Watch This: Gamecenter CX

If you enjoy games, specifically if you enjoy retro games: You. Must. Watch. This. Show. GameCenter CX is the sort of program that actually makes me want to watch TV. Fortunately, the only way to watch it is on the internet – unless of course you live in Japan. The premise of the show is that Arino, the host, challenges a classic game and attempts to beat it or in some cases achieve a particular objective or high score. The main attraction is his struggle to complete the notoriously difficult games of the 8 and 16-bit eras. It’s intentionally over-dramatic, but does not take itself seriously – very much like the beloved “Ironmen of Cooking” or Iron Chef.

The show also has features on GameCenters. A GameCenter is just an arcade, but Arino gets postcards from viewers to check out arcades that are specifically unique or impressive. One show sees him travel to a farm where he milks a cow and plays a boxing arcade game. One show takes him into the northern region of Japan, to a mountain spa where he spends time in a sauna and then plays Pac-Man. Getting to see some of these exotic locations is pretty fascinating, especially when one lives in a country where arcades are exceedingly rare.

Other regular segments include interviews with figures in the gaming community, and a wide assortment of one-off or every-so-often bits that provide a break from Arino’s retro challenge.

And make no mistake, a break is needed. Arino is very bad at most of these games and it can be grueling (but always hilarious) to watch him suffer. You can see him pictured here with his iconic cooling pad that helps him power through difficult moments. Some times, Arino will write inspiring messages on the pads to drive himself onward. Some challenges go smoother than others, but some do end in failure – such as the infamous Castlevania III episode. The real appeal though is that Arino is a very fun person to watch and he allows himself to get into the game he is playing. You start to remember what it felt like to be challenged by these games yourself and it’s this “vicarious gaming” experience that drives you to watch more.

Season 1 has very short episodes (10-15 minutes at most). Season 2, however, is where the show began to get proper funding and they expanded into fully-featured, hour-long episodes. The show is still going and currently in it’s 16th season! A resourceful person can find the episodes online in many places. For those not as resourceful, you can just check the episode guide and then search on YouTube. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Shaun Watson

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