Depreciated: The Antiques Roadshow Demo

By John Walker on November 2nd, 2010 at 1:24 am.

That ghost is totally ruining their flirting.

The phenomenon of the Antiques Roadshow cannot be ignored. What was once the obscurity of Sunday evening BBC 1, watched by old ladies and those waiting for Lovejoy to start, has now become one of the hottest properties on Earth. With primetime viewing figures outstripping both the X Factor and American Idol, and a movie franchise about to release its third blockbuster film, it was inevitable that a tie-in videogame would be coming along…

Wait, what, the Antiques Roadshow? Sorry, I was thinking of something else. Dinner, maybe. They’ve made a game, and released a demo, of the Antiques Roadshow?

I’m not being entirely fair, as the little programme that could is increasingly popular. It’s thanks to its being picked up by PBS in the States, and forming quite the most strange cult following. For some reason, in between endless repeats of Are You Being Served and Sesame Street, American public television viewers fell in love with seeing old stuff get appraised. And then made their own version.

It’s not surprising. Even as a child I found I was compelled to sit through the unutterable tedium of a man in half-moon glasses explaining why a china doll was so exquisite, just to see the owner wriggling in their chair, barely able to contain their urge to tell him to shut the hell up and just give them a price. And then pretend they couldn’t possibly bring themselves to sell it. Or to see someone crumple as they find out their classic Edwardian desk is worth 52p because their nephew once chipped one of its legs with his trike.

This is essentially a game of tidying your garage. Which is much like what people would have done of a Sunday, before watching the Antiques Roadshow!

The US incarnation, existing since 1997, but not really getting going properly until 2007 (compared to the UK’s beginning in 1979 – old enough to appear on itself now), is now in game form. And it is, of course, a hidden object game.

And a truly terrible one. Having played through the hour-long demo, I’m really quite impressed by how spectacularly it misses the point of the genre. The scenes you search are crowded, but they’re not inventive jumbles of cunningly concealed items. Everything is the right size, in the right place. And as if that didn’t make it obvious enough, the objects to be recovered from a screen (either in the current turn, or on a return visit) are distinct from the background. Like those 1970s cartoons where you knew which door the Scooby gang would go through because it was the only one bright monotone red, knowing what to click on barely requires looking at the list. It’s more of an “Objects” game. Unless, of course, you’re looking for one of the objects that’s barely visible, literally hidden, only revealed by using the Hint feature, and clicking blindly in the offered circle.

In between the pixel hunts are some of the most atrocious minigames I’ve encountered, including some where your job is to polish the fingerprints from an object. Woo! Thanks! It’s all the fun of household chores, but with none of the realism! Finger prints mysteriously hang over the edges of things, which is a fine trick. The difficulty level of these appears to be pitched at five year olds. There was a 12 piece puzzle to solve at one point.

Hello, were you rejected from Broken Sword 2 as well?

But then of course it’s time for a visit to the Roadshow itself! What will they have thought of to do there? What manner of game will we take part in? Oh, it’s the clicking to read the text game, as we’re informed that everything we bring on is worth thousands and thousands of dollars. You stalk the Roadshow around the US, apparently not troubling anyone by appearing on every single edition, each thousands of miles apart. (More weirdly, it’s explained that you get onto your first episode because you know someone on the production crew! I’m not sure whether the real Antiques Roadshow will be too pleased at the implication.)

All the while you’re finding clues for some larger puzzle, helping an elderly antiques shop owner to retrieve all the various objects in a photograph, each containing clues solved by a word-wheel cypher. Which is of course what everyone does when they get home from a Roadshow taping. Fiona Bruce is famed for it. It feels so lazy – a game ostensibly about dating and valuing objects should perhaps know you don’t put an apostrophe in “1890′s”, etc. But does it every single time.

What a spectacularly dreadful game (well, the first hour at least). Which possibly isn’t an enormous surprise, but I was hardly likely to click past the news that there’s a game of such a programme.

It's fun to pretend they're saying how much they'd be willing to pay to have sex with the guest.

Although I think I’m more disappointed to see that the Mark L. Walberg listed as appearing on the US edition of the programme is of course not Mark Wahlberg. Because that would have been amazing.

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54 Comments »

  1. jokermatt999 says:

    I…I don’t think I’ve ever been more baffled by a game premise. Even the weird art indie ones. Just…what the christ?!

  2. El Stevo says:

    I can’t stand The Antiques Road Show. I just find it incredibly depressing. The theme music alone makes me feel a little ill. To me the Antiques Road Show means this:

    It’s Sunday! School tomorrow and you haven’t done any of your homework! And you’ll have to watch this dull programme while you eat your dinner!

