I was chatting with someone who would be an ideal candidate to team up for Fantasy CEO next year, if the Times run it next year. He turned me down saying “fantasy football I can understand, but fantasy going to work?” Which is a fair point well made.
If you consider Fantasy CEO as a free training course, then the poor administration and lack of communication about the scoring would be just about ok. (I think there may be players who have no idea that you get your results on each round from three separate places, two published on Monday and the third on Thursday). The low numbers tell you that although it’s free it’s also exclusive.
Making a good thing even better
However, if you swing it through 90 degrees and consider it as a computer game, then there’s a lot that the Times could do better if they consider it worth doing again.
In no particular order:
- Provide a forum or community space for players to ask questions of each other and discuss the game
- Provide links in the same place on the page of every editorial piece - one to the league table and another to the data about personal results
- Provide information before the close of Round 1 about the format of the scores and how to find them
- Publish the league table in a simple, consistent and clearly explained format
- Publish the league table on the same day as the personal scores
- Simplify the players’ journey through the instructions - similar information was published in three different formats (a pdf file, a mini website and little movies demonstrating how to use the spreadsheet) – however each format included information not available in the others
- Set expectations more clearly – particularly expectations about the time required to learn the game
- Offer an optional Round 0 - to give people the chance to practice with the tool and to understand the scoring
In other words, take the players’ experience seriously, they aren’t passive readers or click-and-run commentators, they – we – will spend a minimum of 10 hours and more like 20 or more on the game by the time we’ve finished. Those hours can be impoverished by isolation and a lack of transparency, or they can be enriched by openness and the chance to compare notes.
I realised the other day that I’m not going to do Fantasy CEO again next year unless I can either find a partner to do it with or unless there’s a forum to discuss it in. After a while it becomes just too sterile an exercise, played in a vacuum.
The challenge of course, and I feel stupid not to have thought of it, is that The Times is too rich and gooey a target for opportunistic law suits for them to take the risk of running an open and unmoderated forum, and moderation is expensive. On t’other hand, the forum could be closed to anyone who was not a participant in the game, and of course the Times could accept comments at any time, but only publish them – say – twice a day. It can do anything it likes, really.
The big benefits of a dedicated forum – even one limited to players of the game – is that we could learn from each other. I’ve no idea if I am tumbling down the rankings because I’ve chosen a strategy which means that I will inevitably tumble down the rankings about now, or if there’s nothing wrong with the strategy and the problem is how I’m implementing it. I bet that some of my fellow players could tell me though. Likewise those who understand how balanced scorecards work, or the relationship between market cap and share value, or whatever, could share that knowledge with those of us who don’t. And no harm with diverting off onto conversations about the inherent conflict of interest between shareholders and corporate executives. The side issues discussed here have been one of the benefits to me of running this series of posts.
So I think that the Times could manage the risk of litigation fairly easily, and that it would be worth doing if only to find out if running a forum reduces the attrition rate.
Full marks to the organisers for some things though
First of all the simulation itself is excellent – the tool is good – the world it defines is elegant, comprehensible but nuanced. The tool appears robust. There is an abundance of help online, and the help desk are fabulous. If there’s a market for these things, then the Times done well when choosing which one to use.
Secondly, full marks to the Times for attitude.
It has been interesting and informative to have a different, themed story each week. As one of the commentators here has said, if the journalist was also a player then the stories would have been richer, but full marks for having them and including so many interviews.
The Times also wants to be transparent with the scores, and full marks for that. The mechanics were under-rehearsed, but the intention was there.
The reason I’ve been so hard on the Times is because it’s been such a good game. I’d love to see it run again next year, and the niggles listed above are easily sorted and would make a real difference – particularly a forum.
Aphra Inc’s results
My results for Round 6 were pretty disappointing, but I did much better in Round 7. The aggregate scores are only in for Round 6 so far, and I’ve fallen from being among the top 20% to within the top 25% and now to within the top 30%. This is not simply a result of the attrition rate: the absolute values of my scores mean I’ve slid from the second page to the third. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not entirely sure if this is because I am badly implementing a good strategy, or if it’s because I’ve got a bad strategy in the first place. I’ll admit that tumbling down the rankings has disenchanted me slightly with the game altogether. I remain determined to see this through to the end, but I am glad that the end is in sight.