Friday, November 9, 2012

Participation in a New Game

If the game of paintball did not exist yet today, and you came up with the idea of shooting each other with little balls filled with goo to eliminate one another, how would you determine how many little ball of goo each person should have to ensure the participation rate was as high as it could be?  There would be no input from paintball players as there would be no paintball players yet.  For this discussion, we will eliminate cost out of the equation.  We’ll pretend paintballs are free for the purpose of this exercise.  We’ll also pretend that the technology exists to shoot at a very fast rate of fire.  We’ll be silly and say the ROF can be as high as 100 balls per second, so as not to limit our choices.

With no input from anyone with experience, it would be extremely difficult to guess how many paintballs should be given to each individual to ensure the highest participation rate.  If you were serious about starting this business/industry, you would need to find out, somehow.  You would need to do some testing.  You would need to invite some random segments of the population out to some trial games.  As you would have no idea at all, you would have to have these groups be armed with various amounts of paintballs and then get feedback on how many players would be interested in taking part in the game at the various levels of paintball consumption.  The bigger the random test groups, the better the information would be.

Common sense would tell us that if we were to graph the results, the graph would look like a hill or bell.  With zero paintballs given to each person, there would most likely be zero people wanting to take part in your new game of paintball (duh!).  At the other end of the scale, let’s be silly again and say one million paintballs were given to each player and each player had to make an effort to shoot all of them.  At that end of the scale we would most likely be very close to the zero mark again, meaning virtually no one would want to take part.  Moving along the chart starting at zero paintballs, with each additional paintball added, more people would be willing to take part.  At this stage of the chart one would also be moving away from boredom to excitement or fun.  As we approach the peak, boredom is eliminated completely (for that majority that resides at the peak) and replaced completely with fun or excitement.

Heading down the slope of the hill past the peak, fun is slowly replaced with something else.  I’m not sure what to call it, but at the extreme end of the scale some might consider it terror.  Where it approaches zero participants again, it would definitely be the virtual opposite of fun.  It certainly wouldn’t be boredom.

As the ingenious person who came up with this new game and wanting to have as many participants as possible, it makes sense that you would give each person the amount of paintballs that the peak of the hill on your chart indicated gave you the highest number of participants, assuming you could only make one choice in total.  A choice anywhere else along the line would result in less participants.

This scenario isn’t going to happen of course and certainly didn’t happen in the evolution of our game.  It couldn’t.  Paintballs were never free and the technology was definitely not limitless.  My point in doing this was to demonstrate that there is a valid reason for putting some sort of limit on the amount of paintballs players can shoot to maximize participation rates.  This is true for both recreational paintball and competitive paintball, even if most competitive paintball players don’t want to admit it.  The exercise would be the same, just the graph would shift a bit.

In competitive paintball especially, higher volumes of paintballs shot increase chances of winning, all else being equal.  When winning is at the top of the list of priorities, as it is in serious competitive paintball, much of everything else is forgotten.  A primary focus, maybe the main focus, then becomes one of ensuring a supply of paintballs as high, or higher, than the other guys’.  Participation rates, although still important, become a secondary focus.