Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Game shows

As you may know, I like game shows. Why else would I do them at cons? So let's talk about game shows at cons, whether certain formats work or not. It'll be a fun post and maybe a long one.

To start off, Greggo is the master of game shows at cons. I'm totally convinced that if Greggo lived in Los Angeles (my former home of 2 months) and had the right connections, he could host a game show on national TV. He is eons better than Drew Carey at The Price Is Right and simply the best at what he does.

When I met Greggo at Aoi Uma Con, obviously I would have loved to have talked to him for hours and picked his brain. But in the few minutes I talked to him, I made it clear that my goal is not to compete with him. He makes a living through what he does, so if I were to suddenly turn into Bill Cullen and become the premier game show guy for anime conventions, he'd be out of a job. But that's not my goal, so he has nothing to worry about from me.

I do the game shows I do for several reasons. One of course is my own enjoyment. Two is pushing myself to put effort into something and proving that I can do something well if I try at it. And three is to entertain the con audience and give away something to someone so they feel like they got something out of the con. That's why I always give out prizes, save for at the disastrous final Erie Anime Experience where I had the prizes to give out, but circumstances prevented me from doing so.

Interactivity at cons is key. Lecture-style panels at cons are only really good if you care about the subject. For example, I did panels on Tenchi Muyo and Full Metal Panic in 2012, which were in lecture-style, save for a bit of a poll I did on which Tenchi girl was everyone's favorite (Ryoko won both times). I highly doubt there were many people who came to those panels who weren't fans of the series I talked about. And that's the way it is with lots of stuff. Very rarely are you going to see the person like me who sits through a Kingdom Hearts panel without knowing a thing about the series. I'm one of those weird people who likes to learn something new. But most people aren't going to do that.

So anyway, the point is that you must have interactive panels and lots of them. Game shows are of course one of those interactive types of panels. The audience must be able to play along, even if they can't shout out the answers. And it always helps if the audience has a rooting interest with the contestants at hand; no better example of that can I think of than Hetalia Survivor at Colossalcon, where the crowd got behind certain countries and did not want them to get voted out.

But some formats of interactivity are better than others. And some formats of game shows are better than others. Let's go format-by-format of what I've seen at cons, and how they work.


Just because you want to run Anime Jeopardy doesn't mean you should. In fact, Anime Jeopardy is often one of the worst game shows at cons because people treat it as a straight-up trivia game, instead of like the actual show. Jeopardy, believe it or not, is not simply answers-and-questions. The clues are written in such a format that there are multiple ways to come up with the correct response. Often when playing Wii Jeopardy with my sister and brother-in-law, we'll groan when a certain category comes up, but then end up answering the majority of the clues because of the hints given in the clues.

The worst Anime Jeopardy I've seen... wow. You know what, I've seen a lot of bad Anime Jeopardys. The first one I saw was probably the worst. It was at Ohayocon 2010, the con that had the most game shows in one. All 3 people had negative points at the end of Double Jeopardy because the questions were so obscure, I believe. And then the Final Jeopardy question was something so obscure that not even Google could get it right. Ignoring the fact that it wasn't even in answer-and-question format, it was just plain awful. At the end, it was like "everyone gets Pocky" and everyone laughed it off, except me.

Ohayocon 2011 had a pretty awful one as well, where no one knew the answers. Ohayocon 2012 had one where the panelist didn't show up, so it was run by the seat of the pants, and predictably awful. Colossalcon 2011 had a pretty bad one, simply because the clues were all on notecards and thus no one in the audience knew what they were. Tekkoshocon 2012 probably had the best one I've ever seen, which isn't saying much. But the questions were at least to the point that people could get them right.

I've done Jeopardy three times. My first time was a poor performance, at Erie Anime Experience 2010. I didn't realize the importance of lock-out buzzers, and I also made the questions too hard. As a result, I decided to turn off negative points for the match. Then that led to the one girl raising her hand before I finished every question, to her advantage. The crowd was sparse, no one knew Final Jeopardy, it was a disaster. I learned a lot from that experience.

Erie Anime Experience 2011 I redeemed myself by bringing along Classroom Jeopardy. By using that, I was not only able to have lockout buzzers, but I actually had 12 people playing at the same time, on 6 teams of 2. This led to lots of correct answers. Plus I had spiced up the categories with stuff such as "Game Shows" and clues such as "Ichigo has 60 seconds to defeat Grimmjow"... "What is Minute to Win It?" As you can see, you didn't need to know a thing about anime to know that response, just basic knowledge of a popular show on TV at the time. Unfortunately, I made the Final Jeopardy too hard again, although one person almost got the first one right (they spelled the word wrong, but with the wrong first letter, Pakkun instead of Takkun, which makes a world of a difference). It was a tournament where the 3 teams of 2 that finished with the most points got to move on to the second game and play 1-on-1-on-1-on-1-on-1-on-1 for the championship. A Russia cosplayer won it all.

Erie Anime Experience 2012 was a disaster because no one showed up for the show. I had to go out in the halls and beg people to come in, and even then I didn't have enough people to play. Eventually I got enough people to play and the show went on. I actually had to have my friend play because there weren't enough players (I wanted 6). Then in the second game, I had two trolls who purposely answered every question wrong in order to build up as many negative points as the scoreboard would allow. But with no contestant choice, what could I do? The only redeeming thing about the game was when Richard Epcar and Ellyn Stern came into the room and saw categories about... themselves! So they ended up playing along. Probably the only time I'll ever get guests to play one of my game shows.

