Developing a ‘Fear Factor’ Video Game Turned Out to Be a Total Failure

Reality TV that shows people pushed to their limits is very popular for fans who get to watch from the comfort of their own home. Judging from ratings, there’s clearly something appealing about watching starving strangers sign up to hunt for their own food on a deserted island while we sit on the couch gorging ourselves on popcorn and takeout.

A big flurry of these thrill-based reality TV shows came forward in the early 2000s. Survivor premiered in 2000, and Fear Factor was right on its heels with a 2001 premiere. 

The original Fear Factor went off the air in 2006 before seeing a brief revival from 2011-2012, but it has since been rebooted with hip hop star Ludacris as the host. Now that the TV show has seen a resurgence, is it possible that we’ll see another effort at a Fear Factor-themed video game? Only if everyone involved forgets about how badly the first effort went! 

‘Fear Factor’ was originally hosted by Joe Rogan

Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan | Michael Weaver/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

These days, Joe Rogan is probably best known for his immensely popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, but the entertainer has had an eclectic history.

After spending time as a standup comic, Rogan started doing UFC commentary in 1997, and his brand of irreverent comedy definitely found him a dedicated fan base. This popularity helped him land the host role when Fear Factor debuted in 2001. 

Fear Factor, which was designed to be a direct competitor with Survival for the thrill-seeking reality TV fans, was adapted from a Dutch series and featured contestants facing absolutely terrifying — and sometimes downright disgusting — stunts.

Participants would be buried in a coffin full of worms, eat various insects, and — in one memorable instance — drink donkey semen. Eventually, the show started getting pushback for how gross it was, but since the entire premise of the show was to push the limits, it was setting its own bar higher and higher every time it aired. 

The episode that required the drinking of donkey semen was what eventually pushed it over the edge, according to Joe Rogan: “They played horseshoes, but they could never win. Even if you made a ringer you’d have to drink one ounce. But if you f*cked up you had to drink 10, 11, 12 ounces. These were jugs, jugs of [semen]. . . .Well, this was the one that killed it. That episode killed it.”

‘Fear Factor’ continues to have an appeal

RELATED: The Terrifying Show That Inspired ‘Fear Factor’

Rogan has been very vocal about how much he did not enjoy his return to the series, and he even sounds a little relieved that the “Donkey Juice” episode brought the revival to an end.

When the opportunity arose for yet another reboot in 2017, he turned down the chance to host again. Instead, the task went to Ludacris. Despite turning down the job, Rogan still had some harsh words for the new version: “But Ludacris is doing like a boring — like is it Fear Factor if you leave your house without your phone? Like what do they do, do they do anything? It’s not scary.” 

Clearly, something about watching other people face their fears and confront gross challenges still has an appeal for viewers at home, and the reboot has offered a chance to revisit it. 

A ‘Fear Factor’ video game failed

At the height of Fear Factor popularity, creators wanted to capitalize on its success as much as possible. This included a misguided effort to launch a video game based on the reality series. According to Screen Rant, the effort centered around the Game Boy Advance, then a popular handheld gaming console. 

The reviews over at Metacritic show just how unpopular the game was. Between critics and players, there is not one single positive review. Reviewers called the game “lackluster” and complained about all the downtime waiting for competitors to take their turns.

One reviewer succinctly wrote, “If you play Fear Factor: Unleashed, you deserve to find forgiveness in the heart of no man.”

It’s no wonder that the versions of the game planned for Playstation 2 and Xbox were canceled.