To Game The System Or To Dismantle It?
I don’t believe in gaming systems, but I am convinced there are some systems that we should utterly dismantle.
Mr Larsson’s Victory
In the 1980s in America, a man named Mr Larsson decided to decipher the mechanics of a TV contest. He bought several screens and VHS players to watch several shows at once. After much back and forward rewinding, he spotted patterns behind the seemingly random and rapid ways the prize squares were selected. If you have heard the expression ‘big money, no whammies’, I believe this is the show it originated from. Most boxes held diverse and sumptuous prizes, while others threatened the player with the terrifying chance of losing any accumulated wealth. The participants would press a buzzer to stop the bouncing selector and hope they would land on the money.
Our protagonist had no use for hope. Instead, he spotted five different patterns in which the selector moved; then, it was a matter of pressing the buzzer after the right amount of seconds had passed. By today’s standards, the method is simple enough to make us laugh, but one had to be rather perceptive to see beyond the unquestionable magic of TV at the time. Mr Larsson made so much more money than any previous contestants that the prize could hardly fit in the score display. He had gamed the system and had won, and since nobody had written a rule that forbade the use of intellect, the TV station could not sue him. Unsurprisingly, he was the first winner they never invited back.
In The House We Trust
In games of fortune, we assume that the house will always win. The old school lottery relies on the vast majority of participants accepting they will lose. The possibility — however infinitesimal — that someone might become a millionaire is all we need. One in seven hundred million chances is enough for us to purchase a ticket. It is a fascinating dynamic: regardless of the low probability of success, a substantial prize will be enough to entice most of us to accept the game.
We frown upon those who pay attention to the mechanics to find an unconventional way in because there will be no game tomorrow if the house loses. Generally, we deem hard work and incisive intelligence the hallmarks of a…