Reading University Student Television (RUON) webcast, March 2009 to March 2012
As we all know, the Internet was originally invented so that geeks across America could play Hunt the Wumpus. And yet, over time, the central purpose of the 'Net was forgotten, its core mission swamped by the influx of non-geeks seeking dietary advice and cheap car insurance. Boring! So we're pleased to report that at last the Internet is again being used as it was intended: for geeks (well, students anyway) to play games. Granted, Accumulate is a horse of a rather different colour; it's not interactive, it's not live, but it's definitely more fun than Hunt the Wumpus.
This isn't the first web-only game show. Tom Winnifrith's Trading Places (a cut-down version of TV's Show Me the Money) has been running since 2006, and the BBC got in on the action in 2009 with a web-only version of Dragons' Den. But the real potential of the web as a medium for ordinary folk to get their ideas out there, hasn't really produced anything of note in the gameshow genre... until now.
Accumulate!, then. The opening theme is hugely bombastic, and (deliberately, we think) at odds with the cheap 'n' cheerful nature of the show. And yes, it is both cheap (the set comprises three tables, seven chairs and... well, nothing else - and Reading Uni had to close another two faculties to pay for those) and defiantly cheerful. The quiz is based on a simple gimmick which justifies the title: in each round, the points on offer increase from beginning to end.
The first round is straight Q&A: five themed questions to each team, the first question is worth one point, the second worth two, and so on. The second round, Speculate to Accumulate, is where it really begins to get interesting. Six cards are arrayed in front of each team, representing the top six things in a given category, e.g. largest countries of the world, or most-bred farm animals in the UK. The team has 45 seconds to put the top five in order, and get 1 point for placing the first, first; two for placing the second, second; and so on down to five for the fifth. However, there are no points for the sixth - that item is there purely as a "red herring" to trip them up. The two teams get different categories, and the team that goes into the round trailing gets first pick. "You lose, you choose," says Dan Peake, a phrase that surely must have been used by somebody in the past, yet strangely we don't recall anyone actually doing so.
Round three is the Accumulatower. Each team has a supply of paper cups and plates suitable for building a slightly wobbly tower, and 90 seconds to answer a succession of general knowledge questions. Each question successfully answered gives them the right to add another level to their tower (one inverted cup, one inverted plate on top). The tower must be freestanding, and at the end of 90 seconds, each level scores points in the usual fashion (1 for the first, 2 for the second... you must be getting this by now). Should the tower collapse during the 90 seconds, the team has to start again from scratch. A brilliantly simple idea, harking back to the physical challenges on Double Dare (or, given how horrifically youthful the creators of Accumulate! are, more likely Run the Risk) but in any case far more inventive, and funnier, than anything Saturday Night Takeaway or (shudder) Totally Saturday has managed to throw at us lately.
The last round is Super Accumulate!, which is an on-the-buzzers round with ten themed questions (or more precisely, themed answers), worth from one up to ten points - you know the drill. A wrong answer results in points being deducted. The winners win, the losers don't. The top scoring teams from the series return for the final, and the series champs win a small sum of money.
So where do we go from here? The format is sound and very entertaining (indeed, the fact that we stuck with it even through all the buffering pauses, testifies to how enjoyable it is - we certainly wouldn't do that for Eggheads) and it would be interesting to see what could be done with a bigger budget. A children's version could be fun too.
And as for game shows on the internet, Accumulate! shows what can be achieved for, effectively, no money. (Are you paying attention, CITV?) The benchmark is set, so let's hope that it spurs others on to match and exceed it. Go to it, people!
"You lose, you choose"
Dan Peake and Gary Male
Official site - watch the show here