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Rules About Your Game Show Rules

Playing a TV game show exactly the way it's played on TV would be great entertainment, no doubt, but the rules of a TV game show won't always work with what you want to accomplish. You should feel free to change the rules to fit your purpose, but keep these rules-about-rules in mind as you do so:

1. Review the rules BEFORE the game show starts. Changes to the "standard" way to play a game show should be reviewed before game play starts. Otherwise, contestants will begin to play the game as they assume it should be played and will be confused at any differences. Letting the contestants know what to expect before the game show will increase the efficiency of the game. BUT: even if you haven't modified any of the rules, don't assume that everyone knows how to play the game show.

2. Keep the rules fairly simple. Incredibly complex rules and rule changes can put a damper on the game flow. Think about the best way to achieve your training goals through the game show, and modify a few rules to accommodate those goals--you don't have to rewrite the entire game show, sometimes just tweaking timers is all you need.

3. Write the rules down. We suggest doing one of the following things:

  • Make an info screen before the game show starts displaying your rules.
  • Display rules on a white board or flipchart in the room-this way they're readily accessible and can be referred to throughout the game.
  • Write the rules on a sheet for yourself as a quick reference guide as needed.

4. Establish rules for contingencies. Having clear rules about points, scoring, team actions, and game show events will keep your game running smoothly and will minimize any game controversy. What happens if someone cheats? If there's a tie? How about an extra credit opportunity? Establish rules for these contingencies so that you have a game plan going into the game show. These rules also help out with the next point….

5. Make sure your rules are consistent. Establishing rules for contingencies will help keep your game play fair and balanced. This way you're not "making up" rules as you go--potentially inviting an accusation of unequal treatment among teams. (Hey, game shows can get pretty heated sometimes.) You should also be sure to enforce rules equally among teams; if one team is caught looking at their materials and given a warning, the other team should get a warning before a penalty is enforced as well.

Bonus: An example of our standard rule modifications. We have a few rules that we commonly change when we play game shows. Here is just one example: Contestants do not have to answer in the form of a question in the Categories (Jeopardy!-style) game. This may not seem like a big deal, but answering in the form of a question just adds one more level of complexity to the game show and it can be distracting. If we don't go over this rule in the beginning, we ALWAYS have one team "report" the other team for not answering in the form of a question.

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