In 2009, the term “Battle Royale” referred to a decade-old film and book, with the likes of Fortnite, PUBG and Tetris 99 still some time away from total world domination. But years before the term became a whole overpopulated subgenre, the Xbox 360 was having a little experiment with the formula: a free-to-play quiz show called 1 vs 100.
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The premise was pretty simple: 101 players were picked from a pool of thousands, and got to play for prizes. If the name didn’t literally give the game away, one of those players would take on the other 100 in a somewhat unbalanced battle, with a competitor dropping out whenever they got a multiple-choice question wrong. Gradually, the playing field levelled, and whoever was left standing won big money.
Well, some money in an Xbox-friendly currency. The ‘one’ could win up to 10,000 Xbox points — about £85 in ‘old money’ — but if they got a question wrong, their spoils would instead be shared between whatever was left of the 100, who were somewhat pejoratively called “The Mob”.
After two seasons, 1 vs 100 ended, but now it’s coming back! Well, maybe.
For many of us, that will represent another shot at mock stardom on a show that could plausibly attract larger viewing figures than anything on the fragmented networks of television channels these days.
I personally never made the cut back in 2009, but I know somebody who did. While I was failing to be selected, my future partner’s sister, Becs Elnaugh, was not only picked, but won prizes too. As The Mob she was part of was whittled down from 100 to three, The One finally got a question wrong and she earned her share of the spoils.
Or rather, she was supposed to. Microsoft never delivered. While I’d be bitter about that to this day, she remains quite chill about the whole thing. “I won a number of Microsoft points and an Xbox Live Arcade game — I think it was supposed to be Peggle,” Elnaugh recalls. “I did chase Microsoft up a couple of times but no reply. Not sure I missed out much on Peggle but I’ll never know!”
While anybody who has played Peggle will know that she did indeed miss out (I managed to be late for work once, as I was so into the iPhone version that I missed my stop), for her prizes were never the motivation. “It was just really fun to be part of a ‘live’ quiz online,” she recalls, remembering how it briefly replaced the likes of Halo and Left 4 Dead as the online game of choice for her regular group.
But opening up her regular gaming night to a public performance did have an interesting side effect. Trolls, it turns out, could get more than a little jealous at the chosen ones that made the cut, and Elnaugh recalls getting contacted by those stuck in the crowd.
There was, according to Elnaugh, nothing sexist or even hugely offensive in the mix. It was just “weirdly juvenile”: think “wow, what a loser”, “you’re the biggest nerd I’ve ever seen” and the timeless, devastating barb of one word: “geek”.
“A few ‘boffins’, too, which was a nice UK-centric throwback to school,” she adds. Ah, the delightful cut and thrust of intellectual debate.
While other trolling tends to be performance related, these heckles were triggered from someone being selected. “Immediately as my avatar was shown on screen, I started receiving messages – I have read separately that they subsequently blocked messages on the live version so I assume this was an issue throughout,” she says.
“It didn’t bother me but I did find it amusing. It reminded me of away fans who just go to the football for the aggro rather than to watch the match.” Her local team is West Bromwich Albion, so read into that what you will.
What makes this experience especially interesting is that Elnaugh has appeared on not one but two televised quiz shows which went, to her delight, without any chorus of “geek” — not even when we were able to track down footage of one of them recently.
Compared to the TV shows, appearing on the Xbox quiz was “more fun and relaxed.” They were two relatively obscure shows with very little small talk, which was part of the appeal. Pointless and Eggheads, take note.
“I only had to say my name, where I was from and, when I won [£100], whether I wanted to come back next week.” She did indeed want to come back, but was then beaten by a “renowned quizzer who had done it all — Mastermind, Fifteen to 1, The Weakest Link.”
But not, as far as we know, 1 vs 100. Which is a pity, as Elnaugh believes that this quiz show experience probably helped her win. “I think one of the best things about 1 vs 100 was that I don’t recall there being any questions which were 100% a guess,” she says.
“You know the type they used at the end of Trivia HQ or on pub quiz machines when they’d paid out too much? There was no “how many rivets in the Eiffel Tower?” (around 2.5 million, should you ever find yourself needing this information at short notice. You’re welcome.)
A decade on, would Elnaugh play 1 vs 100 again if and when it returns? “Yes, definitely! In my opinion, there is a severe lack of MMO quiz formats. Genuinely shocked that something similar didn’t pop up over lockdown.”
Of course, with the rumoured revival of 1 vs 100 supposedly set to utilise the avatars from Microsoft Teams, it may feel less like a game, and more like… well, remote work. Just like during that whole pandemic thing.
That’s the perils of the metaverse for you, but despite the risk of this veering towards a work quiz, Elnaugh isn’t too perturbed. “I personally didn’t ever get bored of online quizzes — work or otherwise — unlike everyone else.”
Alan Martin is a freelance journalist and occasional contributor to NME.