Monday, December 01, 2008

Yehuda's Alternative Results for Competitions (YARC)

I've written before about the problems with all-or-nothing victory conditions in competitive games:
  • Unless a game is close, neither the winning nor the losing players have any incentive to play well.
  • Simply besting other players does not produce the highest quality performance. Players are only motivated to achieve relative success.
  • Winning is often a matter of gaming the system, which is not reflective of the intention of the competition.
  • Society teaches that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game, but our games don't reflect this.
  • There is no reason to artificially limit rewards to a single player, so long as we do not reduce the motivation to succeed (i.e. effort and results must still count)
If you disagree with these points, please comment on the original articles in which I made them.

To address these points, here are alternative ending results which can be used for nearly any competitive game. Some people will hate them; they don't have to use them. Others may like them as an occasional alternative. Still others will find that these results embed values that they already use informally.

Yehuda's Alternative Results for Competitions (YARC)

Step 1: Play the game

Play and calculate the final scores for any competitive game, as usual.

Note: In a game where your success is due in large part to non-tactical and non-strategic play - such as luck, knowledge of trivia, or communication skills - the game is won if all players enjoyed playing the game.

Step 2: Calculate base results against each other player

There is no overall single winner for the game. You win or lose against each other player. Total the scores and use the YARC table to compute a base result for each other player.

YARC Table
Comparison to other playerResult
< -50%unbalanced match
-50% to -20%inferior challenge
-20% to -10%lesser challenge
-10% to -5%greater challenge
-5% to -1%superior challenge
-1% to 1%tie
1% to 5%inferior win
5% to 10%lesser win
10% to 20%greater win
20% to 50%superior win
> 50%unbalanced match

[1] In nearly all games, a 1% win/loss indicates little about the skill of the players or of the play; the final scores are a result of a minor luck element, or the manipulation of some small event near the end of play that had nothing to do with the overall play.

[2] In the case of a >50% win/loss, either a) the game is very low scoring (final score is 3 to 1 or some such), or b) the winning player made an exceptional play, series of plays, or gamble which determined the game, or c) the losing player made an exceptionally bad play, series of plays, or gamble which determined the game, or d) the players are grossly mismatched in skill levels.

[3] For some games, calculating the difference between each two players is easy: simply compare victory points, money, seconds, and so on. For other games, you may need to massage the ending values into a more complex score.

For instance, in Yinsh, the competitive value between the two players may be measured roughly by the number of disks placed during the game. For games in which you are eliminated for not completed a certain task, you may assign a negative value to the failure to complete the task.

Step 3: Derive final results from base results

If you've played the same game with the same opponent before, compare this game's base results to the final results of the previous game against the same opponent.

This is not always possible. In a multi-player game with five opponents, having previously played one of the opponents in the same game with three different opponents may not present a clean opportunity for comparison. If you've never played this game with a certain opponent before, you might evaluate how well you've played similar games (such as abstract, area control, or auctioning) with this opponent. If the tactics or strategy are similar, you may use the mitigating factors proportionately to the similarity.

Derive final results by choosing one of the following percentages and re-visiting the YARC table with the new percent:
  • your base result in this game vs your final result in the previous game, OR
  • your actual score in this game vs your actual score in the previous game, OR
  • both players' total actual scores in this game vs both players' total actual scores in the previous game, assuming that your base result in this game is the same as your final result in the previous game.
Step 4: Then stop

There is no "real" or "best" winner. Someone with three "better wins" is not the overall champion over someone with one "lesser win" and a small "loss".


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