I'm Ahmet Zappa, and welcome to...
AIR DATES: 1999
CREATOR: MTV & Spiderdance
HOST: Ahmet Zappa
(Cannot find video for it; sorry)
I can remember a time when bar trivia was NOT hosted by actual humans. A
company called NTN took their "QB1" tech, used so Sunday bar-goers could
predict what plays were going to occur, and made it a 24/7 thing with
games like "Playback", "Showdown" and "Topix". Hell, one of the games -
"Decades" - actually help find contestants for an early GSN original
series. It has since evolved into including poker and blackjack to
better your score. But, in the waning days of music videos on MTV, they
decided it was time for the viewer - sitting with one eye on the TV and
the other on their bulky CRT monitor - to get in on the trivia action.
Enter "webRIOT", MTV's first computer-interactive game show, where
videos were shown and questions about the video, song and/or artist.
Four 18-to-25-year-olds played in a studio while everyone else
downloaded a program to connect to a server to play against each other
to last a fair amount of time at the end of the century...but the show
proved that nothing was more boring than WATCHING people playing what
was essentially a video game.
HOW WAS IT PLAYED?
Four young adults - who only go by screen names - are suspended in
chairs in a studio with the host talking to them via a large screen.
Several videos were played on the screen. During the video, the host
asks a question with four possible answers. The players lock-in an
answer when they think they know it. The faster they lock-in, the more
points they earn. Over time, wrong answers are eliminated until only the
right answer remains. Right answers add points (up to 250 for answering
right away) and LOSE points for wrong answers. After all videos are
played for the round, the player with the least amount of points is
This round is played exactly like the first round, save the points are
doubled, meaning that even one who barely escaped elimination can
catch-up. Again, after a certain number of videos are player, the
trailing player is eliminated.
The remaining two players compete in two minutes of questions, usually
centered around recognizing an artist or a video frame that had been
manipulated in a way. The first one to lock-in an answer is the only one
effected. A right answer gains the player 1000 points, while a wrong
answer deducts 500 points. At the end of two minutes, the player with
more points is the winner and gets a prize, usually a trip.
webRIOT was one of the first shows to allow viewers at home to
participate. By downloading a program that connects you to third-party
servers, a viewer could log-in to a free account and play along with the
same point rewards and consequences as the players in the studio as well
has hundreds or even thousands of people online. Best scores were even
shown on screen at the end of the show.
Admittedly, for a show nearly at the end of music on "Music Television",
the idea had some merit. NTN was starting to explode in bars around the
country so...why not make a version for those who don't LIKE going to
bars? And, as a last gasp to keep videos ON the channel, have them
rotate AROUND videos. It worked. Not for very LONG, mind, but it DID
Ahmet Zappa had earlier been on a pseudo-game show called "Happy Hour"
on USA (think of it as the US version of "Nevermind the Buzzcocks") and
parlayed it into a pretty good hosting job here. He, himself, was in his
mid-20s and could identify with the contestants AND the viewers. He
joked when he needed to joke and was serious when he had to be...which,
thankfully, wasn't that often. He was having fun for just being a face
on a projection TV.
The bottom line of the show wasn't really about the game itself but the
interactivity. The internet was starting to go beyond IRC and chat rooms
and emerge into graphical interface and web pages. MTV was showing the
country that the internet could be used for fun contests between people
from coast-to-coast. Sure, they were mostly on dial-up back then but,
hey, you gotta start SOMEwhere.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
The only downside I can think of is that, for those JUST watching and
NOT on a computer, this was not the most riveting of shows. As stated,
this was kind of like a coast-to-coast multiplayer video game, like
Ultima Online. But if your internet was faulty or slow, it gets
frustrating and all you can do is watch. And WATCHING people play video
games got boring in the late 90s when arcades started to disappear from
the US. No one wanted to watch this game CLEARLY made for interactivity
when they couldn't, well, interact.
WOULD IT WORK TODAY?
To a point? Yeah, I think so. But...not on TV. Something like this could
be relegated to a Facebook game or the like. People have MMOs up the
wazoo to choose from these days. Plus, they're more interested in
fragging people around the globe than participating in trivia contests.
But, as a casual game like an app for a phone or tablet? There MIGHT be
some nostalgia points to consider there. After all, not EVERYONE has
forgotten about music videos.
NEXT TIME: Where
knowledge is king and lady luck...is jacked up!
Chris Wolvie's tried to start a web riot...but was only able to
produce a web minor disturbance.
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