Meet the golden banana of discord

golden-banana

You know this graph, you have seen it before. It is a graph displaying a distribution.

If you squint, it resembles a golden banana.

In the text adventure world they hold yearly competitions. In fact, the largest of them, IFComp, is currently underway, and the way it works is that everybody who wants to can be a judge. You’re supposed to play a game for up to two hours, give it a score between 1 and 10 and move on to the next.

At the end the scores are tallied and the game with the highest average wins. Often, the way the scores are distributed per game is more or less according to a normal distribution. A game that gets mostly sixes will also get some 5s and 7s, almost no 4s and 8s and only rarely scores outside that range.

Other games work differently. Players either love them or hate them and the result is that scores will be distributed not around their averages, but along the edges. Being of a certain bent of mind, the text adventure community has embraced this occurrence and named an award after the shape and, I believe, the colour of the way these graphs were originally presented – the Golden Banana of Discord. The prize (a stuffed plush banana) has been awarded since the year 2000 and is actually given to the winner of the IFComp entry with the highest standard deviation—the distribution of scores doesn’t have to be banana shaped.

I have taken to calling every banana-shaped distribution The Golden Banana of Discord, because I believe the name serves its purpose well and deserves recognition outside the text adventure community.

I said that you know this distribution. Remember the last time you looked for hotel or restaurant reviews online? Check out a bunch of them and you will start seeing golden bananas all over the place. Had a pleasant evening? Here’s and 8, sir. Hair in your soup or your waitress didn’t smile at you? A 2! Giving low marks on online review sites is often the only way a patron can regain some control over their ruined evening, regardless of whether the restaurant is otherwise well liked or universally despised—in the latter case the owners have a dozen fake e-mail addresses which they use to write glowing reviews about their own restaurant.

Last year's Golden Banana winner, SPY INTRIGUE, with its none-EU-approved banana shape among two games with beautifully normally distributed scores. Source: IFComp.

Last year’s Golden Banana winner, SPY INTRIGUE, with its none-EU-approved banana shape among two games with beautifully normally distributed scores. Source: IFComp.

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