In short, Jeopardy is not for the faint-hearted. Don't run it unless you know how to play it.


Until Greggo started his My Little Pony version of Wheel of Fortune, this game was unheard of at cons. And I've still never seen anyone run it besides myself.

To play Wheel of Fortune, you can't just play Hangman. You've got to have a wheel, either computerized or real. My dad built me a wheel which I decorated with removable wedges and glitter and all. That way, gameplay was exactly as the real show.

To be honest, my first Wheel of Fortune playing at Colossalcon 2011 couldn't have gone much better, except for the contestant choice. The contestants simply did not know the alphabet, calling vowels when they should call consonants, and buying consonants when they should buy vowels. One contestant was so scared of spinning Bankrupt that he asked me if he could "pass." I should have told him that he could, indeed, pass, simply by solving the puzzle incorrectly (there was no time limit in the main game, so he couldn't run out of time). The wheel ended up breaking off one of the nails that separated the spaces after the third game, so I was forced to give the players the higher amount (and between $5,000 and Bankrupt, guess what they would choose?). But all in all, it went well, and I was very faithful to the show. Unfortunately, like Bleach Survivor and my Anime Jeopardys, it is lost to time since I did not own a camcorder at the time.

At Erie Anime Experience 2012, the last thing I would ever do at an Erie Anime Experience was host this game show, and while it went well, due to a mishap, I couldn't give out prizes, making the spinning portion of the game pointless. Hardly anyone showed up, too.

This is a good idea for a game show at cons because it requires very little knowledge to get things right (for example, Before and After: "Lucky Star Driver"). Eventually someone's going to get the puzzle. I wish more cons used it.


Before I did my own version of this show, I saw two versions of it in 2009, at Colossalcon and Matsuricon. The Colossalcon one was simply "which of these four answers is correct," but the Matsuricon one added lots of spice, with music and lifelines. Later, I'd see one at Matsuricon 2010 which had all the trappings; it was the best-run one I'd ever seen.

I did my own way back at Erie Anime Experience 2009, calling it "Who Wants to Win 10,000 Yen." The goal was for players to win $100 if they got all 15 questions right, with a money ladder of $1-$2-$3-$4-$5-$10-$15-$20-$25-$30-$35-$40-$50-$75-$100. The problem with this was that it was way too easy to win a lot of money. Even with difficult questions, two people won $25 each. That was for not even reaching the second milestone! There were simply not enough lifelines to help the contestants; even with all 3 lifelines, most contestants got stuck between questions 7 and 10. One contestant managed to use up all his lifelines in the first 4 questions and get a bit of help from the audience on question 5 to escape with $5. It went well, though I think I could have done a better job of writing questions. In addition, the projector didn't show answers C or D on the screen, forcing contestants to look off my computer screen instead of up at the projector.

As long as you've got the iconic music and effective lifelines, this can be a fun show. Without the trappings, though, it's boring.


I only saw this once at a con, at Matsuricon 2009, and my memories of it are very vague. I think I remember mainly that the show did not have enough to do with anime/fandom, and thus was a little weird.

I want to run this at a con, provided Greggo's not running it. I think it can be done right and can also be a lot of fun.


I've seen Greggo run this twice, and he did it Super Password-style. Of course, he was excellent at it. But it only works because it's Super Password/Password Plus style. If it was simply figuring out passwords (for example: Bleach), people would be lost. You need the five passwords to solve the password puzzle.


I only saw this once at a con, and it was predictably horrible. The thing about Hollywood Squares is that the fun of the show comes from the celebrities making jokes. If you've just got 9 random people up there holding up X's & O's, along with super-hard questions, you've got a disaster on your hands.


I've seen two playings of this, a Greggo playing at Colossalcon 2012 and the infamous "Kentucky Jelly" playing at Ohayocon 2011. Greggo's playing had actual guests from the con, and was very faithful to the show. It was entertaining and fun to watch.

The "Kentucky Jelly" playing is known for an answer one of the panelists gave, to a question I don't remember. All I remember is that answer... "Kentucky Jelly." For whatever reason, I thought it was hilarious... and I still do. That being said, having six random people as your panelists giving whatever ridiculous answer they want, and thus never having a single match, doesn't really work very well. You need to have actual guests to make this one work, as Greggo's did.


The only playing of this that I saw had Greggo's computer unfortunately break down and thus make the dragon take 10 minutes to appear. I'm not familiar with the format, either, as I've never actually seen the show.


The people who put on the disastrous Ohayocon 2010 Anime Jeopardy did a show called "Win the Dunce's DVDs." It was actually pretty entertaining, as a girl named Brio won. I'm not sure really how to make this format work, but from what I saw, it wasn't half bad.


Greggo's playing of this show at Colossalcon 2012 was the best game show I've ever seen at a con. About as exciting and fantastic as the real thing. I can't recommend anyone doing this unless they know The Price Is Right well and have the format down right. Plus, you need a gigantic budget. What if every single person wins? You've got to prepare for that. You're already giving away at least 6 prizes at minimum.


I've only ever seen Greggo do this, so it's been excellent. I don't know how the other guys do it and whether their format is faithful to the show. I know this one is a popular one for people to run at cons. Personally, I wouldn't ever do it because Greggo does it. Plus it can be really expensive.

Okay, I've run out of gas. That's all the formats I can think of that I've seen at cons (not counting my Survivor, which is a different animal). Name That Tune requires a whole different post altogether, I could write a ton on that and I'm out of energy on this post. Basically, a rule of thumb: if Greggo does it, it's gonna be good. If not, throw caution to the wind.
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