The Power of a Social Game


It’s Monday once again which means Survivor Oz brings you another Feature Article! This week, Guatemala historian, Heather Smith takes a look at how important than social aspect and the social game is in Survivor. In her article, Heather explains all the do’s and do not’s for future contestants, inadvertently bags Russell, drops a few Guatemala references and argues how important a good social game is. Don’t forget that you can get involved by leaving your thoughts below!

There is countless ways Survivor can be played. It can be played a brash, power player that snowballs anyone in their way, or it can be played “quietly”. I use that word loosely, Survivor is a kind of television show that leaves countless things on the cutting room floor and not a single person not involved in the show will never know the full story. However, it doesn’t take a lot of thinking to know that the players converse. It gets boring on the island so it helps to pass the time. However, human bonds can really help a player’s game. Survivor winners can win any amount of challenges, be in any size of tribe and go to any range of Tribal Councils, but every Survivor winner had an amazing social game.

To be frank, every player had some sort of social game. A bad social game is hazardous to a player’s game. Those that have a horrible social game are either voted out because they are a nuisance or dragged to the end as an easy opponent to beat against a Jury. An amazing social game is just as dangerous to that person as a horrible social game. Who in their right mind would take the sweetheart that everybody loves to the end where people blatantly vote for who they love more? Not even a sequestered Jury will fix that, in fact, because of the social game dynamics in the game, a sequestered Jury would in fact change nothing in regards to the structure or reason why people win Survivor. People that lack a great social game just don’t win in this game.


The social game is an important part of wining Survivor. 

So what makes a great social game? Aside from the usual, (talking to people, getting to know them thing), it’s more important to listen to what they are saying. You also have to pull your weight around camp. People will take notice if you aren’t doing anything. Don’t be like J.P. Calderon from Cook Islands and be more like Lydia from Guatemala in that vein. Be a welcoming, friendly presence. It might sound cheesy and flowery, but in poor elements and with little food and sleep, no one needs negativity. Although being friendly can be a determent to most people, like Dawn in South Pacific and Kathy from Marquesas, it’s better to overshoot than undershoot in this area.

A great example on what not to do when trying to win a social game is using common sense. Some examples include, offending tribe members, burning socks, looking for Hidden Immunity Idols in plain sight while other tribe mates are bonding over Dragon-Chi, promising Final Three deals with no intent to keep them, blindsiding people for the laughs, being a racist, eating all of the food, dumping water supplies, not talking to people, not knowing anything about other tribe mates personal lives, swearing on family member’s lives, starting fights in the middle of camp, lying, cheating, stealing, being lazy, being a sad sack, mocking Jury members at Tribal Council, threatening to put people on the Jury on Day Thirty-nine and having the name Russell Hantz or Brad Culpepper. Now, this is no way a full list and all of these examples have happened on the show as the super fans in our readership would notice. Now nobody is perfect, but it’s better to be safe than sorry and not knowingly bring harm and sadness to your fellow tribe mates. It’s just better that way.


Don’t play a social game similar to Russell’s… play one like Natalie’s.

As I said, it’s not often someone well loved makes it to the end, but it’s usually due to an immense sense of delusion to the person that had the choice to bring them, or they went on an Immunity streak. However, not every player is a Tom Westman and not everyone has an alliance partner in Russell Hantz. Most winners are middle of this spectrum of likeability. No one perceives them as a social threat, but they haven’t pissed everyone off either. Even the most poorly edited players can have a masterful social game, like Natalie White, but everyone is well aware that she’s a Survivor mastermind already.

It is sadly true that the well loved in this game aren’t physical champions nor are allied with someone so out of touch with the social pulse of the game, but not everything in this game is a guarantee. It’s more of a game of common sense, but as history tells us people do make costly mistakes. People are in fact human and not everyone can play a perfect game and if everyone did that, it wouldn’t be a very entertaining season. Viewers are drawn to the drama that seems to plague some of the resent seasons. Even though the dynamics and rules of the game of Survivor has been tampered with so many times, at its heart it is still a social experiment, no matter how many players, how many Idols or how many tribes. Only by messing with the way the Jury votes or something like that could change this and I personally don’t see this changing anytime soon.


Do you agree or disagree with Heather? Is playing a strong social game important? Leave your thoughts below!

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7 Comments on The Power of a Social Game

  1. Do you want to fuck Dani B or something?

  2. Natalie White ❤

  3. In the past few seasons, fans, players — and Jeff — seem to forget the show’s theme — Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. The social game is everything, as Heather says — it irks me when even Jeff acts like the most physical players (almost always male) are the “real” Survivors. Just because you can swim like a dolphin doesn’t get you the million. Heather’s phrase …”it’s still a social experiment…” is what makes me, and I suspect, most viewers, tune in every episode. If I want to watch a “physical” champion, I’ll watch a sports show. Carry on!

  4. I didn’t understand why you mentionned J.P. Calderon in your article. Could you explain it please?

    • A few years late but J.P. was depicted as Bossy and Lazy while annoyed the women(all 5 of them) on his tribe and was voted out in a 7-2 vote.

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