Full Contact Coin Collecting: Untold Entertainment Exploits GDC 2011 Panel

David versus Goliath

For the record, David totally exploited Goliath. Using a ranged weapon against a melee opponent was clearly outside the rules.

It’s a great story: Ryan Creighton finds a way to hold the most coins in order to win a spot to rant at a GDC panel – he manages to get his hand on one of the coin bags, then holds onto it. When it comes time to check who the winner he, he is labelled a cheat… but ultimately gets to speak anyway.

You can see the original here but it is probably more interesting over at Gamasutra where others who were there have commented, or at Ars Technica with Jane McGonigal saying that Creighton overplays it.

I was going to post the following comment to the Untold Entertainment blog, but it keeps coming up with errors, meaning that it will either never appear there or Creighton has 28 comments from me that are all exactly the same.

My comment was:

“Great story and actually quite revealing.

One thing I’ve found is that people who work in an industry (say, game design) tend to perform the weakest in those areas in their off-time / when they aren’t getting paid (say, design a game for delegates to play in order to get to rant on stage). Taking your story prima facie, there were no rules about how to acquire the coins from other players, just that you had to collect the highest number to get on stage. So if you’d got the highest number by paying for them (or: micro-trans) or offering sexual favours for every coin delivered (or: social engineering) or by some other way, they were all considered equally acceptable from the game design point of view. And then there was the lack of clarification about the game so that it was clear to everyone in the room that a game was actually occurring.

Professional game designers probably should have spent a moment thinking about how people were going to play this game and done a much better job communicating it.

It’s also telling that Jane McGonigal, who hardly lacks a soapbox to express her opinions or an audience to listen to them, got 2nd place and awarded the chance to speak. In a version of the game were you perhaps went to another session, she would have won because … why? The cynic in me says it would be because she would have won the popularity contest, not because she was going to present startling new insights (that, frankly, anyone would be hard pressed to develop off-the-cuff in a spontaneous rant) to the audience.

Anyway, great story and well done in creating emergent game mechanics.”

Of course, the difference between ’emergent game mechanics’ and ‘exploited / broke game and / or social convention’ depends heavily on if you were you were standing at the time but I have to disagree that it should be accepted that those who enforce the rules ‘just know’ when the rules have been broken so it isn’t required to have that many rules written down. That makes enforcing the rules very easy, makes it harder for the player to appeal the decision and works well right up until a mod has a bad day and perhaps is a bit too heavy-handed, leaving public appeal the only option left for a fair resolution.

Sometimes doing things differently is what you need to do to win, especially in contests where the game is stacked against you. Otherwise, the next best option is to not play at all.

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