Changing the Rules

by Steve Bowler on June 24, 2008 · 8 comments

in design

Hi, sorry for the updates, folks, but I’m on vacation this week so things’ll be a bit light.

However, something happened today that I got to participate in which got me thinking that in multiplayer gaming we need to not only award first place, but “award” last place, as well.

My family has this annual golf competition, one that I finally was able to participate in. For lack of a better name, it’s called “The Deer Ass Cup.” We use standard tournament rules: you can’t score more than a triple bogey on any hole, play the ball where it lies (no improving your lie by kicking your ball over six inches), count every drop, etc. But there’s one special rule that turns the entire game on its head:

The loser gets a deer ass driver head cover. They have to keep it and use it the entire year ’till the next Deer Ass Cup.

It seems inconsequential, but it seriously changes how we play the game. Because let’s face it: nobody wants to go home with the deer ass.

So what happens is that the guys who are in last place, and even the guys who are close to last place can’t give up. They play to win, every hole, right down to the final. Even the guys who are ahead keep playing well, because of a fear of failure. Not only do you not want to be in last place, but you don’t even want to be anywhere near last. You want as many bodies between you and last place as possible. It’s partly insurance, but it’s also partly pride. The battle for first place wasn’t even remotely as interesting, because it was like watching someone win a footrace compared to gladitorial combat where the loser is killed. The battle for not last place became the most interesting part of the game.

This got me to thinking: A lot of games (Halo, Battlefield for starters) give out medals or achievements that track like stats for coming in first place (or even 2nd or 3rd). But what if they gave out deer ass achievements? What if they started handing out loser medals?

Players wouldn’t just leave a server and drop out of a game if their team started losing, because their stats would continue to track on the server ’till the game ended, and if someone else eclipsed them for more points, they’d get a deer ass award. People would stop giving up and saying that it doesn’t matter anymore when they’re down, because instead of just getting a loss in the win/loss column, they’d get another deer ass for being the guy who couldn’t cowboy up and crawl out of last place.

Let’s make this happen, developers. Instead of just awarding winners, let’s start giving out no-prizes to losers that track with all of their other stats. Instead of bragging about how many gold medals they got (and let’s face it, anyone can farm that if they want these days), thered’ be new bragging turf: no deer asses.

And just for the record, I didn’t “win” the deer ass this year.

I tied for second to last.

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