A Proposed Variation on ‘The Dating Game,’ Based on ‘The Prisoner’s Dilemma’

Ages ago, I  while ago, I dreamt about a a version of The Dating Game, based on The Prisoner’s Dilemma. In this version, as normal, the bachelor would ask the three bachelorettes questions, and would choose one for a date and go off on a trip, etc. (Of course, as with the real Dating Game, it wouldn’t always be a bachelor and three bachelorettes, it could be a bachelorette and three bachelors, or one bachelor and three other bachelors, and so on.) In this one, however, the bachelor was guaranteed the prize, but in this version, he had an extra option: if he didn’t like any of the women, he could choose to go with his sister. If the bachelor chooses none of them, the bachelorettes would win, say, $5,000 each, assuming the trip was worth $20,000. On the other hand, if the bachelor chose one of the three bachelorettes, the women who were not chosen wouldn’t get anything — or, since it’s a game show, a lifetime supply of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat. Or, if you’d like to get technical about it:

'Lor    'Lette1   'Lette2   'Lette3
20k       5k        5k        5k  
20k      20k       RaR       RaR  
20k      RaR       20k       RaR  
20k      RaR       RaR       20k

If you’re unfamiliar with the Prisoner’s Dilemma, here’s the short version. Two prisoners in jail are awaiting trial. They each get a deal: If both confess, they each spend four years in prison. If one confesses, the confessor goes free, but the other spends five years in prison. If neither confess, however, both prisoners spend two years in prison. But, the prisoners are kept in separate interrogation rooms, so neither knows what the other is doing. If you were all about that table up above, here’s another table to help illustrate the outcomes:

                         Alex 
                 Confess        Doesn’t 
 B  Confess    [A=4, B=4]     [A=5, B=0]
 o
 b  Doesn’t    [A=0, B=5]     [A=2, B=2]

This means that, for any individual, it’s better to confess, because there’s the greatest reward: if Alex confesses, Alex could go free. But, on the other hand, if Bob confesses too, you’re both going to prison for the second-longest amount of time. If, on the other hand, Alex doesn’t confess, he’s guaranteed jail time no matter what; but he could either go away for the maximum time (if Bob confesses), or the least amount of time (if neither confesses). This sets up a situation where Alex wants to backstab Bob, while hoping that Bob doesn’t decide to backstab him.

In the Dating Game scenario, the bachelorettes wouldn’t be able to speak to each other before or during the game, nor would they be able to hear the other responses. The fun would come in when whether or not the bachelorettes would try to win the big prize by trying to answer the bachelor’s questions with the most appealing answers — or try to help everyone win by giving terrible answers. And, of course, from a programming standpoint, bachelorettes offering terrible answers would be a great vein of comedy. (That said, if the bachelorettes could hear the other responses, that could lead to infighting, which Reality TV producers seem to enjoy, unfortunately.)

This version of the game would be a bit more interesting, as the bachelor would have no incentive either way, as he’s going on the trip no matter what. In addition to whether or not the bachelorettes would backstab each other, there’s also the question of whether or not the bachelor would want to reward the backstabbing or be turned off by it. And either way, it’d be less boring than the actual Dating Game, which was predictably laden with sexual innuendo with dull questions with no purpose other than to set up double entendres. Truthfully, you’d probably still get a number of those types of questions, but with the potential for bachelorettes to give intentionally offputting answers, at least you’d get the humor of an entendre going horribly wrong.

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Previously published on May 27, 2007 .