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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

What Can Game Designers Learn from Competitive Reality Shows

Yifat Shaik  (Assistant Professor, York University)

Date: Wednesday, July 21

Time: 3:40pm - 4:10pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Core Pass

Topic: Design

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Audience Level: I acknowledge GDC 2021 is an all-digital event and commit to participating virtually.

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.


Attendants will have the chance to explore the connection between screen-based media (specifically competitive reality shows like Survivor, Big Brother and the circle) and video games and learn possible new ways to design emergent systematic game experiences narratives.

Intended Audience

This talk is intended mainly for game designers interested in system design but can be of interest to narrative designers interested in emergent narrative and just general pop culture enthusiasts