In What Are You Playing This Weekend? we discuss gaming and such with prominent figures in the pop-culture arena. We always start with the same question.
Chris Gethard is the host of The Chris Gethard Show, a one-of-a-kind weekly public-access show filmed live and broadcast online. He is also the author of the memoir A Bad Idea I’m About To Do, a frank and funny take on his struggles with depression. He talked to The Gameological Society about laundromat pinball, playing Twister with the rules of pro wrestling, and the difficulties of playing interactive games on TV.
The Gameological Society: What are you playing this weekend?
Chris Gethard: If I play anything, I’ve gotten into pinball lately. There’s a laundromat around the corner from my house that has seven pinball machines inside. That appeals to me greatly because it’s a very frustrating endeavor in games. Specifically, they have a pinball machine called Monster Bash. There are six monsters, and they’re trying to form a band. I can’t tell if you’re trying to stop them from forming a band, or if you’re helping them to facilitate getting the band back together. Either way, you get to fight monsters. It’s a really good game, and I like it.
Gameological: What do you think you’re doing when you’re playing, helping or destroying them?
Gethard: In my head, it’s all about destruction. It’s all about taking people apart. Taking it down. It’s all about aggression and violence.
Gameological: Are you getting pretty good at it?
Gethard: I was losing a ton of quarters to start, but then I started getting really good at it. I managed to achieve Monster Bash one time, which is when you activate all six monsters. That was great. You get a multiball that’s never-ending. I scored a ridiculous amount of points, like 200 million. I was feeling really good, but I kind of peaked. I’ve been playing really poorly since then.
Gameological: Did you get to put your initials up on the board?
Gethard: No. Not even close.
Gameological: That’s too bad. Any other games you like there?
Gethard: They have Theatre Of Magic and Medieval Madness. I really love that one. They have the Twilight Zone machine, which I think is regarded as the best pinball machine of all time, and I get that people really love it, and I respect that machine, but I find it to be so insanely difficult that it’s hard for me to enjoy it outright. I get that it’s a great machine, but you have to be a pretty fantastic pinball player to really get what that machine has to have.
Gameological: I’ve seen strategy manuals that are 60 pages long.
Gethard: It’s insane. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m lucky. I live close to them. I live in Brooklyn, and I have a car. I go a couple times a year to the Silver Ball museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey, which is this great pinball museum where you pay an entrance fee and there’s probably about 150 machines. You play for free after you pay the entrance fee. It’s pretty fantastic.
Gameological: I like that you play a lot of homemade games of The Chris Gethard Show.
Gethard: We do.
Gameological: You’re playing the Royal Rumble Of Twister on the next episode. Is that it?
Gethard: Yes. We’re combining the Royal Rumble, which for my money is the best pro wrestling event, and Twister, which is a fantastic game.
Gameological: Have you done this before, or is this the first time?
Gethard: No, we rarely repeat ideas on The Gethard Show. We have a lot of freedom with public access, and part of what I love about that is that we can keep switching things up, and starting things out. A lot of that is that I’m friends with an indie wrestler named Colt Cabana—he runs a really great podcast called The Art Of Wrestling. He’s just an all-around really solid dude. He’s coming on the show, and he’s been on once before, and he’s in town this week for Wrestlemania. I told him he could come by. We’re trying to come up with something like, “What would be fun to do with him?” And I’ve always loved the Royal Rumble, I think it’s the coolest thing. So we decided to take the structure of the Royal Rumble, and apply it to something else. Twister seemed like a real good fit.
Gameological: So you’re adding a new person every couple minutes to a game of Twister?
Gethard: Yeah. We’ll have a whole bunch of Twister boards laid out, and every two minutes, someone else will have to join. We’re going to have our callers—we take live calls on the show—call in and tell us what to do. They can say, “Right hand red,” or they can say, “Everybody hold their breath for two straight minutes.” They can get as creative as they want, and we’re going to incorporate it into the game.
Gameological: We have to talk about the Guess The Magic Word game you came up with.
Gethard: Oh, that was the worst game of all time. That word game. The basic premise was that there would be one word that contained all these different qualities, and a different cast member would be responsible for reacting every time one of those different qualities was said by a caller. Even saying it out loud now is very confusing.
Gameological: Was that something you’d ever played before?
Gethard: No. No, I had never. In my head it made so much sense, but it made no sense to anyone. That was a real humbling experience for me because a whole bunch of people, other writers on the show, were like, “This doesn’t make sense. No one’s going to get it.” I was like, “You really need to trust me, and trust that I’m a capable person who can explain what we’re going for here.” And it failed so hard. It was such a moment of hubris for me. I got taken down hard.
Gameological: When I was watching I kind of followed. I had all these ideas that other people aired during the show that ended up being utterly wrong.
Gethard: It made no sense. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have listened to my friends who said it wasn’t going to work. But it did give us The Hintmaster. That worked out pretty well, and he’s become a very classic character in the pantheon of our show.
Gameological: Why do you think you play games on the show?
Gethard: To me, one of the things I’m very obsessed with is that we take live calls. People watching the show have direct access while the show’s happening to sort of direct and edit it. I love the idea that a bunch of people you’re watching on the computer are sitting there, and they’re playing a game, and you can call us on the phone from anywhere in the world and be a part of the game. Games really serve the show well because they’re so highly interactive. They need multiple players, and we really dedicate a lot to figuring out how we can use these mediums of internet and television and phone lines to allow people all-access.
We had an episode called “The Camera Cannon,” which was a game where we attached a big giant Nerf cannon to our camera, and you would see it physically sticking out. A caller could call up, and tell us, “Move it a few inches to the left. Tilt it up. Now fire.” We were trying to hit cast members. I love the idea that some kid could be watching our show in Sweden, and he can call us up and make a Nerf cannon fire in America. I think that’s a really cool thing.
Gameological: There was a show from the ’70s that did something like that with a video game called TV Powww!
Gethard: Yeah, a similar thing. I like that. We’ve tried to do a bunch of games. I like the idea of setting up shows where something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t go into full effect until someone on the phone or the internet triggers it. It almost sort of makes the show a whole game the audience gets to play. It’s less that the people on the show are playing the game and more that we’re the pieces that the audience gets to control.
Gameological: Like a human chess board.
Gethard: Exactly. Except really stupid.
And now, we put the question to you. Tell us what you’ve been playing lately, and which games—video or otherwise—are on your playlist for the weekend.