A cheesy parable on game design perspectives (“cheating the cake”)

I wrote this as my way to try to summarize how I see the debate on cheating that Raph started on his blog and that got me to actually participate in the discussion quite more than I should ever have time for. I do think the parable lives best in the context of that debate so go read the comments to Raph’s post if you want to get the context. Hopefully it does stand on its own enough though. Anyway here goes nothing:


A boy scout leader says: “Look guys we are going to take a nice calm stroll up the mountain. Isn’t the scenary beautiful? Oh by the way, whoever get to the top first finds a bag with a million dollars there, but don’t run. It’s too nice here. Halfway through we’ll learn to make knots and try to unknot some difficult knots. Whoever unknots fastest gets a badge! There is a lift but don’t take it, that’s cheating. And stay on the road, that’s where we are meant to go.”

The next day the boy scout leader complains: “You guys are awful. There was a great opportunity for a beautiful stroll, the fun and challenge to learn about knots and resolve them and what did you do? Rush for the money!”

A boy scout says: “But I had loads of fun, check out my shinies!”
Another says: “Yeah, what a race! And I want some shinies too next time!”
A third complains: “I actually would have loved to learn some knotting but you greedy dimwits spoiled it for me.”

The scout leader writes in big letters on a piece of paper: “The journey is the reward is a bloody lie, all they ever wanted was the treasures.”

The scout leader’s wife pulls him aside and says: “Look, if I host a birthday party I don’t put the puzzle games right next to the chocolate cake and I don’t expect people to first solve the puzzle to get some cake. Some won’t like cake and some won’t like puzzles but that’s OK. Those that like puzzles will play it and those that like cake will have some. As long as everybody is happy and has fun!”

The scout leader gets upset. “You don’t understand! Unknotting is fun! I do all these great things for the boys and they aren’t wise enough to appreciate it. The other day I wrote this book. The book tells about an adventure that the boys can very well relate to and there is a riddle at the end of every page. In order to be able to flip the page you have to solve the riddle.”

“But these cheating bastards just wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible and refuse to learn anything!” the scout leader mumbles. “And I spend so much time coming up with the riddles and they just shared notes! The notes are now everywhere too! And the riddles are such a deep part of the story too and teach important lessons. What a shame! I’m gonna kick them all out tomorrow. And I’m going to protect the riddles better against cheating next time!”

The wife tries to calm him: “But hun, it’s like the cake and the puzzle, some like one, some like the other, some like both. Those that like to solve riddles surely will try to solve them even if notes are around. Can’t you be glad they shared with each other and enjoyed your story to the end? It must have been an amazing story if they wanted to read it all so badly. A story like a chocolate cake!”

“Shared with each other? Bah, that’s cheating!” he responds “they just refuse to learn anything, I say! All of them! They’ll never wisen up. And the notes are everywhere! Who, given the chance, would not use them? They all are cheaters!”

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1 Response to “A cheesy parable on game design perspectives (“cheating the cake”)”



  1. 1 Game devs learning from gamers (yes, I know it’s hard), part I « Thoughts on Moroagh - MMORPGs and other distractions Trackback on January 10, 2008 at 10:38 pm
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