For the past handful of months, my friend Doug Wreden has been working on putting on an event called Shufflemania, a game show where participants compete in games that are rotating across multiple different save states.
For example, if the players are in a round of Tetris, there would be five different games of Tetris happening all at once, and the “shuffler” would switch among the five different games of Tetris in a random order and in random time intervals. The challenge is to keep track of all the games at once, while also making crisp inputs so that button presses are not carried over to the wrong copy of the game.
There were several days of in-studio preparation and rehearsal for the event, and I joined Doug for the final rehearsal before the show. I hadn’t seen the build process, so I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived, and the set was a lot nicer than I was originally expecting.
I also went to visit on show day.
There was a professional photographer on-site so I usually don’t bother taking regular event pictures, considering I would never be able to keep up with their skill and equipment and the quality of their photographs. However, if you’ve been a long-time reader of my blog, you probably know that I do like snapping shots from a behind-the-scenes perspective to help people immerse themselves and see what it would be like had they been there working the event—shots that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see from the live broadcast or a well-polished set of professional photographs.
If you know me, you might know that I very rarely show up to an event unless I have some sort of active role in it. Luckily, the people there didn’t know me too well.
There was a very small live studio audience composed of some close friends of the on-screen talent, so I just sat with them, had some snacks, drank some Red Bull, and pretended like I was also just a regular spectator. However, we had a surprise in store for everyone.
The show was obviously marketed as Shufflemania, with the allure of the concept being the game shuffler. The “reveal” was supposed to be that the shuffler wasn’t actually an artificial intelligence model, but instead, was Jeremy Elbertson, professionally known as Jerma985, “hiding” in the computer system the entire time. Considering how advanced the shuffler was during the show and how well it interacted with players, it was blatantly obvious that it was a real person running it—and the players already knew this going into the event.
What the players didn’t know was that there was an actual real reveal planned. After the winners of Shufflemania were announced, it was disclosed that the event wasn’t actually about gaming or the shuffler, but instead, it was designed to find tennis partners for Doug and Jerma. That obviously made absolutely no sense and was so far-fetched that nobody believed it, but then Doug said they were playing tennis, right then and there, and led everyone outdoors.
In the chaos of the shuffler reveal and Jerma popping out of the box, I had quietly exited the studio, put on my referee jersey, grabbed the championship trophy, and went outside to wait for the real reveal. In utter bewilderment, the players navigated their way outside where we had a literal tennis court set up. I was standing by the net to explain the rules in my iconic dry and matter-of-fact manner, mixing in an arrogant implied undertone of “this is tennis, what else were you expecting?”
I was very pleased watching the players’ reactions, because it was very clear that we did a great job at hiding the plot twist. There was a nice mixture of people who were confused, people who were appalled that we committed to a gag so hard, and one person who exclaimed “Parkzer, you were in on this?”
I opened the segment by laying a foundation for the gameplay and then ordering Ludwig Ahgren to quiet down and maintain his composure because we need to uphold a level of professionalism. From there, I did a coin flip to determine who would serve first, chucked the coin far behind me, then declared that it landed heads-up even though it was blatantly obvious that the result of the coin flip was impossible to see unless you had binoculars. I then called for the match to begin and climbed up on my referee chair two and a half meters up in the air.
Throughout the match, Doug kept repeating phrases like “haven’t you ever played tennis before?” and “why did we even do this then?” to continue pushing the idea that Shufflemania was all about tennis the entire time, not about the video games. Doug, Jerma, and I continued emphasizing how seriously everyone needed to take tennis, and at one point, I proceeded to ignore a point that Ludwig had scored, and then on top of that, also issued a one-point penalty for “improper use of verbal correspondence” after a small outburst from him.
Eventually, Doug and Jerma won, so I descended from my referee chair with the trophy and awarded it to them.
The more you think about this, the more ridiculous it gets. For example, tennis referees don’t even wear jerseys, they wear suits; the jersey top I was wearing was a basketball referee jersey. Tennis referees also don’t use whistles, they just talk into a microphone. We were hardly even following the rules of tennis, and I wasn’t using the proper tennis scoring system.
On top of that, Doug and Jerma, the hosts of the show, technically won their own event by winning the game of tennis.
I think the show turned out great. I’m personally not really into streamer and influencer culture, so this genre isn’t something that I would usually watch on my own, but the way Doug executed on his creative ideas was unique and compelling.
The role I played of the very serious and “normal” person—just exaggerating how different real life is from the Twitch and YouTube bubble—fit me perfectly. And of course, considering my recurring appearances in Doug’s videos and live streams, it was a nice touch to see chat excitedly spamming “PARKZER” once the camera eventually got close enough to me for people to realize I was the referee.
If you haven’t watched the show, I recommend checking it out on Doug’s YouTube channel—if not for the entire event, then at least for the silly reveal at the end.