A poster is prominently displayed in the living room, reading “STAY INSIDE, NO WEED”.
Cameras and speakers cover every corner of every room and guards in all red and white garb bring in bags of McDonalds for the lucky ones. No, it’s not M. Night Shyamalan’s newest horror thriller, it’s a reality competition show that streams 24/7 to an audience of tens of thousands. This is the newest project of Sam Hyde, a provocateur and artist hailing from Rhode Island. He and his team (COM98/1Team/Million Dollar Extreme) have been planning this live streaming project (originally called “Hell House”) for the past year, renting a four bedroom house, setting up cameras, brainstorming, building a website to support it, creating merch, and more.
Last week, it launched.
The first day was all about introductions. Every member of the house is a young adult that is internet-addicted to some degree by virtue of applying to be on the show in the first place. As the first day continued, more “fishtankers” were added at certain intervals and the reality set in.
Conversation blurred the line between autism and phone withdrawal. Awkward silences for 15 minutes at a time. Tears shed. Threats made. Weed vapes confiscated. Those last 3 were actually the same person, Damiel (yes, you read it right, Damiel), hailing from L.A.. He’s a former Vine star. Another fishtanker who got in the chat’s good graces was Josie, from Arizona. Her fidget spinner, fondness for musical toys, and puzzle obsession make her seem like she’s always in her own world. The final fishtanker to arrive was Jonathan, an opinionated jack of all trades and Andrew Tate superfan. This description from the fishtank.live website captures his allure, “Although he may have a speech impediment, it is often mistaken for a European accent, adding to his unique and charismatic presence.” Jonathan arrived at midnight and was joined by the host, Jackson Goldstone (an alias of Hyde) who challenged fishtankers to count separate pieces of white jasmine rice from a slightly darker brown basmati rice from a large ziplock bag. It took the winner an hour to complete this.
Challenges like these have been going on for nearly a week now and they still have 5 more to go. You may be asking yourself, “why would someone ever do this? I certainly wouldn’t do this.” The answer is $10,000. Of course each contestant has their personal reasons they presented in an essay on night 2, but these 8 fishtankers will battle it out to be the last one standing and really earn those 10 Gs. The real answer is a semblance of internet fame for all these terminally online 20-somethings, it seems like they all seem to be cool in their Discord groups, but have yet to get their feet under them. Or maybe the real answer was the friends we made along the way. All these things will be answered in the coming weeks.
A key part of any good reality competition show is interactivity, sometimes it’s voting people off or charming fans, but Fishtank takes it a step further. Because of its unique setup of livestreaming 24/7 to an interactive and sometime hostile crowd, “Fishtoys” were created. Fishtoys are little commands that come at a steep price for viewers and can range from sending a snack to one of the members all the way to taking away people’s beds for the night. They aren’t active as of the first week because the producers don’t want to overwhelm the contestants too much, but it’s interesting to create inorganic problems and challenges for contestants on top of the already organic ones. If governed fairly, it provides a different angle to a tired genre of TV.
And then, as I was writing this article, Fishtank.live has been shut down from a Google audit and Jason Goldstryker’s (A.K.A. Sam Hyde) card failing to process the hosting fees upwards of $20,000. It seems the stream will return after the week is up but in the meantime it’s being streamed on YouTube through a single camera that shuffles between the rooms depending on audio levels. Days passed, all was well, and then on day 5, the house was “swatted”, a practice online of calling in a hostage situation on a livestream so their house gets ambushed by a heavily armed SWAT team. Despite the roadblocks, spirits are high in the house, live chat room, and socials where the team has stumbled their way into creating a fandom. It’s hard to say what will come next for Fishtank when so much has happened already. Hyde has suggested this will become an annual event, even after all the drama of the first week. I’ll be tuning in, I hope you will be too.
While you may not be able to catch every moment, the producers do, showing dozens of clips on the official Fishtank Twitter @fishtankdotlive. Visit here to get a taste of the content before diving headfirst into the Fishtank.