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[Big Brother] Introduction & winning the audience's favour

Started by Warren, August 05, 2005, 02:41:27 PM

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Hello all.

I'm toying with an idea to create a very mainstream RPG based on the "Big Brother" TV show. I'm not sure how much of a legal mess I would get myself if I took the format for the game from that of a show, but I hope I will be able to walk a line between recognisably 'Reality TV Gameshow' and copyright infringement. If you think that this is too risky, then let me know now and I'll guess I'll drop this project.

The objective is to make it as easy to pickup for non-gamers as a boardgame and have clear victory conditions and process of play advice (as The Mountain Witch does). I'm also toying with the fact of having no GM, other than maybe a rotating 'Big Brother' role that can be shared amongst the players as play progresses.

Obviously, a key part of the game will be Nomination and Eviction mechanics. I think Nominations would work as they do in the game show, with each player selecting two other Housemates to nominate in secret, and then the two or more Housemates with the most nominations will face Eviction. Obviously, at Endgame, with only three Housemates left, the winner is the Housemate with the most Audience Rating tokens after a final round of scenes or similar.

Mechanically, I think those players who face Eviction should spend some kind of Audience Rating tokens, and the player who spends the least will be evicted. That player can no longer win, but should not be dropped from playing the game.

Evicted Housemates get to keep whatever Audience Rating tokens that had accumulated and give them to the remaining Housemates in a similar way to Fan Mail from PTA (including weighing in on one side or another in later Evictions). Players should not be able to gain any additional Audience Rating tokens after being evicted, so it is a resource to spend wisely.

Which leads me up to my main point. Obviously, the primary objective for the players is to gain as many Audience Rating tokens as possible. I think that should come about by participating in Conflicts with the other Housemates, but not necessarily to win the Conflict per se, but to gain the sympathy of the Audience and get tokens out of it. I'm not quite sure how to create a simple mechanism to do so that is still capable of being 'gamed'.

I don't want heavy number crunching, and I'm considering using no more than 1d6 and maybe cards so that non-gamers don't get scared off. Character creation shouldn't be more that picking two or three Traits from a simple list or generating them off the top of your head ('Bitchy', 'Geeky', 'Sexually Confused'). Spending/Betting Audience Rating (either given to you from evicted players or won yourself) should also enter into it, I think.

So, to recap, my questions are:
1) Would a game like this be a legal minefield? (I'm thinking yes, but how much would it need to change to become acceptable?)
2) Would people be interested in playing a game like this?
3) Suggestions for conflict resolution/Audience Rating winning mechanisms.




Copyright law is fairly simple when you come right down to it.  "Reality TV" isn't an IP that can be protected, so by all means go after it.  Just don't mention any of them by name, and don't copy their mechanics exactly.

At the very least, YOU would be interested in playing it, or you wouldn't be (or shouldn't be) developing it.

I'm not going to design your game for you...
"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker

Justin Marx

Maybe a non sequitor, but this would work for more than just Big Brother... Survivor comes to mind as well, although it would have to be a real-time Survivor.... check out the movie Series 7 as well for the grisly version.

In the BB TV show, I think it was audience empathy with particularly personalities that led to housemates being thought of as popular (and hence, gaining Audience Tokens). I'm not sure of an exact mechanic for it, but incorporating character personality traits and how well they are expressed during conflict, as opposed to winning the conflict, might be one potential solution.

As worthless as opinions are, I'm not sure I'd play BB out of disdain for the TV show, but something like Series 7 with death AND audience approval I would personally find interesting. Basically, I see the crux of this idea as being a meta-game rating for Popularity, which is a really interesting variable, with a lot of fascinating permutations. To capture the feel of Reality TV (or at least what made it popular to watch) you would need a simple mechanic to encourage players to form alliances and factions as well.

I guess I'm brainstorming with you instead of offering concrete solutions. I'll come back after chewing this one over.


i personally hate reality tv..and to see such a wonderful genre of gaming turned into a horrible idea of reality-tv rpg, would be like watching the wonderful silver screen reduced to plastic-crap that it has turned to today.

im not saying its a bad idea..but i cant see many rpg-ers jumping to role-play the mtv real-world, or survivor series in the the table...i dunno..ill watch to see what you build....but from my small humble view, i see rpgs to be a chance to play the role of a fantastic characture....i wouldnt be standing in line to play one of these 2-dimensional morons who sign up for reality tv....

i would see this working better as a board game....sorry if that sound rude.

Justin Marx

Sifolis - watch Series 7, or Battle Royale (Japanese film) for that matter. Combine bloodsport with audience popularity and you may have a winner. Just a suggestion.


Both great movies....series 7 i waited for two years to see (it was held back in production for a year if u remember)

make that game like THAT and im there , waiting and happy to play...see? thats fun, it has combat, adventure, a sick twist and alot of fun....alls im saying is, i cant see me and 8 of my friends all playing a bunch of surfers or wanna-be-models fighting over the tv-remote and hoping to be "not vited" off the set for next episode...

but yeah...great movies.


Hey Warren.

