on Feb 6, 2012
Warning. This video is really hard to watch. See how far you can make it. This is a series of highlights from the IGN reality show Game Boss.
For those of you who didn’t watch, here is the gist: This is a reality show where a bunch of college-age kids (a female or two is shown in the intro, but in the rest of the presentation it’s all males) are offered free office space and tools. They’re given the chance to compete against each other for a prize which is never mentioned or explained. In this segment, their teams are tasked with coming up with a concept for a boss fight. The cameras are rolling in their brainstorming sessions and we see them say a lot of crude, sexist, or obnoxious things, interspersed with some of their painfully juvenile gameplay ideas.
This culminates with a group of kids who pitch a game based around the “feminist apocalypse”, where men have been lured into prison camps with promises of beer and sex and are ruled by their angry feminist overlords. The boss fight is against a woman in menopause. There’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to watch it yourself if you want to get the full picture. You have to hear them pitch this idea with a complete lack of self-awareness and without a hint of irony before you can begin to map out the awfulness.
Now, keep in mind we’re looking at this through multiple layers of editing. IGN cut this to make their show, but then this YouTube user came along and did a certain degree of editorializing through editing. They looped moments where people laughed at awful, cringe-inducing misogyny. They no doubt left out moments that undercut their point. Still, I think the tone is unambiguous enough that we can make some broad statements about the show.
When I first saw this clip, I was initially horrified at the kids who came up with these ideas. But as I’ve thought about it more, I’ve come to suspect that the real rage needs to be directed at IGN.
Game Boss devoutly follows the techniques passed down by the most lazy, trashy reality shows.
- From the auditioning pool, be sure to select contestants who are loud, opinionated, arrogant, crude, impulsive, emotional, melodramatic, self-absorbed, or exceptionally ignorant.
- Arrange these groups to maximize friction and get these personalities to bounce off of each other as much as possible.
- Place the contestants in situations to maximize stress, resentment, and interpersonal conflict.
- Agitate them with leading questions and situations, encouraging them to assign blame, be defensive, avoid reconciliation, and harbor grudges.
- Record everything they say. Then edit those hours of footage down to the twenty-odd minutes that show these defective people at their worst. Highlight conflict and offense, thus turning the show into an inter-personal cockfight. The home viewer can laugh at the apparent stupidity of the contestants, or enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing these “lesser” people subjected to misery and scorn.
It’s a manufactured tale of gossip and half-truths, and it’s disgusting and unhealthy for both the participants and the viewers. Reality shows don’t HAVE to be made this way, of course. Some shows take the high road. But IGN’s reality show seems set on doing for games what MTV’s shows did for music: Depict its own fans and culture as worthless and grotesque.
This could have been a wonderful chance to find the next Johnathan Blow, Markus Persson, 2D Boy, Eric Chahi, or Nuclear Monkey. They could have looked for some idealist or innovator and given them a bit of money and fame to launch their career. Instead they chose to round up a bunch of man-children and have us laugh at them. Sure, the guys deserve blame for coming up with this stuff, but let the record show that IGN claimed the “feminist apocalypse” was the best idea. Shouldn’t the adults know better?
Note at the beginning that they were going to make a boss fight in a “hybrid game genre” picked at random, yet in this clip we’re never shown what they picked. How much of this juvenile tone was set by the people behind the cameras? Were the guys encouraged by IGN to go after “edgy” topics? Did these kids leap off the cliff on their own, or did IGN instruct them to stand on the edge and do a dance?
I won’t defend what these kids said, but I will say I’m glad nobody was standing around, recording everything that came out of my mouth when I was twenty.
IGN has long been a source of poison to the industry. It’s a vapid, grating display of advertisements wrapped around a rotten core of review-score prostitution. I know it’s easy to dismiss this latest affront to our hobby simply because only a fool would expect IGN to behave differently. Perhaps that’s true. But I still think it’s worth noting when a new low is attained.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.