Thursday, October 01, 2009

Risk and Reward

Very often in game design, and game playing, the term of "risk versus reward" comes up often, relating to determining the best course of action. Ideally, as a player you want to make the choice that will give you the best expected value over the long haul of the game.

In reality, there is very little inherent to the "risk" part of the equation; the worst that can actually happen is, simply, losing the game. And maybe getting humiliated by your friends; I guess it depends on the crowd you ahng around with.

Back in the mid to late 80's, someone tried to re-start the Twilight Zone franchise as a TV series (and again, more recently with Forrest Whitaker as host). But there's something about the old grainy black and white noir look of the old series that adds to the creepiness that the newer, IN LIVING COLOR presentations lack.

Anyway, one of the standouts of the 1980's reboot is an episode dealing a gambler in Vegas who has lost everything. He meets a man who offers him $1 million dollars if the gambler can successfully light a cigarette lighter 10 times in a row. Unfortunately, the risk in this case is that the guy offering the deal gets to hack off a finger of the gambler if he is unsuccessful in lighting attempts.

Ultimately, the risk/reward ratio here is kind of hard to define; ultimately, the guy is offering the gambler $1 million for a pinkie finger; but he can get the money for free with a bit of skill flicking a Zippo. Unfortunately for the gambler, the build up to the to actual start of the contest does a good deal of spooking him out, involving buckets of ice, wood planks and rope to tie down the gambler's arm, etc.

Why bring this up? Well, I've been directed to a risk/reward contest that, while not quite as limb threatening, is all the more devious: TOUR DE DONUT!!! In a simple nutshell, it's a 30 mile bike race. But there are pit stops at the 10 mile and 20 mile marker with lots of donuts. For every donut you eat, you get 5 minutes taken off your time.

Or as this website claims: "Each donut eaten at 2 stops along the course brings cyclists either closer to glory or simply closer to a massive stomach ache."

Looking through the finishing times of the various bikers also indicates how many donuts they ate along the way. I feel rather disappointed in the bikers who ate none, opting for the race to be a "pure" biking experience. Thankfully, it appears the donut-eaters generally crowd out the top positions. Congrats to Bradley Meinke who won the "Men under 40" division with a winning time of -25 minutes, due to the consumption of 33 donuts along the way.

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