‘Tug of Words’ reimagines classic game on LED ribbon

Game Show Network’sTug of Words” drives home the idea of the infamous old school playground game through the use of an arrow motif and digital “rope” — along with a very brief appearance of an actual one.

One of multiple original series and revivals GSN is investing in, the show, hosted by Ahmad Rashad, centers around getting various word puzzles right.

Correct responses “pull” the flag in the team’s favor and in some rounds incorrect answers send it back — all based on the notion that, in a physical game of tug of war, the team that’s able to pull the flag in the middle of the rope over a line and keep it there for a set period of time wins.

Although the show’s open features a brief clip of the four contestants playing actual tug of war, the “rope” becomes digital from this point on, appearing on the wide counter height scenic element the contestants and hosts stand behind and that’s fronted with LED video panels.

In the age of socially distanced set design, the extra-wide counter created by production designer JHD Group serves to convey the notion of a side to side battle well. 

In the first rounds, Rashad is in the middle of the set in front of a large video wall that primarily displays the show logo. 


On either side are large scenic walls with a myriad of diagonal lines that form a combination of diamonds and right or left pointing arrows. Some segments are finished in gray, while others are backlit and change color, including having slightly different shades of blue behind each team early in the show.

One of the triangles on each side of the set has a red inner edge, a nod to the red flag in the logo.

The rope is depicted as a think “zebra striped” element along to top of the video panels, while the number of spaces each team has moved are interpreted as vertical rectangles that grow slightly taller before hitting an apex at the current standing.

Significant portions of the gameplay are also done using fullscreen graphics that show the clues, available letters and current standing along the “rope” along with contestants’ video in boxes. 

Each contestant gets their own box, which allows them to be shown in more detail as they tackle the puzzles.

For the final round, Rashad moves to the camera left side of the set, while the winning team moves to the center. The color scheme switched to violet.

If this team wins the final $10,000 round, the panels turn gray, and the LED ribbon in front of the “counter” gets an animation showing the prize amount. In addition, an LED band in the curved header above the set turns white and there’s a distinct lighting cue that’s part of Darren Langer of DCLighting’s lighting design for the show.