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Now That’s Just Mean

March 28th, 2008 by Troy Goodfellow · 5 Comments · Design

In the life sim Kudos, your perpetually broke tosser had the option to buy a lottery ticket. My characters rarely had enough scratch to do it, but every now and then they’d drop a few bucks on the ticket. I didn’t expect game breaking piles of money, but an extra fifty pounds here or there would have made a huge difference.

Now comes the news from Positech’s developer Cliff Harris that I shouldn’t have bothered.


It was a joke I put in. There is NO chance of winning. There is no code for it. It is deliberate.

It’s intended to be a commentary on how lotteries exploit those who can least afford it by trafficking in dreams instead of hard work.

One of my mentors in graduate school opened his lectures on the economic model of rational decision making with a discussion of lotteries. He would break down the cost and likelihood of benefit to demonstrate that that one dollar ticket is probably best spent on coffee or something else.

Given his optimistic nature, I always suspected that he bought tickets when nobody was looking.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Vic Davis

    For me the one dollar ticket is a very rational decision and a huge value. I can’t do the math to back that wild assertion up but before you buy the ticket your chances of winning are zero. After you buy that single ticket the jump from zero to that small fractional chance of winning is probably the best value jump you will get. In other words you can’t win if you are not in the game. Buying more than one is a foolish indulgence (of which I am often guilty).

  • Andrew

    A friend of mine used to buy a lottery ticket every week to remind himself that he wasn’t as smart as he thought he was, because he’d get a little bit of a thrill that maybe he would win, even though his chances of winning were effectively zero.

    I thought Cliffski’s social commentary was amusing, but it should have been a little more explicit. If the player’s don’t realize that it is actually hopeless, then it seems more like a cruel prank.

  • Vic Davis

    That little bit of thrill has to have some “utility” or value. If a buck buys me five minutes of dreaming about buying the island next to Branson is that any less an entertainment purchase than say playing a computer strategy game or watching an Uwe Boll movie :)

  • Scott R. Krol

    The secret to winning the lottery is you first have to live in a trailer. From what I’ve seen of lottery winners, that increases your chances a hundredfold or more.

  • Krupo

    If the odds are something like one in 50 million and the jackpot is over 50 million, it’s completely rational to wager a buck, really – you’re expected outcome is to get your buck back, plus change representing the ‘surplus’. I once redeemed some loyalty club points for a lottery ticket and won like 10 bucks. Had I spent money, I would’ve had an expected outcome of 10 bucks in winnings given the pot size – ironically the math was ‘proven’ for real that day.

    Hilarious ‘easter egg’ though. :)