Me vs 1 vs 100


I love game shows. I’ve tried out for no less than three of them in my life: Family Feud, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and Jeopardy. The first two didn’t pan out, but I actually made it into the contestant pool for Jeopardy, a fact of which I am disgustingly proud. People think I keep trying out because I have some burning desire to be on television, but in truth I try out in spite of that. I’m self conscious enough, thank you very much, I don’t really need a few million people peering at me for 22 minutes and deciding that I really should rethink my hairstyle. The appeal of game shows, for me, is going brain to brain with other players and coming out on top. I’m never going to win a physical challenge and anyone can get lucky while spinning a wheel, but a test of trivia? Bring it on.

1 vs 100 on Xbox Live seemed to be the answer to my game show desires. Trivia questions? Check. Prizes? Check. I can play in my jammies and not draw stares? Check. Perfection! In case you’re not familiar, 1 vs. 100 is modeled after the TV quiz show of the same name, in which a contestant, called “The One,” answers questions alongside 100 other players, called “The Mob.” If a member of The Mob gets a question wrong, he’s knocked out; the object of the game is for The One to knock out all 100 members of The Mob by correctly answering more questions than they do. The prize amount increases for every ten Mob members knocked out, and The One is given the option of leaving with his accumulated winnings at any time. Pushing your luck is a big risk – the prizes get very tempting, but one wrong question and you’ll have nothing but your lovely parting gifts to console you.

The Xbox Live version differs slightly from its TV inspiration by adding The Crowd. When a session of 1 vs. 100 begins, The One and The Mob are selected from the tens of thousands of people logged in; everyone not chosen gets dumped into The Crowd, where they can still play along and compete to be one of the top three scorers of the round. It’s a smart way to let a large number of people play while still feeling like they haven’t been sent to some worthless kids’ table of a game while all the cool folks get to play the real deal.

I had actually forgotten about 1 vs. 100 until a co-worker asked me if I’d tried the beta yet. I had some free time that evening, so I joined a game already in progress and was quickly matched up with three other players who seemed to be doing quite well, if their 7,000 point scores were to be believed. I soon learned that 1 vs. 100 is all about the bonuses. Each question is worth a base 500 points, but you can earn up to 200 points by answering quickly. Answer fast enough for it to be considered “instant” and you get another 100 point bonus. Keep answering correctly and you create a streak that earns you even more bonuses that increase as the streak gets longer.

Within a few questions, I’d caught up to the other players. A few questions more, and I’d passed them. At the end of the round, I’d blown them away despite their head start. Well whaddya know – I was good at this.

Over the next few days, I played through several more such “Extended Play” sessions, whipping whoever I got matched with and consistently coming just short of making the top ten players in the entire round. And if I had an off game, that was ok, too; each session was just a half hour long, so if I ran into a bunch of questions about soccer or the musical Rent, I didn’t have to wait terribly long to redeem myself. Several rounds ran every night, too, so I never had to wait around for one to start.

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After several days of this new routine, I discovered that I wasn’t playing the real version of the game. The Live episodes, which happened at scheduled times over the weekend, were where The One really faced off against The Mob. They were where the real action was. I nervously waited in the lobby as the message “Choosing The One and The Mob” appeared in the corner of my screen, hoping to find my avatar up on stage with the other lucky few. But my wish was never fulfilled. Round after round, I was sent to The Crowd, just another anonymous face in a sea of would-be contestants. It was still fun, but lacking the chance for trivia glory that I craved. I kept playing, but my enthusiasm diminished ever so slightly every time I wasn’t chosen to be on the stage.

Then I learned that playing in The Crowd actually increased your chances of being selected for The Mob. “Answer quickly, answer correctly, and play often!” was host Chris Cashman’s mantra. Well, that changed everything! I wasn’t just playing for fun, or to pass the time, I had a goal: to improve my stats to the point that I’d be a shoe-in for the main stage. And so I kept playing, round after round, game after game. I still wasn’t getting picked, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that every game I played, I was that much closer to being chosen.

Now, I’m not so sure.

My suspicions began when I saw the same avatars populating The Mob over and over and over again, but I chalked that up to a technological issue. The game is still in beta, after all, and I’d seen plenty of random glitches, like avatar clones in the Crowd with me. I figured the tech was just filling in blanks as best it could while folks on the back end figured out how to fill the seats with everyone’s actual avatars. When I thought I saw a few repeats in The One slot, I wrote that off as people just having similar avatars. I didn’t usually make note of players’ names, so it was entirely possible that a lot of players just really, really like the skull face paint.

But a quick tour of the 1 vs. 100 forums on revealed that more than one player had been chosen for The Mob several times – some even said they had made it into The Mob every single time they played. It doesn’t necessarily prove anything, but it makes me feel a lot less excited about participating in the game. My accuracy hovers around 80% and my response time is less than a second, but apparently I need some additional kind of magic mojo to be deemed worthy to be in The Mob. Let’s not even talk about The One – that’s a long shot even if you assume everything’s fair and square, but if the same people are being selected on a regular basis? Forget it.

I want to give 1 vs. 100 the benefit of the doubt and believe that these issues will be fixed long before the game ever goes live, I really do. I want it to work. If it does, it’s a great middle ground between hardcore players and casual, a party game where shouting out from the sidelines is just as important as hitting the button, a chance for those who wouldn’t ordinarily have a prayer of topping leaderboards to publicly display their might.

There’s another Live game scheduled for tomorrow night, and in spite of my concerns, I’m planning on being there. Call me naïve if you like, but I’m still holding out hope that one of these days, the stars will align and I’ll wind up in the spotlight of 1 vs. 100. If you’re not busy around 10pm Eastern tomorrow, sign in and join me.

Susan Arendt scored massive bonus points for knowing Duran Duran’s bass player, and still can’t believe anyone got the parachute question wrong.

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