Genius Programmers Star In Gameshow
Written by Lucy Black   
Friday, 22 January 2021

A two-episode series which debuted on Chinese streaming platforms last week has been described as the first reality competition to focus on programmers.

The show, sponsored by the Ant Group, an affiliate company of the Chinese Alibaba Group, is called Ranshaoba tiancaichengxuyuan, which roughly translates to Burn Bright! Genius Programmer followed four teams engaged on a challenge akin to the hackathons that take place on Kaggle and similar platforms.china it show

News of the show comes in a report China’s first variety show about computer programmers seeks to mold Chinese IT idols in Global Times, the English-language newspaper published by People's Daily, which is the official newspaper of Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Ji Yuqiao reported that twenty programmers took part in the show and were divided into four teams that competed to win a prize of 1 million yuan ($154,152). Some of the competitors were graduates of top universities such as Tsinghua University in China and Carnegie Mellon University in the US, while others were high school dropouts. Four professors at Peking University and Tsinghua University acted as mentors to these young talents on the show.

Contestants were tasked with protecting wild animals from poachers in a virtual world. With a time limit of 48 hours they had to design algorithms to detect and identify wild animals based on the limited data resources in the game.

Ji Yuqiao relays information from Chinese news site The Paper:

The experience of some contestants stunned viewers. For instance, Tong Yongao, who also has a PhD in biology, had previously won the Capture the Flag event, an international information security technology challenge, with his team and currently is developing anti-cyber crime products.

Another contestant He Liren learned programming by himself at a small internet bar in Hefei, East China's Anhui Province, after dropping out of high school 10 years ago. Competing with 19 other talented individuals from top universities, he impressed audiences with his creative ideas and professional skills.

Audience comments, including this one posted on Sina Weibo, are also quoted:

"They are very different from the image of programmers I had in my imagination. Social media says programmers always wear plaid shirts and are losing their hair because of their too heavy workload. But in the show, these programmers are brilliant, talented and deeply love their job." 

My first thought when coming across this report was "This could only happen in China!". However, I perhaps need to revise my ideas. I can't see it happening in the US or the UK, but there are certainly other places where programming skills are held in high enough esteem to make outstanding individuals into media stars, Add the element of teams of bright young developers competing for a prize worth winning - and yes you have the makings of entertainment. Even in China, however, the show was too IT-oriented for some viewers who lost interest after a while, so perhaps it's not going to come to a mainstream channel anytime soon.

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China’s first variety show about computer programmers seeks to mold Chinese IT idols

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Last Updated ( Friday, 22 January 2021 )