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Series / Crash Zone

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Is it really a good name for a computer-filled workplace?
An Australian 1999-2001 series about a group of high-school kids, working as game testers for the video game developer Catalyst. It lasted for two seasons.

Five "tech wiz" teenagers: Mike Hansen, Alison "Pi" Renfrey, Rebecca "Bec" Chan, Marcello Di Campili and Abraham "Ram" Foley come upon a secret message on the internet. It leads them to Alexandra Davis, the president of a struggling video game company Catalyst, who is looking for brilliant game testers. Within the first episode, the protagonists all get hired, and soon discover and befriend a quirky artificial intelligence named "Virgil Reality", who from then on frequently serves the role of the show's Plucky Comic Relief. A lot of the episode plots revolve around video games, the Internet, and other modern technology.

The series was a success, was nominated for several awards, and received a novel adaptation. While no physical media was released of the series, in 2020-2021 both seasons were made available for free on YouTube.

Tropes featured in the series include:

  • Artificial Intelligence: Virgil.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Virgil, at times.
  • Computer Virus: Catalyst is attacked by one of these in "It's Only Words".
  • The Cracker: Sabretooth, from the episode of the same name.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference: Virgil's virtual form gets a redesign in the second season—in the first one he looks like a blurry splotch with a face, in the second one he's simply a floating head.
  • Exact Words: Episode "Free Stuff" — Marcello tries getting rich by creating a program which searches the internet and automatically accepts all offers which include the word "free". Too late he realizes that it also accepts offers along the lines of "buy for 10000$, get one free" and the like.
  • Film Felons: A non-film example—in the episode "Rear Windows", a criminal gang releases a game on the internet to "crowdsource" a kidnapping strategy from the unaware players.
  • First-Episode Twist: The first episode is all about the question: which of the five kids gets the job? The second episode likewise has a lot of tension about the fate of Virgil. All of these characters end up becoming regular protagonists.
  • Hollywood Game Design: The series generally plays fast-and-loose with the way video game industry is depicted. For starters, the very premise of game testing being an awesome, fascinating job is shaky.
  • Hollywood Hacking: "The Shadow" features Hollywood-style hacker tracking—a program which, in a Viewer-Friendly Interface, slowly homes in on (and loudly announces) the hacker's home city, street address, and finally (somehow) their name.
  • Magical Computer: All over the place, generally.
  • The Place: "Crash Zone" is what the main characters name their workplace.
  • Punny Name: Virgil Reality's name, a pun on "virtual reality".