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.