Video games have been part of my life ever since I was a little kid. Ever since I was five, I have had a console in my room or living room, waiting to be played every day. I have a lot of memories of playing the NES. While I had some games, I played the majority of them either by borrowing some from friends or renting them at the local video store. You basically had to judge what kind of game you were going to get by the cover and the back of the box. It really was a crapshoot, but that was half the fun of it. After that you would gather your friends and/or siblings to enjoy it for the weekend until you had to return it.
The majority of the games were very difficult to beat and required endless trial and error. You had to have a ton of patience if you wanted to get anywhere. However, once you cleared a level you weren’t able to or finished a game you had sunk hours in gave you the greatest feeling in the world. Or, you would run out of time and say “Screw it, I can’t do it for now,” and return the game. And then it was on to the next one. That was my childhood in a nutshell when it came to games. I miss those days. I miss those old retro games and just the feeling of trying to conquer the random titles I was given for the weekend. I wish more people could experience the feelings I had as a game-loving kid. But how?
Enter GameCenter CX.
Game Center CX is a Japanese television show that has been airing since November 2003. The show revolves around Shinya Arino, a member of the comedy duo, Yoiko who has been known to be quite the game junkie. Arino, or better known as Kachou (meaning chief) is the head of a imaginary company called GameCenter CX and wears a jumpsuit every time he’s on camera. The main focus of the show is the staff giving Arino a random game (usually from the 8-bit/16-bit days). He is enclosed in a small room with snacks and cooling pads with one objective in mind: to complete the game by the end of the day. He can’t leave until he either clears the game or runs out of time (which is usually around midnight). This main segment is known as “Arino’s Challenge.”
The best part about GameCenter CX is that Arino is no pro at games. He’s in fact, quite the opposite. He’s a horrible gamer. Viewers will witness Arino failng the simplest tasks, usually at the beginning of a level. For example, imagine falling in the first pit of Super Mario Bros. Now, one time is forgivable, maybe two times if it’s your first time. Arino would probably fall in it over five times before he started getting the hang of it. It’s really funny to watch him make the silliest mistakes and the reaction of him and his staff. They both know he’s awful, and Arino usually jokes about his shortcomings. Being a comedian, he’s naturally funny at beating himself up. He’s also very good at pointing out interesting observations about games and making jokes out of them.
Now, some of you may not be convinced that this sounds entertaining. After all, why would it be fun to watch someone fail over and over? Sure, the kachou isn’t a great gamer but it’s his perseverance that makes the show an enjoyable watch. Yes, he will die over and over but bit by bit, he will understand the game and make progress. He’ll start to understand the boss’ pattern slowly after dying 15 times. Finally, when you see him clear a level he’s been stuck on for an hour or better yet, when he’s cleared a game that he spent the entire day trying to conquer, it’s a magical feeling. Arino is the underdog that you want to see win. It’s the same feeling that I got when I beat the kind of games he’s playing when I was a kid. GameCenter CX manages to capture that moment brilliantly on television over and over. Over 10 years later, GCCX continues to air shows throughout the year. Clearly, I’m not the only one who enjoys watching the kachou clear a game.
Arino is not on his own though when it comes to the challenge segments. If he gets stuck on a part for too long, an AD (Assistant Director) will usually run in and give him some advice whether it comes through a hint or even assisting him by playing the game itself, he gets support when he needs it. The ADs themselves are characters in the show and have their own personalities that Arino interacts with. Some of the better parts in GCCX are when Arino and an AD play a two-player game which almost always goes hilariously wrong.
The show takes breaks from the main challenge to feature other segments that change from season to season. One segment that always stays, though, is the “You Should Visit This Game Center.” For those unaware, a game center is what the Japanese refer to as an arcade. In this segment, Arino receives a postcard from a fan or staff, recommending him to visit an arcade that sometimes has a unique feature/game inside. This is probably my favorite part of the show because it reminds me of when I used to frequent arcades when I was a kid and played just about everything. The film crew follows Arino as he tries random games and comments on how they are. Sometimes he will encounter a random person and play a game with them. In a country where the major game centers carry the same games, it’s nice to see the show feature local game centers that have a “mom and pop” feel to them.
Aside from the above segment, the show has other ones ranging from a game showcase from a certain year to one where Arino goes against his staff in trying to match what game belongs to what ad tagline. They change from season to season and never fail to amuse.
The best part of the show though — which I think most fans agree — are the miraculous plays Arino pulls off. These occur usually when the time limit is nigh and he is on his final chance to clear a game. Imagine watching a baseball game, and it’s bottom of the ninth with your team up to the plate. Bases are loaded and your team needs a home run to win. One more strike and they’re done. Somehow, the batter pulls off a grand slam, leading to a miraculous victory. The batter in this case would be Arino, clearing a game on his final chance. These don’t come too often but when they do, you can’t help but yell in victory along with Arino. These moments remind me of when the younger me and my friends clear a game after spending hours and hours trying to clear it. GameCenter CX manages to reenact these glorious, nerdy moments in my life and now they can be shared with the world.
While I love the show itself, I especially love how it is spreading the games of yesteryear into this generation’s youth. A lot of kids watch this show, and it’s great to see that games such as Mega Man 2 or Contra are being exposed to today’s adolescence. Just the other day when I was doing my self-introduction to a Japanese fifth grade class, a student asked me, “What’s your favorite TV show here?” I answered with “GameCenter CX.” Half the class lit up and started asking me what was my favorite episode or saying how they started playing Ninja Gaiden on their family’s old Nintendo because of the show. GameCenter CX is bringing new life to my favorite games of the past and for that, I am deeply thankful for it. I would have never imagined talking about Mega Man 2 to a fourth grader and discussing what Robot Master should you go up against first. GCCX made that happen.
If you’re looking for a video game show to watch, I’d say give GameCenter CX a shot. I recommend supporting the show by purchasing the only DVD set they released in the States under the name Retro Game Master.
If you like what you see, there’s a lot more to be seen as the show is now in its 18th season. Finding it should be fairly easy if you search through the internet. I may no longer be a kid anymore but GCCX is a great way to relive those days.