A trend across media at the moment, perhaps largely underground, is the construction of works whose primary goal is to take certain subject matters, concepts, or structures to their logical conclusions, and in this practice have a sort of meta-level conversation with the audience. The Reality Event: Game is very much in this vein. The show takes the concept of a TV broadcast gameshow and elevates it to its sociopathic extreme.
And rather than offer any direct opinions regarding this concept, Game seems more concerned with making its audience feel. And what you do feel, for the most part, is discomfort. Whether it’s the horrific imagery of a dildo with thumbtacks on it, or the vile smoothie-creation segment, or the part with all the milk—yeah, Game is gonna make you squirm. And this is a good thing. After all, gameshows are a form of entertainment that traditionally profit off other people’s discomfort and misfortune. It’s a genre that operates, for the most part, on a currency of schadenfreude. Punishment and reward, with the audience gazing on from in front of their TV screens at home.
But in Game it’s different. You’re in the space but you’re not. You’re closer than you are when you watch TV, but you’re not that close. And this creates a sort of emotional dysmorphia as you’re asked to pick another side the moment your designated contestant loses and is punished by The Wheel of Shame—and sure enough, without a second thought you jump aboard someone else’s train, just like you do when you’re watching Masterchef. Because deep down the audience loves the losses as much as they love the wins—it’s a strange sense of selective empathy, and Game really latches onto that constructed feeling and dives deep down into it, whether the audience knows it or not.
But for all its thematic successes I had some problems with the show’s execution, largely regarding the performers. Some of the cast play themselves as very self-referential, mentioning previous times that they’ve played these gameshow segments together. For instance they reference the time one of them punched the other, the time one of them vomited, and so on. If all the characters did this, it wouldn’t be so problematic—but then there are those onstage who keep a straight and serious face the whole time, clearly intent on playing a role. I found this contrast more cheapening of the experience more than I’d have liked—and often the show felt to me like just a bunch of friends having a crazy time together, rather than a constructed, purposeful piece.
But then again, at the end of the day Game is fun. It is. And maybe its unstructured nature is functioning as a sorta counterpoint to the show’s other half, Suicide, which I’ll be seeing next week. And maybe the sick feeling in my stomach followed by the grin on my face was enough, because I was truly in the moment then, even if after that moment was over I felt the show holding up that little bit less.