The answer to "would [generic] you play such a game?" is always "if it's a good game." I wouldn't pay attention to any other answer if I were you.

Quote from: Warren on August 05, 2005, 02:41:27 PMWhich leads me up to my main point. Obviously, the primary objective for the players is to gain as many Audience Rating tokens as possible. I think that should come about by participating in Conflicts with the other Housemates, but not necessarily to win the Conflict per se, but to gain the sympathy of the Audience and get tokens out of it. I'm not quite sure how to create a simple mechanism to do so that is still capable of being 'gamed'.

You could make it simply random. At the end of every conflict, just roll straight to find out which participant the audience responded to, everybody at equal odds. If you felt like it, you could have "majority viewers" and "off-center viewers" as two separate rolls, with the former giving 2 tokens per the latter's 1 (or something). Like "most of our viewers like Chris better now, but a strong minority think that Shanna deserves better than she's getting! Roland's slump continues, though - I guess people just find him unlikeable, win or lose."

The audience reward could increase with the stakes of the conflict too, maybe - a conflict over who sleeps with whom would generate more audience response than a conflict over who washes the dishes.

Seriously, don't be deterred by "I hate reality TV." They haven't seen your game yet.


Jonas Ferry

Quote2) Would people be interested in playing a game like this?

Sure. I think the idea is so good that I've written a game about it, Storebror (meaning "Big Brother", only in Swedish unfortunately), which I've played once. I hope I can help.

Quote3) Suggestions for conflict resolution/Audience Rating winning mechanisms.

This is what I did; feel free to borrow anything you like. I don't want to pimp my game, but I feel most of it is relevant to your endeavour, and could be used as food for thought.

Characters are created by rolling 1d10 three times on a table, checking each d10 against a column of descriptors, generating descriptions of the character like "Body fixated, openly horny bartender" or something like that. All of the descriptors were chosen from reoccurring themes amongst participants on the show.

Each character had a popularity rating, what you call audience rating. Contrary to what I usually like I gave the GM, called "Big Brother" complete power to give and take popularity as he liked. The in-game explanation is that big brother selects what gets shown to the audience, so he can make or break different participants. The out-of-game explanation is that I wanted a player-GM relationship like Paranoia, where the players and characters are totally left in the hands of a (hopefully) benevolent dictator. What the players want to do is to be entertaining enough to be allowed to stay in the game.

I also wanted to blur the line between character and player, so different things the player would do would give popularity points. The different ways to gain popularity in my game is:

Degrade himself – If the player would do something embarrassing, like sing a song if he doesn't like singing, eat something disgusting from the fridge or stick his head under the sofa, the character would do it in-game and be awarded popularity. At least in the Swedish Big Brother the participants do this all the time in an effort to get attention.

Give confidence – This once borrowed from the Mountain Witch. If the character tells someone else a secret, he can at the same time give someone confidence points. These can be used when rolling for eviction, either positively or negatively. This is where the trust comes in. You can give people as many confidence points as you want, but you also give them a great opportunity to backstab you.

Use the confessional booth – Borrowed from InSpectres. The player can sit down in a special chair and tell some anecdote in-character. These are awarded with popularity, depending on how entertaining or revealing they are. For example, you can ramble about how much you love your outside partner when everyone knows you've slept with someone in the house, or tell the audience you've dipped someone's toothbrush in the toilet or something.

Create a conflict – If you create a verbal conflict, Big Brother will award or punish one or both of the participants popularity points. If the conflict is interesting, both will be awarded. If one participant is loud and the other shies away, perhaps the first one will gain popularity and the other one don't, or the other way around. It's all up to Big Brother.

So how do you use your popularity? The game is played in weeks, with someone being voted out of the house at the end of the week. During each week the player can use the characters popularity to invent situations where he gives 1 to 3 points to the character involved, either positively or negatively. He can for example say that someone revealed that they would never have sex in the house, and give a -2 popularity to that character that week, or have someone urinate on the floor (yeah, that has happened in Swedish Big Brother) giving a +3 popularity. Whether the actual event is some good or bad isn't relevant, since the taste of the viewers is completely incomprehensible.

It's also completely up to the GM who and how many are nominated each week, and whether they get to know who early or late in the week. This is also from the Swedish Big Brother, where they are sometimes nominated by the viewers, sometimes as a punishment for breaking a rule and sometimes by the other participants. The voting roll is rolled hidden by the GM and is increased and decreased according to the different events during the week and if someone want to help or backstab with confidence points. Big Brother is allowed to cheat as much as he like on this roll, I mean who knows if the phone calls to the program is actually used? The one with the lowest number is removed from the house and the next week starts. If the game is about to end too early, you can always introduce a new character, or have a surprise return by an old participants, this happens all the time on TV.

Have this helped in any way, or have I only made a fool of myself by hijacking the thread and talked about my own game? Well that's not my intention, anyway. I won't answer any questions on how my game works unless it's from Warren, as it's not relevant to this discussion otherwise.
One Can Have Her, film noir roleplaying in black and white.

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How about taking turns being the Audience player, giving out points for that turn, and the other players trying their best to entertain the Audience through their characters?