Ryan Zlatniski transferred a childhood passion from the gaming screen to televisions across the world when he competed this summer on the new Peacock show “Frogger.”
The program, produced in the style of “American Ninja Warrior,” is filmed in Australia and hosted by Damon Wayans Jr. and Kyle Brandt. It premiered Sept. 9 on the Peacock streaming service and will have 13 hour-long episodes, with a new installment every Thursday.
The competition show is based on the 1981 arcade game, in which players control a frog and work to avoid various obstacles as they move it from the bottom of the screen to one of several spots at the top.
Mr. Zlatniski said his experience as a human competitor was similar to that of the frog in the original video game.
“If you know the video game Frogger, it’s pretty much what we had to do on the show. We had to jump on lily pads, we had to scale walls, go on the back of alligators and such,” he said. “You felt like a true video game character.”
Each episode of “Frogger” features six participants who are split into pairs that compete in a different, challenging set. The winner from each pair progresses to the final challenge, where they vie for a $10,000 prize. Mr. Zlatniski bested his opponent and made it to the final challenge with two other contestants.
Physically, he said, preparing for the show wasn’t a challenge, because he did a lot of cardio, yoga and Peloton rides. Even before the opportunity to compete came along, he’d also run a 5K every morning. He also watched other competitive game shows, like “Wipeout,” to prepare.
Mr. Zlatniski, now 25, became an avid player of the original Frogger at age 7. His love of the game started when he saw an episode of the sitcom “Seinfeld” in which George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander) comically pushes the bulky arcade game across a busy New York street to prevent its battery from dying and wiping out his high score.
Mr. Zlatniski made it a goal to obtain an original full-size arcade game and eventually found one. From that point, he played the game daily, ultimately rising to the rank of 10th-best Frogger player in the world.
When the opportunity arose for him to be on the show, he couldn’t believe his luck. He heard about the chance to audition through a text from his brother.
“At first, I thought he was sort of pulling my leg because I thought, what are the chances of me being obsessed with this game and then there actually being a show based on the game?” he said. “And then when I finally found out, it was sort of serendipity.”
After submitting an audition video to demonstrate his fitness, Mr. Zlatniski was chosen to travel to Australia for a taping of “Frogger” — and his first experience appearing on television. The adventure inspired him to actively pursue his childhood dream of a career in film or film production. Having been born and raised in Mattituck he was proud to represent the North Fork on a national stage.
“I hope they are ready to hear a shout-out of the small town of Mattituck on the big screen,” he said.