really make someone the best in the world? Couldn’t we have gotten a familiar face from Madden Nation? Someone who has won multiple high level Madden competitions? I don’t know. Nothing against JD as a person, but I feel like this was an attempt to say “Hey, even College Bro’s game competitively! Have another Natty Ice, brah!” to the viewers.
Geoff “iNcontroL” – First of all, let me start by saying, good lord is this guy yoked. Now, the main reason he made the bad, is because I think it would be a fair assumption to say there won’t be any RTS action on the show, as it’s heavily console oriented, unless they had an advanced copy of Halo Wars, which wouldn’t really help the issue at all. It sucks that Geoff is probably the main odd man out as far as not being able to play the genre he would dominate.
The Elimination Format – Now, perhaps I missed it, but I went back over the episode a few times, as well as both the Sci Fi website and the WCG website, and I can’t find anything that explains coherently how the unlucky S.O.B. who chooses the second elimination competitor is selected. Since Adande had taken both challenges, as well as climbed to the top ranking on the ladder, I’m not sure if the first or second challenge dictates who gets to choose, or overall ranking. Based on my reality competition knowledge, I would have naturally assumed the first challenge would dictate either immunity or the role of grim reaper, but from the ladder format, I’m guessing the two challenges are really just to pad the ladder’s ability to change. Hey, Sci-Fi, let’s be a little more clear on this.
I don’t specifically know what it is, but the pacing of the show was atrocious. The Pacing – I don’t specifically know what it is, but the pacing of the show was atrocious. I found myself going stir crazy watching multiple point of views of the same three seconds happening over and over again, even more so than other reality competitions. It felt like I was watching an episode of Heroes in season two or three, or an entire saga on Dragon Ball Z. They need to speed the show up a bit if they expect people to stay interested, and I’m sorry, but watching StarSlay3r literally cry every time she was in the private interview, and nearly every time she was on camera, was obnoxious.
Dante “DevilsAlastar” – Get out your broomsticks, I’m calling shenanigans. Dante, the only competitor on the show without any remote ability to call himself an accomplished competitive gamer, also happens to be StarSlay3r’s ex-boyfriend? Yeah, come on. Let’s be realistic here, show producers. Did you really expect anyone to not see through that thinly veiled attempt (and SUCCESSFUL attempt at that) to force a girl gamer into living up to nearly every personality stereotype there is? It’s a lesser known fact that both Manny “MASTER” Rodriguez and Yaz “clowN” Ammari were both casted on the WCG Ultimate Gamer, but were blocked from the competition by the CGS, as there had supposedly been events that would have taken place simultaneously as the tapings of Ultimate Gamer. Well, we all known how that turned out. One has to wonder what two competitors were chosen instead of Manny and Yaz… somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that Dante wasn’t one of them.
Ciji “StarSlay3r” and the never ending water works – Look, I’m not going to knock a girl for having some personal issues like a family or a relationship that is still a fresh wound, but Ciji was crying the first time she was on camera, and just about every time after that. I don’t know if she was doing it on purpose, as I feel like a lot of times, at least one person on a reality competition will make the active decision to be the dramatic one, but if you’re a competitive gamer, especially at a major tournament level as Ciji’s reputation claims, you should be able to handle the pressures of not being able to play the guy who looks like a parody character on South Park at your expertise game, or being interviewed on camera. Is this what she is going to be like the entire season?
sWooZie and the tale of the foolish alliance – Really Adande? You know enough about reality competitions to know that having the shady conversation with the arrogant competitor is never a good way to start a show. I would go as far as to consider you my friend who serves as my moral compass and judging by your moral compass after this episode, I’m surprised you found your way out of the loft. If the first episode is any indicator, I’ll only continue to be disappointed.
I’ve already touched on a number of Episode One related issues, so this recap may seem brief, but here’s episode one. We were introduced to the competitors, and they were then thrust straight into the Rock Band 2 oriented competition.
Real Life Challenge: The competitors were instantly thrown straight into the fire by having to pick up real Rock Band oriented instruments, and being told they had to learn “New Kid in School” by the Donnas. I can specifically tell you that, there’s a lot of lyrics to the song, and even with what I would call a broad taste in music, it’s not a song that comes as naturally to me in Rock Band as even the more eclectic stuff such as the New Pornographers or Pixies do. I immediately felt bad for these guys.
They were then forced to join together as bands which almost instantly put our lovable producer plant Dante as the odd man out, being assaulted with the almost (and I stress the word almost) unbelievable level of douchebaggery on JD’s part, this early in the competition, simply because Dante at least thought he would be able to sing a female intended vocals without sounding like Mickey Rourke’s performance of a grade school retard.
After practicing the song as it’s real world counterpart for what was edited to look like a total of fifteen minutes, the competitors were then delivered to a Hollywood venue (with their names awesomely displayed on the marquee) where they would be performing in front of what looked to be about two hundred screaming tweens, and the Donnas themselves.
