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.