Tuned In

JPTV Jr.: Educating the Next Generation of Reality Contestants

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Poptropica's Reality TV Island.

As any parent today will tell you, it is important for children to begin early acquiring the technological skills they will need in our demanding world. For instance, how can we use the Internet and distance-learning technology to teach children the vital skills they will need in order to successfully compete in the reality-TV marketplace of tomorrow?

At least one company is stepping up to the challenge. Tuned In Jr., a fan of Poptropica—a games site that allows you to create an avatar and play on a number of themed “islands”—has recently begun playing something called, I kid you not, Reality TV Island. As an involved, attentive parent—though not actually involved and attentive enough to forbid him playing something called “Reality TV Island”—I asked him to give me a walkthrough.

Reality TV Island welcome screen.

Reality TV Island is basically a pared down, less cutthroat version of Survivor. You compete in challenges against a group of opponents (computer-generated, not played by other, real people), many of which resemble actual Survivor challenges: Totem Hop, Coconut Catch, Boulder Push, Shuffleboard and Balanced Diet, a faithful re-creation of the kind of final-three Survivor challenge in which you balance a long pole while weight (here, food) is gradually added to it. The winner of each challenge gets immunity. Then you vote someone off.

Because you’re not playing against actual human opponents, alliance-making doesn’t figure in. But Tuned In Jr. (at left in top photo, wearing top hat) says there’s strategy nonetheless. The game tends to focus on eliminating greater threats, which is to say, the player who finishes second but does not get immunity. The best way to avoid elimination: “Win, get lucky, don’t get in second,” says Tuned In Jr. “Or look cool.” Hence the top hat.

It’s not exactly outwit, outplay, outlast. But you’ve got to start somewhere.