    I left school nearly ten years ago, but the association hasn’t waned one bit.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Do you realise how rude it is to pull thoughts DIRECTLY out of my mind without asking first?

      And since I now have the Antiques Roadshow theme tune in my head, I may as well blame you for that also…

    • P7uen says:

      I quite like the Antiques Roadshow, for the reasons John mentioned.

      Do I have to leave the website now? :(

    • Nick says:

      That and Last of the Summer Wine. Ugh.

    • Little Tohya says:

      A Last of the Summer Wine videogame would play something like the Lost Vikings, in Yorkshire.

      I’d play it.

    • apricotsoup says:

      Theme tune you say?

      The song wars version improves it somewhat:

    • The Hammer says:

      …I would too…

    • Nick says:

      Or a point and click. Use wheels on bath. Use bath on hill.

    • Primary says:

      That idea is 500 kinds of amazing.

  3. Kikimaru says:

    Sorry, but Recette still has my heart regarding old tat.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      “This piece of bread is a family heirloom.”

  4. mousearmy says:

    Surely you can put an apostrophe in 1890′s if, for example you’re referring to an object belonging to that era. “An 1890′s lamp” would seem to me to be fine as it suggests ownership in a similar way to “John’s lamp”.

    Obviously just referring to “The 1890′s” is wrong and should be obliterated with extreme prejudice.

    • mousearmy says:

      And I forgot to remove the apostrophe myself from the first sentence. Teach me not to copy and paste something so small.

    • Oak says:

      You definitely wouldn’t say 1890′s since you’re referring to the decade, rather than the year. I wouldn’t use an apostrophe at all; “circa 1890s” or “1890s-ish” is implicit when saying “1890s”. Brain hurt, help.

    • Lilliput King says:

      @Oak

      What does the decade have to do with it? The apostrophe is possessive.

    • CMaster says:

      Belonging to the 1890s would be 1890s’
      1890′s would bean belong to the year 1890.
      But then if you were saying “Pieces like this were made in the 1880s and 90s” then you shouldn’t use any apostrophes

      I think, anyway.

    • DrazharLn says:

      If you’re using the apostrophe possessively then it should be 1890s’, surely.

  5. Dr Danno says:

    Never in my wildest nightmares did I ever think I’d see an Antiques Roadshow videogame. What next? A Songs of Praise track pack for Rock Band?

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I’m beginning to think there should be a rule 34 type thing for video games now too.

    • sinister agent says:

      Watchdog: The Game.

      This representative’s company released a mobile phone with a marginally higher failure rate than the industry standard! The SCUM.

      Left click to sneer childishly at every single thing he says. Right click to patronise your viewers.

  6. Hypocee says:

    Actually, apostrophised decades are (infuriatingly, maddeningly) current NY Times style, and apparently were at one time part of AP style among others; I know they were mandated by at least one English class in grammar school (bdmp-tssh) because I explicitly remember taking a deliberate markdown on an assignment when I refused refused to ‘correct’ what I knew even then was a…er…genitive adjective phrase?

  7. Hypocee says:

    Oh, and I love the Antiques Roadshow. Not so much for the cynical peoplewatching aspect that so many cite – I could really do without the owners altogether – but for the loving geekery on display from the appraisers. In the process of detailing why thus and such a rug was definitely at one time used by Sitting Bull or whatever, they throw in these wonderfully oddball chains of evidence and lovely little-known historical facts and anecdotes. I do not myself appreciate old things as a category and regard it as both virtue and vice, but with the right presentation I love to see it in others and the Antiques Roadshow has that presentation nailed.

  8. dethtoll says:

    … there are no words for this.

  9. Baines says:

    I cannot help but think that there would have been a much better game in having the player be an apprentice appraiser, learning the key things to check on items brought in, catching anything special, and then having to give a value based on that information. Then one of the “real” show appraisers either silently agrees or corrects your mistakes. Perhaps quite vocally and/or snidely if you really mess up.

    That would also give the player an excuse to be on every episode, and you could still do some kind of big mystery storyline running across shows. Maybe counterfeit artifacts or shady shop owners. (Heck, you could even work in some warning signs for real shady shop owners and shady antiques.)

    But that would only cause people to issue complaints when they find they’ve wasted real money either buying or selling real items based on what the game taught them.

    • Malagate says:

      @Baines, that would be much better! Now just fit in Fiona Bruce somewhere and we would have game of the year material on our hands.

