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What Are the Different Types of Reality TV Games?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 23, 2024
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Since the 1990s, reality TV games have grown immensely in popularity and variety. Some of the most common types of reality TV games include game shows, talent contests, and competitive shows. These basic categories each may have several variations, such as talent contests involving celebrities, or competitive shows based on self-improvement.

Game shows are one of the oldest forms of reality TV, and usually feature several contestants playing a well-defined game for an audience. Game shows tend to use a clear and specific set of rules that applies each week; the format of the show remains the same while the contestants change. Trivia programs are one popular kind of game show, where competitors use general and specialized knowledge to answer questions for prizes. Other popular versions of game-based shows may use spelling ability, word problems, or even simple luck to determine points and prizes.

Talent contests are reality TV games that focus on ability or skill, rather than knowledge. Talent competitions have their roots in early beauty pageants, but have diversified over time to include a wide variety of different skills. Singing, dancing, modeling, and cooking are all popular subjects for talent-based reality TV games. Some shows use already-skilled professionals and pit them against one another, while others take novices and train them throughout the competition, awarding prizes to those who show the most skill and growth. Many talent contests allow the audience to vote for the winners, along with a panel of judges.

Competitive shows are a relatively new breed of reality TV games, but have become a perennial favorite in the 21st century. These shows require individuals or teams to complete a variety of challenges, which may require physical prowess, agility, mental aptitude, or a combination of many different skills. Many competitive shows add additional drama by eliminating a competitor or team each episode, often by having all the competitors cast votes for elimination. In addition to the physical and mental challenges, some competitive shows include a social element that requires competitors to develop strategies and form alliances to help avoid elimination.

Within these common types of reality TV games, endless variations seem to exist. One popular spin on any type of reality game is to add a celebrity element to the contest, thus drawing a larger audience through name recognition. Another frequently-used variation is bringing winners or memorable competitors back for an “all star” version of the show.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseTour. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By allenJo — On Dec 10, 2011

@Mammmood - To me, the only game shows that are worthwhile are the contests that focus on bettering yourself. There are some shows where contestants compete to lose the most amount of weight, for example.

Now this is a game show that pays enduring dividends, in my opinion. Imagine being obese, and yet losing enough weight that you are fit and in shape once again!

Long after the show is over (assuming you didn’t break your diet) you will still be fit. That must do wonders for your self esteem. Other things, like money and fame, are fleeting. But if you can feel good about yourself that’s worth more than anything else in the world, in my opinion.

By Mammmood — On Dec 09, 2011

@NathanG - I never got into “American Idol,” although I do agree with your analysis. I did, however, used to be a big “Jeapordy” fan. I used to wonder what kind of person it would take to do well in that game show.

Basically you would have to be a master of trivia. Perhaps someone who did well playing board games that emphasized trivia would be a master of that kind of game, or someone who read massive amounts of stuff about pop culture.

I never fit either category but I found the show intellectually challenging, even though I thought that the contestants hardly needed to be scholars to do well in it.

By NathanG — On Dec 08, 2011

I don’t know it for a fact, but I would have to say that “American Idol” and other talent show contests are some of the most popular reality TV game shows around.

The reason, I think, is that it taps into our collective wishes. It’s not just the desire to make a lot of money, but to realize your dreams. Everyone understands that.

As we follow these contestants at each stage of the competition, we develop sympathies for them, and see in their progression the steps that we must all take to make our dreams come true, along with challenges along the way.

Perhaps I am over analyzing; but that’s what I take away from the talent competitions.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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