Why I created “Strikeout,” and why not every TV game show works as a live event

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Every once in a while a friend or fan will ask me why I haven’t yet done a particular game show, or tell me about a great idea for my next anime game, etc. Most of the time it’s a Nickelodeon game show and it’s really easy to explain why I’ll never do that at a con (here’s a hint…insurance riders are usually involved) but sometimes it’s a game that’s a fantastic television show that in their mind would be just as fantastic on a convention stage.

As someone who used to do Family Feud at anime cons, I can tell you that that’s not always true.

The concept of Feud is great. You take two families, put them on stage, ask a bunch of fun questions and then play along at home, laughing at the dumb answers and yelling what they should have said at the TV. At a live show, however, you can’t yell out those answers…or anything, really. All you can do is watch, and there are no retakes or camera stop-tapes to get that “perfect moment.” What usually happened when I did Feud was I’d ask a question, we’d have the top seven or so answers on the board, and the best the “families” of random congoers could come up with would be two or three answers. It wound up awkward, games would take far too long to get someone to the points, and while the audience was somewhat entertained, they really didn’t do much other than sit on their hands and be reminded constantly not to shout out anything.

I got to thinking that there has to be a way to take the Feud concept and turn it into something that the whole audience could enjoy. “Knockout” (which would later become “Strikeout” thanks to that gang initiation street game of the same name) was the result.

Vetting your contestants takes time. Vetting ten contestants to play as the two families takes a LOT of time. In Strikeout, all the survey answers are always in plain sight, all the time (the teams…who can work as a team at all times, unlike in Feud) simply have to pick out the top seven answers among the twelve answers listed. And the audience can (and are encouraged to) help, which makes them engaged at all times. Because of this, vetting contestants is much easier…so long as they can read and listen, they can play and maybe even win! And we don’t worry about points causing a game to drag on and on…all we care about were which were the top seven, not how many said which one. It’s the perfect way to take all the best parts of Feud’s gameplay and make it into something that everyone can enjoy. While it’s true that you don’t get the “stupid answers” you get on Family Feud, you have to remember that most of these kids I wind up with onstage are shy and nervous, and that stupid answer could turn into a really bad experience for them if the audience reacts a certain way. Remember, an experience that everyone can enjoy is what I’m after when I do these shows. Strikeout is the perfect compromise of taking “Feud” and making it work as a live event using mainly teens and young adults as contestants (and audience).

And if this concept can be applied to other shows that’s fantastic. With Jeopardy!, I compromise by writing categories and clues that the audience loves to see and play along with. It’s not the stodgy old quiz you see on television; it’s actually fun live!

Two games I’ve been asked about more than once are “Who Wants to Be a Millionare?” and “The Chase.” Neither of them are games I think I can turn into fun live experiences. Both of them are essentially “Which answer is the right one?” over and over and over again, and The Chase adds the kind of pressure that I don’t think would work with the audience I typically get. “Sale of the Century” is about as far as I think I can get away with in terms of a more difficult quiz game, and those questions are typically written in a way that the only way you don’t know the answer is if you simply don’t have any experience with the show or actor the question’s about…and I’m trying to get better writing it more like “Blockbusters” where the answer’s pretty obvious if you listen to enough of the question. I don’t see Millionaire or Chase as something I could do live at a fandom convention, but I am working on a concept that’s similar to The Chase but is much more accessible.

At the end of the day I want to make sure everyone is entertained at the events I attend. Youtube audience, I feel similar about you guys, but at the end of the day it’s the live audience that matters most…if it weren’t for them I’d have no audience at all.

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2 thoughts on “Why I created “Strikeout,” and why not every TV game show works as a live event

  1. This was a wonderful read. It’s insightful in seeing why some games are posted on youtube more than others and why some are never played. I prefer quiz shows myself and I understand most con fans are not knowledgeable enough to make good contestants. One of my favorite ones is Price Is Right, which hasn’t been played for awhile. Is it because of logistics reason?

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  2. Hi,

    As the head writer for Family Feud at Anime North since 2014, I’d like to write down my thoughts about the challenges of doing Family Feud at conventions. (What works here doesn’t work at smaller conventions.) Instead of a reply, I was wondering if it could be a guest post on this blog, since the reply will be quite lengthy. Contact me if you’re interested.

    Like

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