You’ve heard of the Prisoners’ Dilemma, haven’t you?
Two men are arrested and given the option to either cooperate with the pigs or stay silent. If both keep their mouths shut, they both get short jail sentences in a swanky resort-style jail. If one yaps and the other doesn’t, the stool pigeon walks while Mr. Honorable goes to maximum security prison. If they both squeal, they both do hard time.
Binerexis someone in England made a television show out of it. They named it Golden Balls.
Of course, there’s a lot of foreplay where the players build up a gigantic jackpot, but the final challenge is not unlike the famous scenario described above. Each contestant has the option to either split the prize 50/50, or attempt to steal it from his or her partner. If both choose split, that’s what happens. If one decides to be a dick and steal, the thief takes everything. And if both steal, both lose it all.
The big difference between the Prisoners’ Dilemma and Golden Balls (other than the disparity in innuendo) is that the latter’s participants are allowed to speak to each other. During most episodes, this conversation usually involves both players promising to split the money, then one of them reneging on the deal and lapping up the loser’s tears. In some instances, both players go for greed and get to share public shame instead of cash.
But one man decided to take a different route altogether. The stunt he pulls is a masterstroke of metagame strategy, something that can probably never be duplicated. He’s a genius.
I won’t spoil what happens, but I encourage you to watch this video to the end. The weird sound near the finale is your mind being blown.
Things like this confirm my bias for convoluted metagaming over straightforward approaches. Why attempt to win a game where losing is quite probable when you can instead change the rules in your opponent’s mind to guarantee victory?