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The Quest - Just Me and the Captain — LiveJournal

Jul. 31st, 2014

10:24 pm - The Quest

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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.

Comments:

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From:sovay
Date:August 1st, 2014 02:48 am (UTC)
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Maybe the producers thought real LARPers (I know plenty tried out) might out-think them...frankly, a real possibility.

That would be hilarious. I'd watch that.
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 1st, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
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I suspect that if any of the PCs really did go "off script" they would have halted the game, reeled them back in, and continue their passive, uninteresting original course of action. Still I was shocked at some of their decisions: when a monster comes out of the woods and drags one of their NPC guides away, they all decide to flee instead of fight. Now granted, they didn't have any weapons, but they outnumbered him 14 to one and they had the almighty Sunspear (albeit broken in a dozen pieces)...they could have taken him. I suspect GM intervention...bad GM intervention.
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From:ron_newman
Date:August 1st, 2014 04:47 am (UTC)
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- So I'm talking on my blog about a LARP

by "my blog" do you mean this LJ, or some other blog (and if so, where?)
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 1st, 2014 12:03 pm (UTC)
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Nothing else. It was a self-referential statement.
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 2nd, 2014 03:40 am (UTC)
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So I had a twitter conversation with the producers this afternoon (which I'd link to except for the fact that Twitter sucks) and they clarified one important aspect of the show. Apparently, there is no monetary prize for the ONE TRUE HERO (TM). If this is indeed true (and I'm not sure I believe them), I don't think I can adequately convey how shocking this is. To my knowledge, a competitive reality show without a cash prize is totally unprecedented! Now, I'm sure this opens a whole other can of worms regarding union issues, but that's for another discussion someday.

So now we've achieved narrative and strategic consistency, but this renders the whole elimination aspect totally superfluous. Still, I think this makes it a slightly better show, but the fact that the only way I knew this fact was to personally ask the producers directly is a major failing. This really needs to be conveyed by the narrator at the beginning.
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From:antoniusrex
Date:August 4th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC)
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Wait Whaaaaaa??? REALLY? They're asking for folks to come out for about a month, eventually get cuthroat (they'll have to to win under their elimination rules) with zero compensation? Just for the fun and honor of it all?

I call bullshit. Seriously. For that you could have sent out a general casting call for actors with gaming experience who were willing to come out and participate for the exposure--or you know--JUST FILM A DAMN FANTASY MINISERIES.

I think you've said in much more eloquent terms than I could on FB is that the show doesn't know what it wants to be. If they wanted a REAL reality show meets larp, they would have done better by having folks play a character, have people maneuver around each other trying to win and just film what happens.

What they have instead is a clonky fantasy RPG video game with what appears to be a bunch of really half assed themed (but really cool) mini-quests linked together by a really impressive set of cut scenes.

It's funny, as bad as it was in places, Murder In Small Town X got it more right--not all information was given to the whole group--sometimes just one or two people--there were encounters to make it feel real, albeit over the top at times. Thus far, in The Quest, there ain't been none of that...zip. Infodump! Lock you in a room and allow you to introduce yourselves. INFODUMP of Bad Guy? Mean Guy? Obstacle? Here's your room. Barely hidden Challenge! Vote, bad cutscene.

Also, seriously, why don't we know the rules? Even if it is "You compete, you follow the plot, you eliminate!" or something. Honestly, not knowing what the "rules" are, I feel if they changed how someone gets voted out next week, it'd be totally game, and I'd still be going "Huh?"

Seriously, did they all forget this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMWU7c34YNI

Or forget that this just happened ON THEIR OWN NETWORK:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80OXXnRxsRM

OK, I'm going to shut up now. I really have lost all coherence. :-D
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 4th, 2014 10:43 pm (UTC)
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I hope you keep watching just so I get to experience your reactions :)
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From:cricket_pg
Date:August 2nd, 2014 06:49 pm (UTC)
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I didn't know this existed until you posted about it on FB, so thanks for that. I know you're going to watch it, but would you recommend it to others? Should I go look up the premiere?
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 4th, 2014 10:50 pm (UTC)
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Huh, that's a strangely difficult question for me to answer. I mean, it's only an hour of your life, so while I'm sure there are better things you could be doing, you could say that about nearly anything.

It is, at the very least, very pretty. The real fantasy is what I could do with a LARP if I had a $1,000,000+ budget. But to see that, you have to wince at some bad "acting" (this brings up the philosophical conundrum of if you're playing yourself in an unreal situation, is it called acting?). I'm not sure I'd recommend it to everyone I know, but in your case, I think it's worth seeing the first episode and evaluating for yourself.
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From:foldedfish
Date:August 4th, 2014 12:31 am (UTC)
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The Otherworlders are not going to disagree with your statement about LARPing as yourself, because Otherworld doesn't pitch itself as "a LARP" or even consider itself "a LARP", in part because you're mostly playing yourself. Otherworld is an experiential adventure that uses many of the same techniques and activities as a LARP, but it isn't one.
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From:gee_tar
Date:August 4th, 2014 10:53 pm (UTC)
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I'm sure the producers of "The Quest" would describe their show in the same exact terms.
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