David Olsen (gee_tar) wrote,
David Olsen

The Quest

So I'm talking on my blog about a LARP called "The Quest" and, weirdly, I'm not talking about a game at Wesleyan, Pomfret, or one our other traditional sites with my friends. No, I'm talking about the latest reality television series on ABC...and it's terrible. Now, in my opinion, all reality shows are LARPs, but this one removes all doubt.

Full Disclosure: I tried out for "The Quest" when they had an open casting call a little over a year ago and even got a callback, but never heard anything since then. I'm actually rooting for it. I want it to succeed because 1) I think it might invigorate LARPing as a whole and 2) I want to get on the second season because it looks like a hell of a lot of fun. Unfortunately, I don't think it will finish its first season on broadcast television let alone get a second one (here's hoping I'm wrong).

Of course, the part that I enjoy about LARPing is that I'm, you know, doing it. Watching other people LARP can be fun...but usually isn't. And so now I'm stuck at home watching other people have an adventure I should be on and it's painful. Worse yet, it's boring. The whole thing is a mess from start to finish.

First, let's take the cast. The most important part of any reality show, whether it's the "Real Housewives," "Master Chefs," or anything else, is the cast and this one sucks. For some reason, the producers decided not to take any gamers. Or, if there are gamers on the cast, they sure don't talk about it. They also don't act like any of the gamers that I know (which, granted, is a very small segment of society, but still) so I'm going to out on a limb and say they didn't really cast any. So instead of taking people who spend their spare time creating and playing in imaginary worlds, they took a bunch of people who don't know the first thing about a dungeon crawl. Maybe the producers thought real LARPers (I know plenty tried out) might out-think them...frankly, a real possibility. But these guys are just way too passive to be interesting.

Next, let's talk about the structural problems the show has. For one thing, I don't know any of the rules. Now, it's not as important that I, the viewer, know the rules as it is for the contestants. Nevertheless, the viewers still should have a general idea of what's going on, otherwise they have no way of evaluating what the players are doing. This was the great failure of "The Million Second Quiz" last year and I think it'll be a contributing factor to my predicted downfall "The Quest."

As for the story...it's pretty blah. A big, evil, dark lord is threatening Ever Realm and it needs a brave hero to wield the magical sunspear or something. Not awful, but not very inspired either. I've been in worse games, but also many better ones. Still, staying true to the good ol' fashioned get the Maguffin to defeat the baddie isn't the worst idea they could have. The PCs are...themselves. Now I'll probably get disagreement from the Otherworlders, but I'm not a big fan of LARPs where there isn't any roleplaying per se. At least they have a sequence where they travel from this world to Ever Realm. A sequence with more exposition than anyone knows what to do with, but it's something, I guess.

The real issue I have is the method of elimination at the end. Going through your standard reality show challenge (firing ballistas at an army of straw men) wasn't so bad, but one member of the losing team is now in danger of being disintegrated or something. After discussing it, the other paladins (not the word I would have chosen, but it has some resonance with the twelve peers of Charlemagne so I won't give them too much grief for the nomenclature) then vote on who should stay. And this is the problem: the gaming incentives are directly opposed to the narrative. As a player, I want to eliminate my toughest competition, but that goes against the story where I want to keep the best paladin around to fight Mr. Evil Darklord. The result is that the show feels confused and it doesn't know what it wants to be: an epic battle where ordinary people face overwhelming odds or a more Survivoresque situation where alliances form to secure a contestant's position as winner. Either way is fine, but it can't be both.

Am I still going to watch it? You bet! Do I still want to be on it? Hell YEAH! The production values alone are nothing short of amazing! But I'm not looking forward to watching future episodes with any amount of excited anticipation.
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