None of the three bands looked specifically adept at their instruments, or singing for that matter, at least no more than the other bands, but some looked to at least be trying harder. The team of Adande, Jamal, Mark and Chelsea ended up taking first place, with Ciji, Dante, JD, and Geoff in second, and Alyson, Kelly, Amy, and Robert in last place. Immediately, drama was insisted by the editing, and ominous rock score, and in what is the most awkward conversation I’ve seen on TV in the past year, Robert begins to protect his own hide by attempt to create an alliance (really? We’re still calling them that this late in the reality competition game?) with Adande and Dante. Dante makes sure to live up to his position as the producer’s advocate by immediately turning on the idea, and Adande, while denouncing the title of “alliance”, seems interested in the concept.
Insert some more forced story lines via editing, and we’re lead to believe that Geoff and Kelly are beginning a budding showmance, as Kelly is currently separated from her husband. I don’t know if any of you watch… well, just about any VH1 reality show, but that usually means they broke up for a month while one person from the relationship goes to become a flash in the pan celebrity.
The male host Joel Gourdin then walks in and has the competitors form new bands via colored guitar picks, which shakes things up quite a bit. The new bands then begin talking the talk in the private interviews, and start practicing Rock Band 2. Geoff is immediately struggling on Guitar or Bass, which causes some concerns in his band. Dante and Adande suggest that they practice on no fail, which Ciji then turns into an opportunity to play into the producer’s hands by being overly dramatic at Dante for checking out some of the other ladies in the house. Amazing. I’m shocked.
Isolation Challenge: This is when the bands head to the isolation chamber in the basement, which, while Jamal relates it to the temporary Bat Cave from The Dark Knight, it really more resembles J.P.’s apartment from Grandma’s Boy, which is really more of a stereotypical insult than a cool show feature.
This is when things get sticky with the poorly calibrated massive Samsung television, without showing any of the gamer’s complaining about it. I find it extremely hard to believe that a number of competitive gamers, especially ones with backgrounds in Rhythm games, wouldn’t complain about this at all. Insert JD’s best impression of an angry Yeti, and we’re at the scoring session again. This time, the red band (Adande, Amy, Jamal and Dante) took first place, with blue band (Ciji, Chelsea, Alyson, and Geoff) in second, and green band (Mark, Kelly, Robert, and JD) in last place.
We’re then shocked by the reveal that Robert is in last place on the standings by being up for elimination, and Adande in first place. Almost as if foreshadowing the upcoming back door dealings, JD offers to cook Robert a “kick ass breakfast” in the morning, to which Robert replies “Oh, I’m coming back, that’s for sure”. Way to set that up, Robert. It sure is a good thing that you identified that Adande was tied for first place after the Real Life challenge. That’s right, Adande is then revealed as being in charge of the decision of who will battle Robert in the elimination challenge.
Drama ensues. Everyone expects Adande to toss Ciji in, as she is the clear favorite in Rock Band, which would make plenty of sense. Let’s look at the facts here. This will clearly be a console specific competition. With Robert’s experience in console shooters, he’s still a very realistic threat in the competition for at least one episode, and Ciji’s specialty has just about come and gone, leaving her as potential non-issue for the rest of the competition. Use your tools correctly, Adande! What are you more afraid of, a guy who won a frat league at Madden, or the guy who has major tournament experience and wins in Gears of War, a DDR like game, and Halo?
Well, as if it was done directly to piss ME off, Adande throws in the Football coach Madden champ to battle Robert. Fantastic. Great choice Adande… JD identifies the situation as complete bull, which I don’t disagree with at all, and is reasonably pissed. At this point, I wish I was on the show, so Adande could baby sit me as well as Robert. JD practices all night for the elimination challenge, and Robert eat’s salad that has been absolutely smothered in ranch dressing. I’m now not only annoyed with the guy, I’m grossed out.
Elimination Challenge: They head to the Samsung arena which resembles the CGS arena a bit, and have a Rock Band 2 guitar battle against each other on projector screens, to the Offspring’s Come Out and Play. Long story short, Robert destroys JD. It wasn’t even close. That’s what happens when you can’t keep a multiplier in Rock Band though.
The Afterthoughts: I don’t know if I was the only person to notice it, but this show manages to make every single competitor completely unlikable. By the end of the episode, I was even mad at Adande… Wow. That is truly a feat to be impressed by.
I’m worried that the run of the mill screwball antics of reality competitions will take over the gaming competition on Ultimate Gamer, and after one episode, that’s not a good impression. Still, my boy Adande seems to be off to a good start, so at least that is going for him. I will say, if Robert or Ciji aren’t eliminated soon, I’m going to find it almost impossible to continue watching. Perhaps it’s just the editing, or the producer’s puppeteer hands, but after the first episode I can’t stand either of them. Between Robert’s shadiness, ego and attitude, and Ciji’s drama, crying, and ability to make the girl gamer stereotype look valid, I don’t know which one I want to see eliminated first.
I don’t know if I was the only person to notice it, but this show manages to make every single competitor completely unlikable. By the end of the episode, I was even mad at Adande… Wow. That is truly a feat to be impressed by. Next week, the players will be playing Virtua Fighter 5, which should put Jamal and Adande in the spotlight. The preview states that the competitors begin to turn on each other, but that is already happening, and putting that into a preview is like them telling me that Ciji will cry in the second episode… It doesn’t have to be implied, it’s obvious and inevitable.
Make sure to tune in to the Sci-Fi channel on Tuesday night to see more of your favorite gaming stereotypes either be strongly implied or just flat out cemented. See ya.