Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Genius: Rules of the Game Player Rankings

If you follow me on any of my social media, you'll know that I've gotten completely obsessed with the Korean reality show, The Genius. And since that previous sentence probably applies to approximately zero of you, all my social media is linked at the bottom of this post. 😏

Anyway, I'm assuming that most of you have found your way here because you, too, are a huge fan of The Genius. Which is super exciting for me, because I have very few people to talk about this show with. I talk with people on Twitter or Reddit occasionally, but mostly I've just been shoving The Genius in my friends' faces. And they're about thisclose to killing me for it. So let's get a conversation going in the comments of this post, so we can all chat about The Genius more. 

And if you haven't seen the show, it's embedded below. You should definitely take a moment to watch it, because it's beautiful and perfect. But don't read past this intro until after you've seen all of season 1, because massive spoilers await you.

Today, I'm going to be doing my personal rankings of the players of The Genius Season 1. My rankings will be explained for each, but the list is a mixture of how good of a player I think they are (in this season) and how much I personally like them. That being said, I will be discussing spoilers for Season 1. I won't talk about anything past season 1, but if you haven't seen the entirety of this first season, don't read any further. I really don't want to spoil you on this beautiful show. Sometime in the future, I want to do a post or video on why people should watch The Genius, but today is not that day. 

Similarly, I'll ask that no one comment any spoilers past season 1 as well, since I personally have not completed the entire run of the show. As a point of reference, as of the time I'm writing this sentence, I've seen Seasons 1&2 and half of season 3. (And now, when I'm about to post it, I've seen through the first half of season 4. But I haven't changed anything since starting S4) So just to reiterate: This list is based on Season 1 only. If any of these players return for subsequent seasons, that's not factored in to this list, especially in the case of all-stars because I haven't even seen that season yet. OK, no more rambling. Let's just jump into the list!

13) Minseo

Ugh. Minseo is just not a good player. The only positive thing that she added to this season was that she was at least partially involved with the infamous garnet heist, but she was literally just a vessel for Sangmin's cleverness. In fact, I'd say that she really just played right into his hands. She was easily tricked in episode 1, and only survived to episode two because of the aforementioned garnet heist.

12) Jungmoon

Time to start throwing that shade. Almost no one would argue with my placement of Minseo, but this one might ruffle some feathers. Some people really love Jungmoon... and I just don't get it. In fact, I think she's fairly abysmal this season. The first few episodes, sure, she isn't too bad. Episode 1, she and Changyeop figure out a strategy that's slightly better than Cha's very simple strategy. Not bad at all, but not that clever when compared to some other gameplay going on that episode. Episodes 2 & 3, she's not too big of a deal, so job well done for surviving and not getting chosen for a death match. Unfortunately, that doesn't make for good TV, so personally I didn't find her too entertaining to watch. 

And then we get to episode 4, in which she's a complete and total trainwreck. Like, Jungmoon's gameplay on episode 4 is possibly the worst gameplay from any player this season. She makes it immediately obvious that she's one of the zombies-- Sangmin's intuition wasn't even necessary here. Then, she refuses to admit to being a zombie to her closest ally despite the fact that she's completely incapable of lying convincingly. Then, when she's chosen for the death match, she chooses to play against Changyeop, the person who'd been her closest ally the entire game. Idiotic. And then literally an episode after eliminating Changyeop, she gets eliminated and despite the fact that he doesn't actually take his revenge... he basically gets his revenge. 

11) Jimmy Cha

I'm not going to even pretend like I was sad when Cha left. I think most people at this point were rooting for Cha (and usually are glad he lost by the end of the season), but I was all aboard the "Beat Cha" train when I knew who the two death match players were. I wasn't even incredibly high on Sunggyu at that point, but I still was rooting for him to win. He had at least had entertaining moments, even if he hadn't yet shown his real aptitude for the games.

Cha was just... boring. The Genius is at its most fun and strategic when people are trying to puzzle out the best strategy for the game at hand. It's much less entertaining to watch Cha sit and lecture to a room of people about one way to win. And on top of that, his strategies were... wait for it... SIMPLE. Look, I'm all for people playing to be in the middle. The goal of the main match isn't to win; it's to not go to the death match. But watching players get spoon-fed strategy isn't anywhere near as entertaining as watching the acclaimed "ugly victories and beautiful defeats." Cha getting eliminated was honestly one of the best things to happen to this season.

