Critical Play: Roblox (Eviction Notice)

This weekend, I got to live out one my dream of being a reality TV show contestant… well, sort of. I actually played Eviction Notice, a virtual rendition of the popular TV show Big Brother. The game is made by Peak Precision Studios and can be found on Roblox, the online game platform and game creation studio. In this Critical Play, I will provide commentary for both Roblox (the platform) and Eviction Notice (the specific game).

Target Audience

Roblox is geared towards children and young people, but people of all ages can play. Interestingly, the game platform allows users to program their own games, which can in turn be played by other users. In that sense, Roblox appeals to game developers as well as game players.

Eviction Notice is one of many games created by independent developers available for play on Roblox. The game, as I mentioned, is a replica of an existing reality show, Big Brother. Therefore, I would hypothesize that the target audience of Eviction Notice would be fans of Big Brother. I know I’m a fan of Big Brother, and that’s what made me excited to try Eviction Notice.

Important Formal Elements

Given that Roblox invites developers to create their own games within the Roblox metaverse, each individual game contains its own set rules, objectives, and procedures. It is important to note the freedom given to developers to create, but for the purposes of this Critical Play, I will focus on the formal elements of Eviction Notice.

Eviction Notice is a multilateral competition in which up to 16 players compete in challenges and systematically vote each other out. The objective of the game is to be the last person standing by avoiding being voted out by your fellow players. The game proceeds in rounds, and each round proceeds as follows:

Beginning of a House Leader Competition
Vote to evict one of the two nominees

There is a House Leader Competition (similar to the Head of Household competition in Big Brother). The winner of the House Leader Competition nominates two players for eviction. The House Leader, the nominees, and three other randomly selected players compete in a Safety Competition (similar to the Power of Veto competition in Big Brother). The winner of the Safety Competition has the opportunity to veto one of the nominees — if they choose to do so, the House Leader must choose a replacement nominee. The rest of the players (excluding the House Leader and the two nominees) vote to eliminate one of the two nominees.

Types of Fun

I propose that the primary type of fun in Big Brother is fellowship, which is encouraged by alliances, or voting blocks, formed by the players. Since the core game mechanic is voting, it becomes beneficial for players to form alliances where they can trust other players to consistently vote in their favor. Eviction Notice attempts to replicate this fun, but in my opinion falls a little flat (see Moments of Failure section). I would argue Roblox itself relies on Expression as a type of fun, giving developers the tools and freedom to create what they want and players the freedom to play what they want and customize their character. I think Roblox does this quite well (see Moments of Success section).

Moments of Failure & Ideas for Change

Eviction Notice aims to replicate the fellowship that Big Brother creates. However, I would argue it is not very successful in its attempt to do so. Although the format and core mechanics of the game are the same, a round in Eviction Notice happens in 5 minutes whereas a round in Big Brother happens over the course of a week. In Eviction Notice, there is virtually no time to strategize or form alliances in private with other players. For that reason, most nominations and evictions end up feeling pretty random. This left me feeling pretty bored during the game. I think the game would be much more fun if there was more time in each round so players could actually strategize with one another. Additionally, it would be cool if there was a private chat function so players could scheme with one another.

Moments of Success

My default avatar in front of other players’ customized avatars

I’m actually so impressed with how closely Eviction Notice was able to replicate the look and feel of Big Brother. This is a testament to the sandbox nature of Roblox. Game developers are given the tools and autonomy to create whatever game they want to make. In a sense, this makes Expression a really valuable type of fun on the Roblox platform. Developers are able to make whatever they want, and players have a lot of freedom to do things like choose which games they play and customize their avatar. I was jealous when I played Eviction Notice because all the other players had cute, customized characters and I just had the default male character. It definitely made me want to play more games or spend money to customize my little mini me.

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The focus of CS 247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We make games (digital, paper, or otherwise), do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design with the goal of improving and refining our design instincts.

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Shane Berger

Shane Berger

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