LAST EDITED ON 07-09-09 AT 04:54 PM (EST)
I think this question needs another one answered before we can tackle the first: what are the established paths to the end?
Take Survivor for the primary examples (and bear with me for a few paragraphs). There are a number of trails to the endgame, some of which are easier to follow than others. The ones cited below aren't the full tally of the blazed, but they'll work for a sample.
Tom's game works here: be so essential to the group's effort that only one person can remotely consider voting you out, lead an alliance (and tribe) that dominates the group stage -- then power past the individual challenges to the point where when anyone finally does want to get rid of you, they can't. Get a jury that respects all of it, walk away with the title.
A lot of people try to follow this route, but Amber had the most luck with it: attach yourself to someone everybody hates, always have them as the primary target, lurk in the weeds while they collect every last bit of resentment -- then sit down next to the loathed one and softly say 'There's no one else to vote for but me.' Cash check.
Bob and Ethan light the way down this road: make friends everywhere you go, get people to trust you, form bonds that go deeper than the foxhole mentality, delving into all-out family ties -- then, when things threaten to go wrong, smile gently and ask them if they want to vote out their father/brother. They don't. And they never do.
Three paths out of what I've currently got around a dozen. But we know what works for that game, even if we don't know why some people can pull them off when others fall into the gutter.
What works for Big Brother?
Because there's a problem: paths travel around structure. BB barely has basic rules to follow: the game mutates too much with each incarnation to have any hope of entering with a set plan. If the Survivors follow trails, the more intelligent (or lucky) of the hamsters are scrambling up cliffs using handholds that give way the moment their weight comes off them: no turning back, no hope but to keep moving forward and hope an entire shelf of rock doesn't fall away under your grip. Will's mad-but-methodical climb barely has any resemblance to Dan's, which can't relate to Jun, who never heard of Dick -- and so on down the line.
Tell me what defined each winner's game (even if for some, it just came down to luck) -- and then I'll tell you what makes a good player, at least for that incarnation of the series. Because another problem with BB is that the constant shifting of the cliff face means few things stand a chance of working twice.
Survivor's examples work here. The path of strength through BB has always been simple to define (if impossible to follow): win HoH every other week, win Veto every week. No one's done it yet. It'll work every time as long as the jury respects your efforts -- it just happens to be really unlikely. (And BB juries tend to be extra-petty.)
Meanwhile, charisma is generally forbidden by those who arrange the hamster selection and is almost impossible to work anyway without being seen as a jury threat: Will may have come closest with a smirk and a 'gotcha'! Boogie Mike played shadow until his cover was banished, then scrambled. Would either game work a second time for a different player?
You work all the angles to get rid of your most dangerous rival and she gets twisted back into the house ten minutes after the vote. Your alliance nominates the danger player, with your group holding HoH week after week while having the votes to get rid of him -- but there's that pesky Veto again. The house is finally aligned with you to get rid of the pest, except that this is the week we're going back to a public vote. Your best ally just became America's Player and America doesn't care what you had planned: he's voting to save your enemy because he's getting paid to do so.
Plan for it? Build a strategy that incorporates a thousand what-ifs based on the potential actions of lunatics? Good luck.
What makes a good player? Define how BB works as a game, and then maybe we can figure out how it's supposed to be played. But I can tell you what doesn't make or want one: the casting department. Because one man beat the game -- and their only purpose in existence since has been to make sure it never happens again. Who do you think keeps knocking the handholds off the rock?
I think the key quality for any hamster is adaptability: the ability to twist in the wind and decide that was the direction you should be going anyway. When you don't know what's coming and can't possibly plan for it, you need to think fast, on your feet, and generally at a full run: something's gaining on you. But that's a rare quality...
...and the series doesn't cast for that either.