10) Junseok

I wanted to put Junseok a bit higher, but given that he was eliminated in episode 1, I felt like I didn't have justification for putting him higher than some players that make a bit more of a splash. There's not too much to say about Junseok. He and Jinho came up with a good strategy for episode 1... and then completely failed to implement it correctly. And on top of that, he didn't do very well socially, because he was barging into rooms and only talking to Jinho. Jinho was able to do much better in subsequent episodes, but unfortunately we don't have that for Junseok. And there's something to say for the fact that the single ally he made in the game was able to be swayed to betray him with a single garnet. I personally liked watching this very brief character arc, but he didn't make a big enough impact to show up higher on this list.

9) Eunji

If there's anyone on this cast that I've complained incessantly about, it's Eunji. But when I looked at the list, I realized that she wasn't quite as low as I thought. My main problem with her is that I thought she stayed way too long. And I can't even say that she did that well in main matches, because she went to so many death matches, whether because of her own doing or because someone else picked her. To be honest, she was kind of just... there. There were a couple times when she showed some level of gameplay awareness (hence her placement above some other people) but when we narrowed down to the top 5, she was the CLEAR dud in the group. It left me scratching my head as to how exactly she made it there, when other more solid players had fallen before her. 

8) Yuram

I don't have incredibly strong opinions one way or the other about Yuram, for a few of the same reasons as stated for Eunji. I personally like Eunji less, so she's slightly lower on the list. That being said, I feel like Yuram was a bit of a blah character as well. The strongest opinion that I have is that her death match opponent selection was just dumb. She blatantly picked the person with the largest garnet count every time. Sure, it's good to have garnets. But, if you take out the garnet leader... you become the garnet leader. It worked out for most of the game, but it wasn't a good strategy. She played... alright? She went to a couple death matches along the way. She was part of the majority. But she wasn't entertaining to watch, and she doesn't inspire strong emotions one way or another. 

7) Changyeop

I can hear the complaints now. WHY do I have Changyeop up this high? He didn't really do that much. He wasn't a huge character. True. You're right. But he at least did a couple things that made an impact, especially on me personally. First of all, he was propelled to a win in episode 2. It wasn't necessarily of his own volition, but he had enough sense to shut up and go along with it, and therefore got the token of life and won for the day. And he was a strong enough force in his team for episode 3 that he was given the token of life by the winning player. Are those amazing moves? No. But it's at least something that was slightly more interesting to watch than the actions of the people lower on the list. And the way that he pretended to buy tickets in episode 3 was hilarious and adorable. He literally went through all the actions. Every time. So, was he amazing? No. But he was cute and more entertaining than some other people. 

6) Poong

Poong isn't necessarily a good player, but he's fun to watch. The drama surrounding the alliance with him, Sangmin, and Gura was fun to watch. Yes, he was definitely playing third fiddle to Sangmin and Gura, but watching him turn his back on them was fun. Poong wasn't exactly a disaster or anything, but he was... sloppily funny? I guess? He aligned himself with some strong players and was able to succeed because of that, and he recognized when it was time to jump ship for the bigger, more accepting alliance. On top of this, I think he was just more entertaining to watch than the players who fell lower on this ranking than him. He's got an endearing personality and he's fun to watch. He may not be at the center of attention, but oftentimes, he's right there in the thick of it, and that makes him more entertaining than people who were on the outside.

5) Gura

I have a lot of complaints about Gura. In fact, I really don't like him that much as a person and I don't think he's necessarily a particularly good Genius player. But he brought so. much. entertainment to this season. He created so many of the key moments of the show. He certainly misplayed his hand a bit due to cockiness-- was it really necessary for him to just sleep and ignore everyone in episode 2?-- but he played such a compelling antagonistic role. And he wasn't even really a bad player. He had a lot of good strategies and if his personality didn't get in his way, he could be a force to be reckoned with. 

The obvious complaint about Gura is obviously this major attitude shift in the last couple episodes he's in. The graphic literally calls him a grumpy old man, and that's incredibly accurate. He clearly didn't care anymore and he seemed to feel like he was almost too good for the game. In some cases, this would make him fall in my rankings, but I can't ignore the fun that he brought to the beginning of this season. If he'd stuck around for much longer with his bad attitude, maybe I'd be a bit lower on him, but I feel like he brought the entertainment and promptly exited at the right moment. 


