## September 28th, 2010

### Take a trip to the center of your mind

The Price Is Right started its new season (after one episode from last season oddly delayed until the week before its start), with double episodes daily to plug some CBS scheduling hole, so I'll be able to resume reporting the Showcase Showdown results soon. They also debuted a new pricing game, ``Pay The Rent'', which may not be long for this world in its current form. It's a game harkening back to the Let's Make A Deal inspiration for the new Price, as the contestant can bail out anytime and keep the prize, or go for the greater prize, at the cost of losing everything if one level is wrong.

The game as presented is based on six small grocery items. They're to be placed in four levels of spots corresponding somehow to the levels of a home: an item in the ``mailbox'', two items in the ``first floor'', two items in the ``second floor'', and one in the ``attic''. For correctly placing an item in the mailbox the contestant can win \$1,000. If the sum of the first floor's items are greater than the mailbox's, the prize goes to \$5,000. If the sum of the second floor's items are greater than the sum of the first floor's, the prize is \$10,000. And if the attic price is greater than the second floor's total, the prize is \$100,000, which the introduction claimed was the highest ever. I think there might be a season-opener ``Triple Play'' which beat it, but I also don't think it was won.

It's not going to be won just by putting prices in order, which would be routine enough for the show, except that the attic item has to be the highest-price for there to be a chance at the grand prize. There's no reason to put the lowest-price item in the mailbox, and I suspect that's going to produce no end of confusion among contestants. This why I figure either the rules will be altered or they'll keep this as a game where a massive prize is yeah, theoretically available, but not actually going to be awarded. But that's faintly depressing: it makes a \$10,000 win --- by any standard a great prize for a three-minute pricing game --- seem like a consolation. I mean, people have won Golden Road, Triple Play, and even Temptation; this game has to give the impression of being beatable to stay fun.

On the debut game the contestant didn't win the \$100,000, understandably; the grocery items were corn (\$1.49), cinnamon (\$2.98), pizza (\$3.49), cleaner (\$5.49), hair care product (\$5.99), and cat food (\$7.30). A commenter on the Price streaming video site sulked that the game was unwinnable, which just isn't so. In this case it would have been won had the contestant put in the mailbox, hair care product; in the first floor, pizza and cinnamon; in the second floor, cleaner and corn; and in the attic, cat food. I'm not positive, but I believe this might be equivalent to the knapsack problem, and I'm curious whether it's the first NP-complete pricing game.

Trivia: Atari's Al Alcorn and Gene Lipkin discovered the need for their Home Pong game to connect to television sets on either channel 3 or channel 4 when they went to demonstrate a prototype to Seears executives in Chicago and realized the antenna on top of the Sears Tower was obliterating their unit's signals. Alcorn opened up the prototype and adjusted it to channel 4 on the fly. Source: The Ultimate History Of Video Games, Steven L Kent.

Currently Reading: The Age Of Capital: 1848 - 1875, Eric Hobsbawm.