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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Million Dollar Game Show Disease

I've noticed a disturbing trend in recent game shows. Every show features a million dollar prize. You have to risk previous winnings to go for it, which means the grand prize should never be won by a rational contestant.

On "Who Wants to be a Millionaire", it made sense to force the player to risk their winnings. The player got to see the question and answer first, making it an informed risk.

On "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader", "Million Dollar Password", "Minute To Win It", and now "Downfall", the player must risk their winnings to continue. However, the player doesn't get to see the question first. That makes it an unreasonable risk. Unless you're already wealthy, only an idiot would risk $250k or $500k for a shot at the grand prize.

I'm very offended by game shows where the contestant should not win the grand prize if they play rationally. On "Deal Or No Deal", the grand prize was theoretically attainable if several big cases last until the end. If the last 3 cases were $400k, $500k, and $1M, then the player might as well go for the $1M. On most "big-money" game shows, the player should quit with $100k-$250k, if they're playing rationally.

It seems that $1M is the minimum grand prize for a game show. There's been more than 4x inflation since 1999, making $1M not as valuable as it used to be.

A good game show is really interesting. Most game shows seem to be fixated on "player vs. house" play and "The grand prize must be $1M!" and "The player must risk his winnings to continue!" I'd like to see more classic-style game shows.


Scott said...

Hormones like adrenaline from the thrill of gambling make it physically impossible for those under its spell to make rational decisions. This is how gambling works.

Very few people have the ability to control their physical response, do math and make rational decisions in these circumstances. Many that do are professionals at it, working as stock brokers or professional gamblers.

When the player gets to $500,000 that money is theirs and they are betting it on a chance to double it.

Very few people outside the game scenario would make a similar decision. For example if someone asked them "I will bet you your $500,000 house that you can't answer a question?" "What's the question?" "I will tell you only if you accept the bet." It's hard to imagine circumstances under which someone would accept that bet until you see people do the same thing on these shows, and so, there's the circumstances. I think it shows how alien these shows are from normal life that people will make such poor decisions on them.

FSK said...

They psychologically screen the contestants. If you're the type of person who says "I'm not risking $500k without seeing the question first.", then they won't pick you as a contestant.

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