If you've gotten to this point in the post, you're (probably) aware that the top 4 on my ranking are also the top 4 placing players. I just wanted to pause the ranking for a moment to mention that there's a rather large gap between #5 & #4 on this list.  I cannot say enough about this top 4 and how strong they are. Seriously. These 4 are some of my all-time favorite Genius players ever. 

4) Kyungran

OK. I know we're unlikely to get more seasons of The Genius. But if we do, we need more female cast members along the lines of Kyungran. Quite unfortunately, so few of the women on this show have both the challenge prowess and a compelling personality, but Kyungran is one of those few. Kyungran is probably my favorite woman to ever play The Genius. Right out the gate, she shows her craftiness by manipulating Sunggyu and then manipulating Minseo to keep her out of the death match. For some reason, I almost view the Kyungran of episode 1 as a different person than the Kyungran of the rest of the season, because she begins the game so manipulative and the next episode she's very much a team player and maintains that for the rest of the game. 

However, she also shows that she's strong across the board. She doesn't go to a death match until the semi-finals, when there are simply no other options. She wins her fair share of main matches and shows that she's strategically very sound. Some of her best playing is when she aligns herself in the middle of the game with Sangmin and the pair keep each other safe. She was an incredibly strong player who was able to win main matches while still flying under the radar enough that she was never picked for a death match. 

3) Sangmin

This top 3 was incredibly hard to rank. I went back and forth, but based on this season, this is where I ended up putting Sangmin. These top 3 are all solid players in season 1. I love watching them play, I find them endearing, and they had some incredible moments. But Sangmin got edged out because I rooted for the other two more than I rooted for him. 

I don't even know what to say about Sangmin. He's just... brilliant. First and foremost, never forget the Garnet Heist. The Garnet Heist is the defining moment where most people get hooked into The Genius. It's not necessarily the best reveal in the history of the show, but it's the one that introduces you to Sangmin as a player and oh boy is he a great one. He's constantly in the thick of things. He immediately allies with Gura and Poong, which turns out to be the "antagonist" alliance at the beginning of the game, and it almost seems like Sangmin is playing second fiddle to Gura. But it becomes clear rather soon after that Sangmin is the clear star there. Everyone works against the Gura alliance, but Sangmin still manages to keep ties with the other side and gain slight advantages over his alliance members so that he's never in jeopardy. Alongside Kyungran, Sangmin was also never chosen for a death match. He showed time and time again that he was skilled at literally every aspect of The Genius game-- he had a freaking phenomenal intuition, killer strategy, and played a great social game as well.

And on top of that, he's such a dynamic personality. Sangmin bursts onto your screen and refuses to let you go. He's loud and hilarious and commands your attention. Most importantly, he's just so much fun to watch. He knows how to make a show entertaining, and he takes every opportunity that he gets to entertain the audience. Sangmin is a total package. 

2) Sunggyu

I think the hardest part of making this list was choosing who was 1 & who was 2, because these two are basically completely tied. Both are super strong players and I absolutely love them. The reason that Sunggyu ended up at #2 is because I tend to root for Jinho over Sunggyu, and because I think Jinho is a better player. 

HOWEVER, I originally had Sunggyu at #1 on this list for this reason alone: He is by far the most entertaining person to watch this season. He had such a beautiful character arc. At the beginning of the season, he was being portrayed as the bumbling doofus, not quite sure of how the games worked or how to succeed at strategy. Literally, week one, his goal was "I just want to understand the game." Fast forward to his elimination in final four and he's become a dominant, powerhouse player. He and Sangmin do such a good job in the later part of the season as a duo, helping each other succeed and propelling Sunggyu to several wins. 

But, other than the character arc, he just makes the season so much fun to watch. That moment in final four where Sunggyu and Sangmin are tossing notes back and forth is one of my absolute favorite moments in TV history. Seriously. The ending of the episode where he's eliminated is equally heart-wrenching. Everyone's upset and they do this adorable montage of moments he and Jinho had. There are just so many genius Sunggyu moments throughout the season. He's constantly willing to play strategically-- to turn plans on their head and to make it entertaining while doing so. Although he starts a little quiet, he ramps up rather quickly and becomes a key character and a key player. I absolutely love watching him play. He's smart, sneaky, and incredibly endearing, which is the ultimate combination for a Genius player. 

