The virtual reality game show Nick Arcade is an indisputable classic of Nickelodeon’s golden age—a time capsule of the early 1990s and the gaming craze that accompanied the era. Contestants on the 1992-1993 game show competed in video game trivia before moving on to the Video Zone, the show’s primary setpiece—wherein kids bluescreened their way into an actual virtual reality challenge, one of the first of its kind on television.
Now, Nick Arcade creators James Bethea and Karim Miteff, along with the show’s original host Phil Moore, have re-teamed for what they’re calling a “spiritual successor” to Arcade. After reuniting at a 2014 event celebrating ‘90s Nick, the trio is taking the Kickstarter approach to funding Enthlevel, a new elimination competition series that the guys hope oozes the DNA of the 1992 show.
“In the last three or four years, I was finding myself stopped by a lot of grown fans who constantly kept saying, ‘Can you imagine doing a show like Nick Arcade now with today’s technology?’” Moore tells EW about the reunion of the creative team. “The timing just felt right the more I heard it.”
“One of the biggest pushes was what happened with the Oculus Rift and the era that ushered in,” says Bethea. “There was a point where almost every week, there was a new announcement of another large hardware manufacturer—Sony or Panasonic or HTC or Samsung—getting into the space, and every time we’d feel a bit of a pang, but a joyful one, because all of these stories were framed in the same context, which was, ‘Imagine if you could be inside these environments and experience these games in a new way.’ And that’s exactly what we were trying to say with Arcade.”
Bethea continues, “Just like with Arcade, it was about what was the state of the art in gaming, and if today’s state of the art is Destiny and Forza and The Witcher, and things executed at that level in terms of story and cinema and how they’re done, then that’s our jumping off point for this show.”
Enthlevel, if funded, would boast more contestants and more games overall, replacing Arcade’s avatar Mikey with a new cast of CG characters and swapping out the trivia round with other non-gaming challenges that involve “fun games you wouldn’t normally think to do with your devices,” adds Miteff. The show’s cornerstone would still involve virtual reality challenges that progressively become more immersive and difficult as they cut down the number of teams in each round. Miteff explains, “In this next generation, it’s still a sincere take on games and technology. We have such a span of time and technology that I’m hoping people will be similarly impressed by the stuff we’ll be able to do.”
Enthlevel is hoping for a $350,000 goal to fund a presentation reel, with $1,250,000 funding a pilot and $2,750,000 needed for a fully produced series.
And if fans of Arcade are indeed the ones expected to help fund the new series, then maybe it’ll help that Bethea wants to clear up some miscommunication about the show’s Video Zone level, which always seemed to be particularly challenging for certain kids who made it to the endgame
“I wish people knew that every kid who went into that Video Zone had ample time to practice the game,” Bethea says with a laugh. “People comment on YouTube clips of the show, ‘The kids are so horrible at video games, I could do so much better!’ And it’s amazing, because if only they knew how much the kids were all prepped before they did anything! We put everybody on the same clock, and they all got to acclimate and got a chance to understand what was going on before they did it under pressure. It was just the pressure of the moment.”