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ABC just launched history's biggest, most well-funded LARP

Like much of Team Polygon, I love reality TV, but there are so few shows I think I'd stand a decent chance on. Project Runway? I can't even remember when it's OK for me to wear black socks. The Bachelor? I'm married. Survivor? I write about video games on the internet.

But The Quest? Well, my friends, ABC may have just invented the reality show I was destined to win.

Destiny is a big theme in The Quest. Twelve contestants (sorry, paladins) are tossed into the world of Everealm (yeah, barf, I know) each with a part of a mystical weapon called the Sunspear. They are told that one of them is destined to be the One True Hero who will banish evil from the land. The others? They get a lovely parting gift of being disintegrated.


The most amazing part of the show is that ABC has decided to play the fantasy completely straight. No concessions are made to the fact that this is a reality TV show, it is, instead a fully realized fantasy world of bad accents and pretty OK costumes that never breaks character for a second.

Even the standard reality show challenges are given some loose narrative justification. In last night's premiere, teams of three had to use a ballista to hit straw targets hidden behind a wall. This wouldn't have felt out of place in Survivor, but the paladins are told they're being tested for their battle readiness. ... OK, sure. Why not?


Imagine my shock last night when I finally realized what ABC had launched on an unsuspecting nation: The Quest is the biggest, most well-funded LARP in history, and we're all being invited to watch.

Not that you'll necessarily want to.

As someone who (1) calls The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion his favorite game (2) has participated in weekend-long murder mysteries and (3) has seen Sleep No More seven times, an immersive fantasy reality show should be directly up my alley, but I found the whole affair weirdly unengaging.

The Quest has the right pedigree — it was created by producers on The Lord of the Rings and The Amazing Race — and it doesn't sneer at the themes or players, which would have sunk the whole affair quicker than anything. The problem with the show may just be one insurmountable truth:

Playing pretend is an essential part of life that many adults miss out on. Watching other adults play pretend is ... well, to be frank, it's simultaneously embarrassing and jealousy-inducing (though your mileage may vary on that second bit).

If you're missing play in your life, it's almost impossible to capture that second-hand. My advice: Get outside with a couple of foam swords and a few friends who know how to keep a secret and pretend to kill a dragon made of vines. Grant yourself invisibility with a weird rock you find in the dirt. Make it up as you go. Just don't, you know, film it, sell ads against it and expect people to DVR it.

If The Quest defies the odds and logic and all sense and makes it to a second season, I'll be first in line to audition. But I promise I won't ask any of you to watch.

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