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The game show of life

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Senior Staff

DECEMBER 08, 2022

Throughout my life, pretty much anyone who’s met me has described me as shy. 

Though some people who have met me recently may disagree, I typically conceded with — and internalized — the sentiment: clamming up with peers, shutting myself off in conversations, etc.

For a long time, I was scared to demonstrate any sort of opinion, from something as trivial as a  favorite food to a group project. 

My sophomore year of high school, I joined my high school’s mock trial team. Ironically, I don’t think the public speaking-oriented experience gave me much confidence, but it led me to another passion for competition that year: consuming reality game shows. 

For some reason, I was obsessed with the show “Ink Master”; and though I have a few tattoos now to prove my previous status as a fan, I wasn’t necessarily focused on the artwork itself. 

Rather, I was enamored with the competition, continuity and final “goal” of accomplishing something. Whether the artists lost, won or had a public breakdown during the uncomfortably confusing “flash challenges,” I had something to look forward to each week. 

I could return to the consistency of the competition, watching my favorite “characters” compete within their isolated game — the pressure to act boldly, quickly, was finally on the contestants instead of me. 

From there, I found myself venturing into the Game Show Network — sifting through countless episodes from the infamous “Family Feud” to reruns of longtime-canceled programs. 

There was something comforting about the formula of the shows: There might be a prize “on the line,” but I could participate in the game without the looming fear of failure. 

Game and competition shows are often characterized as insignificant, probably because of their proximity to reality TV. And while I agree that Gordon Ramsay screaming at yet another innocent chef on yet another iteration of a cooking show may seem redundant, I disagree that they’re pointless. 

As extreme as it may sound, after watching so many of them, I soon found myself living in my own game show.

I began categorizing my tasks and ideas as if they were a set competition; I grew accustomed to putting myself out there, no longer intimidated by others who were supposedly “better” than me.

Eventually, once I developed a more active social life, my Game Show Network obsession slowly came to an end, but I didn’t lose the competitive mentality. Instead, I was now playing games in my own life. 

But as the years progressed and I surrounded myself with more and more pressure beyond the TV screen, I think I also grew a bit too comfortable with the idea of competition. 

While it’s not a revelation to say UC Berkeley has a reputation for being competitive, I never necessarily saw myself falling into that stereotype of losing sight of any actual passions solely to produce a shallow outcome. 

However, I found myself feeling a need to surpass my “competition,” who were really just my peers. I was consumed by the countless social media and LinkedIn profiles of others who were clearly much more successful. 

Whether it was conscious, I couldn’t prevent subjecting myself to comparison, feeling like I was starting to fail in the game show of life. 

During my junior year of college, however, I returned to my high-school habit of game shows when my roommate and I decided to watch “Dancing With the Stars.” 

While we knew the outcome of the show would inevitably be inconsequential, watching the show gave us something to anticipate  each week — even if we were solely watching for TikTok star Charli D’Amelio. 

I began to remember why I loved competition shows to begin with — for the passion, the consistency and the entertainment. 

While I didn’t necessarily want to sit out on the competition altogether, I still wanted to enjoy the experience itself. 

Though I’m not claiming to have overcome my need for competition, I’ve learned to take life less seriously and have realized that I’m not a contestant — I’m a person, who can vicariously live through the stars without sacrificing myself.

Contact Stella Kotik at 


DECEMBER 08, 2022