Who doesn't like to watch children fail at things? It builds character in them and it makes adults laugh, which is why it inspired a whole era of kid-based game shows in the late '80s and early '90s.
But some of these shows seemed less about fun and more about introducing children to the dark, cruel world they were about to grow up in.
5Fun House (1988-1991)
Every good kids' game show challenge involves some type of skill, whether it's knowing the difference between Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, using hand-eye coordination to shoot an arrow plunger at an apple dangling over your mother's head or having the leg strength to push a giant plastic bacteroid on wheels across a finish line.
In the late '80s, the show Fun House said fuck all that and introduced the Slop Machine, a big machine with four booths for the kids to sit in. The host, J.D. Roth, pulled a lever and the giant slot machine spun wheels over each booth until they landed on candy or slop. The three losers got a bunch of sticky shit dumped in their hair while the one lucky winner had packages of hard sugar rain down on their head.
That's right--in order to win this game, you had to do NOTHING. It was like the Wheel of Fortune, if you took away the contestants' ability to solve a puzzle. Or even spin the fucking wheel. It was all luck and you didn't even get to press a buzzer. Your fate was entirely in the hands of pretty boy host J.D. Roth, who was a little too enthusiastic about luring children with the promise of candy and then covering them in goo.
In order to affect whether or not you win this game, you either had to have control over time and space, a special chip you could cash in with God, or a MILF willing to bone the producer to throw the game in your favor.
You have utterly no control over your own success or failure.
The Only Way It Could Be Worse:
You would have to risk your college savings and all of your parents' future mortgage payments every time J.D. pulls the lever.
4Nick Arcade (1992-1993)
While other Nickelodeon game shows like Double Dare encouraged kids to have fun by staying active, Nick Arcade told kids they could achieve the same thing by sitting on their ever-expanding asses and playing video games.
The show combined a mix of trivia, luck and skill challenges along with a healthy dose of gaming. The whole thing was capped off by an ultra fake looking bonus round where the kids would get to do the one thing all gamers hoped technology would let them do (other than bang Lara Croft): star in their own game.
As you can see, the bonus round turned the winning contestants into the stars of a fictional video game consisting of three levels in which they have to retrieve (wave their hands awkwardly in the general direction of) three objects without running out of power or dignity by the time the clock runs out.
The flaw here was that the "video game" up there was just a giant green screen with monitors on either side, so the contestant ended up looking less like Mario, and more like a really inexperienced weatherman trying to point to a tiny, fast moving storm.
Thus, the kid was forced to flail around as if suffering from several crippling disabilities. Hell, they didn't even get any virtual weapons to defend themselves. Even Pac-Man had weapons to fight off the ghosts and he's just a damn head.
You will be awkward and incompetent in any universe, real or imaginary.
The Only Way It Could Be Worse:
The contestants could have been asked to complete in the bonus round in "Hot Coffee" mode.