It's Only a Game, Right?
there is one thing that has been argued ad nauseam in
regards to reality competition shows, it is whether or
not shows like Survivor are primarily games or stories
of human drama. After watching the finale of Survivor,
it seems that Mark Burnett may have one of his strongest
arguments to date that Survivor is more than a game. Not
only did Ian choose to put off the game to mend
friendships, he virtually forfeited one million dollars
in order to do so. Purists, however, who liken a show
like Survivor to a game of Beat the Clock played over a
month in a jungle, would insist that it be recognized as
a competition first, and as a drama second. Regardless
of which viewpoint you may align with, it can most
likely be agreed that a show like Survivor is, at least
in parts, both.
This is where things become dangerous. On paper, any
competition that you see on TV is nothing more than a
board game, neatly packaged with rules, a board, pawns
and some form of challenge that will determine who the
winner is. It could be dice, trivia cards, a pencil and
paper or even a lump of clay, but these things alone
would never make good television. To give a great game
concept the chance at being a great reality show, every
reality competition has relied on one thing. They
eliminated the pawns. They eliminated the thin veil of
protection that sits on the board emotionless, and
replaced it with the thinking, breathing, feeling human
being that commanded it so effortlessly past Marvin
If there is anything you should know about me it is that
I am ruthless at Monopoly. I suspect that I am not
alone. I play silently, speaking only when it is to my
favor. I point out how malicious my opponents are when
they block me. Then I proceed to rationalize how they
forced my actions every time I block them. In short, I
work it, and at the end of the day, I win more games for
it. Do I feel guilty? No. After all, it's only a game.
Mind you, these are my friends, the people I care for,
and I make it very clear that games and life are two
separate worlds. They understand that. Now take away my
luxuries (and no I don't mean my Donald Trump bobblehead).
Replace my friends with strangers who don't know that I
am genuinely a good person. Tell me that the game will
last a month instead of two hours. Bring in video
cameras exposing my every action to the outside world,
especially the negative ones. Stir in a million dollars.
Has the game changed? Severely. Will strategies change?
Absolutely. Will I change?
That is the Survivor's dilemma. When your everyday life
becomes a game, you don't get breathing room. You don't
get to say, "We're still friends, but you landed on
Boardwalk so pay me $2,000." More specifically, when you
do say that, you've ripped a million dollars away from
someone and their friends and family. You have
potentially destroyed the funding for a college
education. Either that or a filthy, exotic romp in
Vegas. Regardless, the tribe has spoken.
As for me, I say one down and who knows how many more to
go. I would play a game like Survivor for the thrill of
competition, but I recognize that some people might
choose up front or even during the game to play the game
as if it is not Monopoly, but rather life. Regardless,
everyone signed up for this and while I might give some
leniency to people who go on shows during their first
season, if you sign up for a reality show you know what
you are getting yourself into. It's your choice whether
to play the show as a game or as a life experience, but
be aware that if you choose the latter you've given up
your pawn and left yourself exposed. While it makes
great television, can help you make alliances, and might
even aid you in front of a jury, ultimately, leaving
yourself exposed may cost you more than a million
Eric Pierce just got
back from another killing in "Survivor: Atlantic City."
Game tips can be offered by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.