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Meet the Judge of The Contest and His Weird/Genius Scoring System

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Contestants, it's time to rethink that strategy.


Hey gang, Lockhart Steele here. I'm the co-founder of Eater and Vox Media's editorial director, but all of that pales next to my newest responsibility: being the sole judge of The Contest.

Last week, when Eater editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt asked me to take on this responsibility, she caught me up on where things stood procedurally. I learned that, while the Eater team had gone to great pains to craft the rules of the game—a process I was not involved in—no system of any kind had been devised to score the players or to determine a winner. That responsibility belonged to me.

I got to thinking.

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Of course you do; everyone does. If you're like most people, you not only watch but also have a go-to GoT recap to seek out on the web each Monday morning. For years, mine was Andy Greenwald's at Grantland. (It's still essential.) But this past spring, during season five, I came across a new type of GoT recap, a weekly undertaking by The Verge's Emily Yoshida called Game of Game of Thrones.

The conceit is brilliant. Members of The Verge editorial team held a fantasy-style draft of Game of Thrones characters before the start of season five. Then, each week, Emily used a combination of her own scoring system, common sense, and complete arbitrariness to score the episode and award points to GoT characters and, by extension, the Verge team member that owned that character. In the post explaining the game, she wrote, "Think of it as the NFL as scored by an Olympic figure skating judging panel." Swoon.

So. With apologies to Emily, a retrofitted version of her GoGoT scoring system will serve as the official scoring system for The Contest. As I said yesterday on Twitter, it is perfect and foolproof. (If you don't watch Game of Thrones, no worries. It won't be referenced again once we're done setting the scoring.)


Hot dog bun

Hot dog bun from Cafe Zaiya by Helen Rosner

Let's start by taking Emily's scoring matrix (sex and death!) and adapting them for the harsh terrain not of the Seven Kingdoms, but of the Five Boroughs. Here's what I've deemed relevant from her Game of Game of Thrones scoring, with certain adjustments and my notes in brackets:

  • Attendance Bonus +1 [Each player in The Contest will earn one point each day for showing up.]
  • Sassy One-Liner +5
  • Brutal One-Liner +10
  • Line of the Day +15
  • Surprise Magic Use +25 [We'll know it when we see it.]
  • Crossing of the Narrow Sea +25 [Perhaps a trip to Staten Island?]
  • Stuck in a Terrible Side Plot -15 [Can be scored retroactively.]
  • Exit Bonus for Dying Memorably +10-25. [Those who quit The Contest can score if they quit in a memorable fashion. Negative points are very much in play if quitting is done in a feeble manner.]

And let's add some scoring terms specific to The Contest:

  • Deliciousness +1-10
  • Theme Adherence/Fidelity +10-50 [Also retroactive, as appropriate.]
  • Whimsy +10-25

No points, alas, for sex or kills in The Contest. Although, one caveat: under Emily's GoGoT guidelines, "Deceive someone you're sleeping with" scores a huge +35, so should that scenario somehow surface during The Contest, consider those points very much in play.


Why, you might well ask, is this scoring system being revealed now, on day four of a five-day contest? Three reasons: One, I wanted to allow The Contest to evolve organically without the players trying too hard to game the scoring system. Two, I came up with this idea for scoring yesterday. Three, it might be fun to see if the remaining players can work this scoring matrix to seize the Iron Throne (not to mention the winner's real-world reward of $50) at the end of Day Five.

Even as the contestants consider adapting their approaches for the final two days based on the above criteria, remember this: the scoring system is a guidepost, not the final word. I'll be doling out points for how good things actually purport to taste, the mastering of a self-imposed theme, smart and humorous textual exposition of each meal, and pure fun. Exactly how that will all play out, we are about to discover.

What's that? A question from the crowd?

Excellent questions. From the scoring guide, one discerns that travel can indeed be a positive, and that flavor certainly does factor in. As for cash left over at the end of the day, let me be unambiguous: there is no glory in it. And certainly no points.

We're going to take the scoring seriously because the players are taking The Contest seriously.

Alright. Let's do this. Day One analysis and scoring, right this way.