game design

The Price is Right Pt. 2

So why is the Price is Right so damn good?

Really, how do they take something as boring as the price of foot powder and create a verified national institution from it? Why was it appointment television for me every time I stayed home sick from school growing up?

Well, winning prizes is fun.

And gambling is fun.

Because not knowing but thinking you know is fun. On Price is Right, (unless you’re this guy) you’re basically always making educated guesses. “I think I know the price of that shampoo… but do I?”

That sense of uncertainty is really rewarding and tense. If it were just totally random guesses, it’d be less fun than testing something you think you should know. Deal or No Deal was essentially one hour-long random guess, and that’s a really thin premise for a game. They were literally betting on getting a random number right.

Likewise, if you’re betting on things your audience has no realistic shot at knowing, it’s not very fun. It’s just guessing. I could gamble on shampoo prices (which are familiar to me), but not on let’s say… early Ghanian history (or really any history, for me personally).

If I’ve got no shot beyond dumb luck of getting it right, then the game feels out of my control as a player. And we want to give players control.

So playing on the edge of your audience’s knowledge can be a really interesting space. Whether that’s team members with internal knowledge, or an outside audience with assumptions they may have about the world.

Getting people excited to show off what they know, turning their assumed knowledge upside down, and getting them to stretch their knowledge are all good ways to use trivia & facts to get your audience excited about your work.

But is “getting excited” the same as “teaching”?

Tune in tomorrow - same time, same channel, and we’ll talk about testing vs teaching.

Till then,

Sam