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Competence in a system


I’ve been thinking about competence in a system recently for various reasons and thought that I’d like to talk about it in relation to game design for this blog *dusts hands and walks off*.


For those that find that to be an introduction lacking in clarity a quick explanation of competence in a system is probably a good idea. Imagine a very simple game where you have to guess odds or evens then roll a standard d6 and win if you were right, then imagine a game where you roll the dice by slamming a cup with the dice in down and not looking under it and make the same guess. Which game would you rather play?


Alternatively, imagine that there are two boxes each with nothing in them apart from red and green balls. One has 50 green balls and 50 red balls and you’re allowed to look into the box and check it, and another has an undisclosed number of red and green balls but has at least one ball in it. You have to pick a box and pick a colour then someone sticks their hand in the box and pulls a ball out. If you guessed the colour correctly you win, which box would you pick?


In all the above your chances are 50/50 and it doesn’t matter which you pick. Despite that two thirds of people prefer the dice game where they guess then roll and an even greater number will pick the box with the 50 green and 50 red balls, and the reason they do so is something called “competence”, specifically within a given system.