  10. Aerozol says:

    Antiques Roadshow is awesome. Everybody knows this.

  11. Scrobble scrobble you up in your bobble my main bro says:

    MANTIQUES ROGUESHOW

    • DrazharLn says:

      Your name and post content is fantastic. In a number of modern internet establishments, I could simply upvote, like or promote this comment. However, I lack that facility here: hence the slightly awkward comment.

      Now that you’re rolling in advertising revenue, couldn’t you do something about this, RPS?

  12. Office Casual says:

    Most importantly, do the Keno twins make an appearance?

  13. DrGonzo says:

    Good old Marky Mark.

  14. Durbin says:

    that guy in the top pic so looks like Richard Dawkins!

  15. Optimaximal says:

    John Walker, playing useless horrible video games since 1873 SO WE DON’T HAVE TO!

  16. Lilliput King says:

    I wouldn’t have been surprised if Wahlberg was in it. This could scarcely be worse than The Happening.

  17. Lambchops says:

    “Now we have a tag for Antiques Roadshow” – priceless.

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    I don’t follow the Antiques Roadshow, but I do follow American Pickers and Pawn Stars which are sort-of similar but with different hooks.

    American Pickers follows the adventures of two guys who drive around and visit peoples’ places to have a look at what old stuff they have for sale. This would make for an awesome hidden object game, because it’s basically what the guys do: look for gems in piles of junk (and occasionally piles of gems: some people have very interesting collections). Part of the fun is when they find something it’s not always 100% what they think it is when they buy it. Sometimes it will turn out to be a worthless red herring and occasionally an item will turn out to be worth even more than they thought it was.

    Pawn Stars is about a family owned pawn shop and the crazy stuff that people come to sell. Each episode has vignettes about the behind-the-scenes running of the shop so there’s a slight soap-opera-style edge to it. But the main attraction are the different items. Often people will end up a little disappointed, because their stuff doesn’t have quite the resale value they were hoping, but sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise.

    • Jake says:

      ‘Pawn Stars’ is surely an example of something where the name came first and they had to think of a show to go with it.

  19. Bascule42 says:

    Songs Of Praise MMO. Eastenders FPS. Casualty Hidden Object game. News 24 God Sim. The possibilities are endless…this my friends is but the yip of the iceberg as far as BBC title go. After the billions upon billions of downloads, (84% of the world played theose), from the Dr Who games, the Beeb will no doubt be going into overdrive in porting some of thier best known titles into the virtual world.

  20. RogB says:

    Fiona Bruce. Rowrrr.. that is all.

  21. MonkeyMonster says:

    Still chuckling at the idea of a songs of praise pack for guitar hero :D oh and +1 for the feelings of feck its sunday, school tomorrow. Poirot is/was the real killer though as it was closer to bed time.

    • Rich says:

      Midsomer Murders.

    • Hypocee says:

      Well, you laugh, but it is possible to make so much money off of the people who are simply not allowed to participate in any popular entertainment. Tycho, who was raised that way, has already proposed exactly this several times.

  22. Jake says:

    I wonder how much the armless giant in the first screencap was valued at.

  23. Clovis says:

    Do the two people in the first picture end up having sex? If that kind of sexual tension runs throughout the entire game, then I’m gonna’ go pick it up now and race to the finish!

    What’s that? Another suitor in picture number four! This is looking better than a telenovela!

  24. Gap Gen says:

    Eh, the Dinner series went downhill after Dinner 2: Sup On This.

  25. Bhazor says:

    For anyone who hasn’t seen the British Antiques Roadshow then these are good introductions.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvJa0L9zsrQ

  26. Boris says:

    Wait. A game about prancing around England looking at old stuff gets the go ahead.

    But a proper sequel to games like X-Com, Fallout and Baldurs Gate gets shot down with a snappy “Nah, iso perspective and turn based combat wont sell.”

    I shall cry now.

  27. Horza says:

    Someone should make a proper Lovejoy adventure game.

  28. Chaz says:

    The Antiques Roadshow is good but surely Bargin Hunt is the king of antiques programs?

  29. bill says:

    As an expat you actually had me going for a second… considering the baffling success of some other tv shows, I really thought that the Antiques Roadshow might have become some international phenomenon!

    But why is it traveling around the US????? Surely it should be in Milton Keynes?

  30. Hybrid says:

    “Or to see someone crumple as they find out their classic Edwardian desk is worth 52p because their nephew once chipped one of its legs with his trike.”

    Best quote of the day! Had me laughing for a bit.

  31. Ronnie says:

    This is interesting, some room for thought here….