“Reality TV is getting more real, people. We already live in a world where you live and die by your own edited footage of yourself - that is, what other people see of you. Isn't this just a short sidestep over from what we knew before?
You are, and always were, your own directors, your own editors; you act in the grand narrative which is your self and your life story! Don't waste this opportunity to be something great. Don't be scared of the cameras in the sky. They give you power and strength. Just remember - of all the people in all the world, they have chosen to prostrate themselves at your feet for the sake of their own thirty minutes of entertainment. They are watching you.”
- Lola Bourequat
The apocalypse is a plot device in many, many good stories. What's a better inciting incident for a hero's journey, after all, than overturning everything they once knew and loved?
After the… whatever the hell it was that happened, some pioneers discovered some old movies, playable on the few screens they could find. As it happened, they were stories about people stranded or locked in one place together, and being observed by cameras for the purpose of public viewing. Immediately they compared it to their current situation, and for many it was a revelatory moment. We are here, they decided, because of the very same circumstances which so regularly stranded dozens of people in a mansion together - and we could find escape, even salvation, if we simply acknowledge the presence of the cameras.
The Watched believe that they themselves are part of a great story - one whose finishing touches are being put on by those in the editing room, of course, but that's mostly immaterial. What matters is that there is a public, on the other side of their screens, watching their every move. They don't know what their objective is, nor have they been told exactly how they should behave in order to dazzle and divert their audience. But they know they've been put on this stage for one reason and one reason only: to perform.
Of course, this business isn't for everyone. You never know when the cameras are on; you don't know how they're going to edit you (hell, you don't even know what they want you to do in the first place), but you know there's almost always going to be something tacitly observing. And in this burnt-out ruined old husk of a place, that's enough to unnerve most. Those who seem to know what they're doing tend to be almost inhumanly charismatic, attempting to be all things to all people at all times. It takes a core of steel to manage that, and most of The Watched know it.
There are numerous potential ways it is theorised that this perpetual performance could occur; most assume the show is some kind of game, of which there can be a winner. Perhaps the way to win is by surviving the longest, or making the audience like you the best, or even just acquiring social power among the other survivors. After all, what's a good story without a little conflict, right?