Arthur Chu is a polarizing figure. The current king, or as some would say, "villain" of "Jeopardy!" is on a trivia war-path and he's shaking up the decades-old game show.
Chu uses game theory and a method known as the "Forrest Bounce" to optimize his chances of winning each game. He hops around the board, instead of playing straight down category columns, searching for the Daily Doubles that will give him a score boost. He also works quickly, aiming to squeeze as many questions (or as he sees them, opportunities to increase his earnings) as possible into each round.
Many die-hard "Jeopardy!" fans have vilified Chu for his technique, saying that he has ruined the spirit of the game. The Washington Post recently published an article that says they're "mad" at the "ruthless" player, and they're certainly not alone in thinking that. "Jeopardy!" itself has even tapped into the madness.
— Arthur Chu (@arthur_affect) February 26, 2014
Chu's not a "villain," though. He's resourceful, pragmatic and the boldest competitor that the game show's seen in quite a while. In fact, he's good for the show. Take a look at some of the reasons that we should be applauding Chu's efforts, rather than vilifying him.
Change is okay.
Nothing can stay the same forever. "Jeopardy!" didn't always have special shows for teens and college students, the application process didn't always include an online test, and Alex Trebek wasn't always the host. But you know what? These changes have made the show interesting, diverse and relevant to more people than ever. Maybe Chu is ushering in a whole new play style that will forever reinvent the game. Maybe it'll die out when his run is over. It doesn't matter; change happens.
He's not ruining the "Jeopardy!" spirit; he's embracing it.
The point of "Jeopardy!" is to answer questions, make money and survive to compete another day. That's exactly what Chu is doing. The aforementioned Washington Post article admits that Chu hasn't broken any rules, saying "He’s just being ruthlessly, idol-killingly pragmatic, in a space where we don’t want pragmatism — we want pure genius! We want Ken Jennings!"
Well, Jennings, the 74-game-winner who many see as the greatest "Jeopardy!" player, lauds Chu's style. He interviewed the new champ and even written a defense of him for Slate, saying, "Strategic play makes for a more complex, exciting show. Don’t listen to the Internet kibitzers. Arthur Chu is playing the game right."
He's making people really think.
"But you've got to think about so many things on "Jeopardy!," you say. Well, sort of. "Jeopardy!" is a game of knowing. Usually, whoever wins does so simply because he or she has the largest bank of facts squirreled away in his or her brain. Chu is keeping his competitors on their toes in a whole new way by bringing strategy into the mix.
His "advantage" is hardly unfair.
There's nothing truly unfair about Chu's methods. In fact, he got his "game-wrecking" ideas from Google. Literally any contestant could have tried out his strategy -- any contestant still can. They just aren't, which is a personal choice.
It's not just a game.
Sure, we love watching "Jeopardy!" on television. It's exciting, yet relaxing for the home viewer who won't be at all affected by the outcome. But when contestants have thousands of dollars on the line, it's more than just a game. It would be uncouth to whip out these tactics at a family game night, sure, but that's not what's happening here. When winning a game show could drastically change your financial future, yeah, it's okay to play for keeps.
Frankly, it's too early to start complaining.
Chu hasn't necessarily "broken" the game. As of Feb. 28, he's won eight games. Ken Jennings won 74. Let's wait a bit before assuming that it's all over for America's beloved game show.
By virtue of the fact that they've made it to the show, Chu's competitors most likely have the intellectual ability to keep up; anyone can play his game. The only question now is will they?