“WCG Ultimate Gamer” returns for another round

Season Two looks to knock out the “gamer” stereotype … as well as zombies and ninjas.

By Emily Mitchell

If that word is familiar to you, then you either:
a) are a gamer
b) have an extremely close relative or friend who is a gamer
c) have been called this before (most likely by a gamer)
d) never want it to be spoken again. (as does the author of this piece.)

Yes, video gaming (and its lingo), has become a massive pop culture and economic phenomenon, and SyFy Channel’s WCG Ultimate Gamer chronicles it all.

The show is a combination of the Real World/ Road Rules Challenge and videogames. Twelve contestants (6 men and 6 women) live in a house together while competing against one another in both physical and video gaming challenges to become ‘The WCG Ultimate Gamer’, a title that includes $100,000 in cash, an “ultimate” Samsung electronics package, Alienware High-Performance gaming desktop called “The Aurora’, and the chance to represent at the World Cyber Games (aka the WCG).

My first, and strong, reaction when I found out there was even a game show centered around video games was, “Nerd Alert!” But that is exactly what this show is trying to disprove. In fact, there are some bonafide “hotties” on the show, who seem to be somewhat normal. But let’s be real … not everyone on a show about video games can be normal. Which is GREAT, because it makes for some entertaining TV. However, the show is out to break stereotypes. “I think that the industry has shifted and I think shows like Ultimate Gamer help the perception of who a gamer is actually shift away from that negative stereotype,” says Hannah Simone, Ultimate Gamer host. Adds her co-host Joel Gourdin, “I’m glad that people get to see gamers like this instead of robots who have no life. I think that’s offensive. I think gamers come in all shapes and sizes and creeds, and it’s ridiculous to pigeonhole them.”

These people are passionate; borderline obsessed, with video games and the strategy of gaming. Some are professionals, with many “titles” under their belts. Some already know each other from gaming tournaments. The reality-show element of the cast mates living together gives the show the human perspective of video gaming’s cyber world. Viewers get to learn about the contestants’ lives through constant camera recording and a confessional room a la The Real World.

But it’s not just about the contestants that makes WCG Ultimate Gamer an interesting show. So you may not be into video gaming …surprisingly, this show will keep your attention and keep you entertained. A few reasons: the quality of the production of WCG Ultimate Gamer is top notch. Executive producer and co-creator of WCG Dwight Smith says that quality is one of the most impressive things about WCG. “We really strived on this show to create a unique look to keep our production value extremely high and to make it look special and different and stand out.”

Aside from quality, the show’s concept with many outlets for competition and drama give the show extra dimension. Every episode, contestants participate in team and individual challenges determine their ranking among each other that week. The physical challenges are themed after a selected video game that is featured throughout the episode (which happens to be Tekken Six, for all you combat game fans). Then, each contestant plays the selected video game in a solitary chamber to finalize rankings. The weakest player is sent to the elimination round, while the highest ranked player must choose the opponent in the elimination gaming round. The weakest and chosen contestants then must face one another in Samsung Stadium, a truly tricked-out stage complete with massive video screens, lights, and stages.

The eight-episode show will garner a varied audience— gamers, techies, and reality show fans. But when it comes down to it, the video game is the king, according to executive producer and co-creator Michael Agbabian. “I think gaming is such a massive part of our pop culture and so many people play games, it eclipses television and film in terms of revenue and all sorts of other things, yet people seem to forget. If there’s anything that we can do on this show other than to entertain, I would love to show the world that gamers are not what people think they are.”

WCG Ultimate Gamer premieres tonight, Thursday, August 19, 11pm ET on SyFy.