Guest Post: Don Marti - SCALE Poker!

Guest Post: Don Marti

Down with "grinding" in games! My least favorite activity in a game is mindlessly clicking and collecting. You won't catch me playing Cow Clicker or any of its imitators. I'd prefer a challenge.

Off the Internet, my least favorite grinding games are the ones where you have to go around to the booths at a trade show to collect stamps. Where's the play value in that?

Don't take this the wrong way—I like trade shows as much as the next person, probably more. When my parents took me to a home improvement show as a boy, one of the exhibitors gave me a sample of some reflective material you were supposed to put over your windows to save energy. My parents didn't go for the window treatment, but I used the stuff to make the face mask for my best robot costume ever. And I was hooked. Circus, meh. Museum, meh. Give me a trade show any day.

So how do we make a game that's worthy of the awesomeness that is the SCALE exhibit hall? And how do we tie in the conference tracks to this game of ours, too? It's not easy, but we're giving it a try.

Last year, the SCALE organizers decided to put some challenge into the old conference game idea. What we came up with is something called "SCALE Poker Quiz." The object of the game is to put together the best possible five-card poker hand. Easy, right? Not so fast. Each card has not just a suit and value, but also a cryptic answer to a trivia question. And, as you might expect, you can only count a card as part of your hand if you can find the matching question.

People had a good time with the game last year. It "enouraged people to circulate and break conversational ice all around the show, but played at the highest levels it was also a genuinely challenging puzzle." So we're doing it again this year.

Tips for players

First of all, where are you going to find all the questions to go with the answers on your cards? Well, most of them are pretty easy if you attend the right conference talk or visit the right booth. We make the answers hard to find on the Internet, but easy to find at the show. Typical questions might be, "What color is the largest robot at the booth?" or "What animal appeared most often in the video compression examples in Jane Hacker's talk?"

No one player is going to find all the answers, but that's where you can use a little strategy. You're free to trade cards and answers with other players, to build the best possible hand.

Last year, five players turned in royal flushes with correct answers. Unbelieveable for regular poker, but not surprising considering how well you can do when trading cards and answers. If you're worried about going up against five royal flushes, you can stop worrying, though. We have a plan to make the game a little harder this time. What's the change? Come to SCALE and find out.