Why 'GameCenter CX' is the only show about video games that gets it righton July 4, 2013 at 8:00 am
To make things even better, Arino is not a very talented gamer.
This makes the show captivating, because now there’s an underdog element to it. He is given these ridiculously difficult games. Games that make most people tear their hair out in frustration, and he is forced to sit and play through them to completion in a relatively short amount of time.
Arino isn’t completely abandoned though, because he does get assistants, or ADs. They scout the game ahead of time, learning all of its intricacies. They start off by offering him minimal advice, but as the light fades and the difficulty increases, Arino is usually fatigued and ADs will eventually help him get through areas he has already completed.
You may think, “That sounds kind of interesting but I’m not sure how much better this can be than just watching some footage on the Internet or playing it myself.”
Oh, but it’s WAY better. See, the show works because Arino and the crew are extremely likeable. Arino legitimately seems like one of the nicest guys in the world and he is extremely funny, as well. Even better, is that he is one of the most positive and optimistic personalities I’ve ever seen. Once his infectious brightness gets to you, you want nothing more than for this man to succeed. Every time he dies, and that will be A LOT, you find yourself reeling back. You’ll tense up when you know he tenses up. You’ll laugh when he laughs.
We becoming emotionally invested in Arino and his misadventures in gaming. Every time he is sent back to the beginning of the last stage in “Ninja Gaiden”, because he lost a life on the last boss, is a blow to our morale. The only thing that picks us up and gets us through it, as the viewer, is Arino’s unshakable determination and his ability to simply keep playing without becoming dejected and demoralized.
Even when he messes up the simplest of actions, like making sure to continue after getting a game over – which is something that happens all too frequently – he laughs, smiles, then gets back to it. Of course, the other people in the room are screaming at him, but that’s what happens when you work with Arino. He is one clumsy gamer.
He sits in a small room, has cameras focused on him, and knows that all of his deaths and gaming faux pas will be on TV for everyone to see, but he doesn’t let any of that get to him. He simply puts a cooling sheet on his forehead, keeps plugging away, and manages to persist. It’s incredible.
The joy on Arino’s face when he finally completes a game perfectly translates to the viewer. We’re empathizing with him the entire time, so his victory becomes our victory. We smile and cheer as much as he does. I won’t lie, I’ve teared up a few times watching him beat games. It sounds weird, especially since I’m pretty much incapable of displaying emotion, but I know exactly how it feels to finally persevere over something so difficult. It gets to me and I love that.
I also love how you see Arino gradually improve as the episode goes on. Almost every single game will see him fumble around, die on the easiest stuff, and make stupid mistakes. He does NOT learn from his mistakes. But towards the end, you can tell he actually HAS improved. That he is getting better and I like that too. It’s like watching Daniel-san in the “Karate Kid” get beat up, train, then win the tournament and earn the respect of the Cobra-Kai. There is less Joe Esposito in “GameCenter CX”, though.
Of course, Arino doesn’t always win. It never feels depressing or upsetting though. Also, if Arino doesn’t finish a game, the AD has to stay overnight and keep playing so the ending can be shown. If a game has to be beaten twice? They do that too. This show is hardcore.
ADs become part of the battle, too. Partially because they don’t want to have to stay late, but also because they may be important to Arino’s success. When they’re sitting next to Arino and a controller is being passed back and forth, it’s like you’re right back in your living room with your friends, trying to beat a tough game. They even put their own bodies on the line to help, like standing in place for an hour to act as a shield, so the sun won’t get in Arino’s eyes. There is a real sense of camaraderie here.
But that camaraderie isn’t restricted to just Arino and his ADs, but it also spills over to the crew. While Arino may be the focus, he isn’t the only person there, and the people behind the cameras come out too to give Arino support or just be amusing and screw around.
Also, ADs aren’t permanent, as they’re replaced every season or two, so you feel a real sense of loss when they leave the show. Arino constantly brings them back in later segments to frequently embarrass them, but they’re no longer around to offer him their support, so it feels like friends have moved on.
The show also has a segment where Arino visits arcades all over Japan and plays games with people. He talks to the owners of these shops, hangs out with kids, and it really feels like some of these places are valuable parts of a neighborhood. Places where kids come to hang out, grab a few piece of candy, and play a game. It’s heartwarming stuff, sometimes, and it’s uncommon to see so much unironic good that doesn’t come off as cheesy or hokey. It’s just nice and I like how honest and unpretentious it is.
This is coming from someone who is generally a fairly sarcastic person that skews towards the negative side of things. I do enjoy the kicks I get from that. But with this show, it’s impossible not to get taken in by how pleasant Arino is. I just can’t help it. It’s impossible to think of anything bad to say about the show. It just feels good to watch it and it’s so much fun!