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Session Name:

What Can Game Designers Learn from Competitive Reality Shows


On August 23rd, 2000, more than 50 million Americans watched the finale of the first season of Survivor, making it a cultural icon and birthing the age of competitive reality shows. More than twenty years late, reality shows do not reach the rating high they did in 2000, but they still have a surprising amount of staying power. While there is very little work around the game design of competitive reality shows, we can learn a lot from the strategic gameplay, emergent narrative and complex play experience they provide. As the game industry is pivoting toward creating games that allow players more agency and freedom, game developers struggle to create compelling experiences without complete control over how they will be played. Reality shows, games with simple rules and complex emergent mechanics might be one answer for designing those experiences. Those games are repayable, still relevant, and provide a different experience every time they are played.

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