1) Jinho

And obviously, Jinho, our eventual winner, comes in first on my list. I was rooting for my lil Kong the entire way. He was the first person who jumped out at me in the cast. He'd been mentioned in a podcast I listened to, so he was the one I was familiar with going into the season. That podcast didn't give spoilers or anything, so I had no idea of his eventual placement. But, when you pitch someone to me as a gamer who created the sad legend of second place and has never been able to win a tournament... I'm going to root for them. I have a soft spot for nerds and gamers, so he was the ultimate underdog for me. And the fact that he quickly became a prominent character just served to further solidify my love for him.

Like I said when talking about Sunggyu, Sunggyu was probably the most fun player to watch, but the entire time I was rooting for Jinho. And he was the player who impressed me the most in terms of intelligence and strategy. Even in the first couple episodes where he has huge blunders in gameplay, you can tell that he understands the strategy and is incredibly intelligent. He then quickly course-corrects and gets in with the major alliance as the strategist of that group. It's incredibly rare that Jinho has a weak strategy. He may not always implement that strategy correctly, but he knows what he needs to do. Despite the fact that he went to his fair share of death matches in season 1, he was never actually chosen for one-- he just had quite a few beautiful defeats. 

Plus, his gameplay in Open, Pass is still one of the most iconic moments in the show. He found an absolutely brilliant hack to the game that no one else even considered. And that's just one challenge that he totally destroyed. And not only was he a strong player, but he was entertaining to watch and to root for. He's such an underdog. He's in such a bad position at the beginning of the game, but he keeps fighting and constantly finds a way to get through. And he's got an entertaining personality. He's not the biggest personality on the list, but he's also no wallflower. He's constantly a key character on the show, and when he's not, you know that he's scheming something. I just absolutely love him as a player. 

So, those are my rankings of the players on The Genius, Season 1. This is definitely not the last of my posts about The Genius, so I might create a separate page specifically devoted to these. Next up is going to be my rankings of the Main Matches of S1. I think I'm going to hold off on the Death Matches and do all 4 seasons' DMs in one fell swoop since there's so much overlap, so I'll probably be moving on to season 2 after finishing the Main Match post. Because literally all I can think about is this beautiful, perfect show. 

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  1. Except for your top 6, I wouldn't even know how to rank the rest. It felt like they were there to fill the spaces. I liked Changyeop though, and I really do not understand why so many people thinks Jungmoon is a good player. Her betrayal was too much for me.

    The top 4 was blatant for me as well, as the games just revolved around them most of the time (along with Poong & Gura sometimes).

    1. Yeah, I found it a bit difficult to place many of them as well, but the fact that I disliked a few of them made it a little easier. And I agree- Jungmoon stands out to me as someone who makes some really dumb moves! But the top 4 is SO good and almost makes up for the weakness of the rest of the cast haha

  2. Just finished season 1 and found this post. Such a good show. I think you absolutely nailed the top 4 as the dominant players and I agree with the order. I think my overall list would be:

    1. Jinho - brilliant strategies and I loved the way the show revealed his explanations
    2. Sunggyo - really the driving force of the season
    3. Sangmin - intuition and gamesmanship was unrivaled. Just seemed to struggle a little one on one
    4. Kyungran - great week 1 and then kind of disappeared. Great socially to avoid death matches
    5. Gura - also couldn't stand his personality
    6. Poong - not great at the games, but the alliance jump was well-timed
    7. Eunji - she was pretty useless, but Eunji lasted longer and won some death matches
    8. Cha - I like your points about him making the game boring, but he did seem to be one of the quickest in understanding the games and had half the cast eating out of his hands
    9. Junseok - give him some credit for strong performance aiding Jinho in the final match
    10. Yuram - who?
    11. Changyeop - too timid
    12. Minseo - only not last because of how bad Jungmoon was
    13. Jungmoon - maybe an overreaction to one bad week, bad mannn was that zombie game bad for her

    1. Thanks! I definitely agree with you on a lot of this. Jungmoon frustrates me to no end haha. I think if I were to go back and re-rank this, I might have her all the way in last as well. Definitely not my fave.


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