Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Tester: "Egoraptor"

"The Tester" makes me mad, more than a Reality show should.

Reality TV is, by its definition a hollow, bitter creature, a frankenstein assembled after the fact in the misguided attempt by producers and editors to make something "interesting". They make people out to be demons for our amusement. They toy with the hopes of participants who perhaps aren't aware of the backstage machinations already in play to make them fall before the stage is even set.

We, as a people, have decided we are okay with that. Despite the fact that the whole point of "Reality" television is that it's supposed to be... you know, REAL. Or real-er than, say, an episode of Cheers. They manipulate the order of things to make artificial conflict, because some sleazebag in a suit believes that's the only way to make "real life" interesting.

...Which the inexplicable success of cake shows has proven that no, that's bullshit, we really will watch any culturally worthless garbage, even if it doesn't have drama or shouting. If fiction uses lies to tell the truth, reality tv abuses the truth to tell bullshit.

See, there are several kinds of Reality shows, and simply calling them fake is oversimplifying it. They come in several forms:

  • -The obviously fake, scripted kind.
  • -The subtly fake, scripted kind.
  • -The subtly real, staged kind.
  • -& the kind that don't exist.

Some shows are just sitcoms in everything but name. Others roll the dice and are legitimate, but are edited after-the-fact to paint a different picture. I think, on the whole we are okay with the idea of a reality tv show embellishing for dramatic purpose, so long as it knows which of those categories it wants to be, and is consistent about it. "Murder In Small Town X" was a whodunit framed as a Reality show, despite the fact that nobody is stupid enough to believe a game show could get away with murdering its losing contestants. But it was entertainment, and it was consistent about the facade.

People don't like being lied to, but what they hate even worse is when they find out they're being lied to. I think we can all accept that a world leader has to lie to do his job right. As long as his actions(or inaction) don't betray the illusion that he's good for the world. Even if in the back of our heads we know he's full of crap, a liar can at least be convincing.

My problem with "The Tester"(NOW he gets to the point) is not the fact that it greatly underestimates its audience. It's not the fact that it glamorizes one of the more hellish professions in the world, a routine location for human rights violations that amount to gray FPS games about bald space marines behind cover. It's not the fact that it's completely dishonest and unfair to the cast, who came here with hopes of breaking into an impenetrable industry that they genuinely care for. It's not the fact that there is no transparency into how eliminations are decided, unlike American Idol or Survivor, which purport to be decided by democracy.

I hate "The Tester" because it failed to maintain the illusion that it was something better than itself. And it COULD HAVE! It's not bad enough that it's condescending, it's lazy too!

For two episodes, it maintained that illusion. I could suspend my disbelief enough. It earned points by keeping the number of truly despicable, annoying contestants to a bare minimum, a stark contrast to every other Reality show which seems to pull from Jerry Springer's audience. I LIKE these guys and gals. I understand their frustration with a rigged game, and when certain contestants were let go, the reasons for their departure made sense according to their actions.

People complained in the first episode that "AshiChan"(Ashphord Jacoway) should have stayed. The goal of their challenge was to hold up well during a "job application" interview, while in a box with roaches crawling all over you. She did not have the most disastrous interview, not by a long shot. But the point of a job interview is to leave an impression, ANY impression, even a bad one. So long as the person interviewing you remembers you later. She's the only one they couldn't even remember. That was fair.

The second contestant to be kicked out was in a heated tie with the most despised contestant on the show so far. But honestly, they need that annoying incompetent in their ranks. Being a QA tester sometimes involves working with the useless and the incompetent, and anyone who can't handle that rightly deserves to be kicked out.

It was when they gave "Egoraptor" the boot that the facade came crashing down. The "judges" weren't really calling the shots. It wasn't about merit, performance or team-cohesion. It wasn't even a popularity contest. Santa Claus isn't real, there is no God, the policeman is not your friend, nice guys finish last, we are specks of dust in a cold and uncaring universe where chaos reigns supreme.

And the thing is, Egoraptor ("Arin Hanson"), to be fair did screw up that interview in the first episode. He, like everyone else was so excited to be there that I think he just kind of forgot WHY he was there. He sure as hell remembered when they confronted him about it, and it looked as if they saw his head was on the right track for it. I liked to believe they gave him a chance for that, and not because of the obvious fact that he's the only reason anyone knew this show exists. Anyone who has seen "Sequelitis" will tell you this guy knows video games better than most people working in the industry today.

But in the third episode, they booted him out, and for the first time their reasoning doesn't line up with the facts(or at least, how they were presented). Here's the basic rundown of events:

The teams are catapulting melons at targets(no, I don't know how this relates to video games or QA testing either). Egoraptor is the first to hit his mark. Another contestant is having trouble, so he goes back to acquire more "ammo", since he sees she's having trouble. She's not happy with the encouragement and the shouting, and admits she worked better when they left her alone and hit her target.

Then they kick him out for "being on the losing team three times"... Except that's not really his fault, he wasn't the catalyst or even instigator of their problems. And when other contestants got kicked out for placing blame on others, he was humble about it. Most of them were.

So why is he gone? How does that make any sense? Who decides this? If it was the judges' decision, then it is completely inconsistent with the way they handled the last two episodes. If it's decided by marketing or some backstage producer politics, then it's just plain stupid, because he's the most popular character on the show. Nobody is going to give a rat's ass about The Tester after this, so I don't buy the idea of him being booted to help ratings.

If it's real, the judges are morons. If it's fake, then the producers are morons. SOMEBODY killed the fantasy.

See, THAT'S the problem lying at the core of this show. It's not that it's dishonest or unfair. It's that it doesn't even follow its own logic! That inconsistency is the worst part of "The Tester". And that's saying something about a show that made the cast dress up like clowns in a parking lot, in a vaguely Twisted Metal-inspired challenge.

To be honest though, I look at these people and I feel bad for them. They obviously hope this will lead to better things for them, but they have no idea what's in store for them. It's the opposite of a regular reality show: the prize is being released. This show will have 11 winners and one loser. It's the only game you win by losing. And frankly, maybe Ego wouldn't have been cut out for the hands-on testing stuff anyway(he's more about the big-picture, underlying structure of games instead of the crust).

But the fact that they made such pathetic reasons to kick out their starring player is what gets me. It is incomprehensible. It's not even greedy. It defies explanation. It is a baffling event that leaves only questions in its wake:

If they really believed these people were worth hiring, why didn't they just do that instead of jerking everybody around? Did they have to do be this demeaning and contradictory about it? Is it any wonder the Playstation 3 is the laughing stock of the video game industry?

Where do the guys who let the PSN hacking fiasco happen get off saying SOMEONE ELSE screwed up?

I remember this guy giving some very good advice on a Mega Man fan-game I was a part of. If any company needed Egoraptor, it's Sony. I know it's futile to complain about something like this, especially considering this company is incapable of doing anything right. But that doesn't mean I can't be mad. Unlike Sony or "The Tester", I really do believe everyone on that show will amount to something one day.



1 comment:

  1. Fantastic analysis and I couldn't agree more. The judges hardly feel like they're forming their own sentences, let alone deciding whether or not an aspiring individual's moment in front of a camera becomes a pivotal event in their life or a shameful memory on national television. Arin handled it like a champ, though.