JOHN RATITE’S INTERPLANETARY PALOOZA
Players form teams of two and participate in an “Amazing Race”-styled competition that takes place in various fictional planetary systems. Teams pilot spaceships and visit planets where they are given trivia questions. Teams that answer questions correctly receive rewards that help them on the race: fuel, navigation information, weapons that can be used against opponents, etc. Trivia knowledge is the principal skill, though teams can also form alliances and employ strategy to gain an advantage. The main goal in each planetary system is to find a stargate to the next system. The last team to find the stargate in each system is eliminated. The last team to avoid elimination wins the competition.
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Interplanetary Palooza is the third John Ratite trivia game that I organized and presented on the Grey Labyrinth website. Registration opened on February 2, 2005, and the game started a week later with twenty registered teams. Nine months and over 4,000 posts later, the team of Matt Jones and Trip Payne planted a flag on the final planet and were declared the winners. The thread is preserved on the Grey Labyrinth site, albeit with now broken links to images.
The game was richly detailed with countless inside jokes woven into selected trivia questions, planetary system themes, and overall narrative. Shortly after the game concluded I wrote a lengthy post that covering these fine points; the post is on page 104 of the thread. Looking back at Palooza after many years and focusing on the broad strokes, two things remain notable: the size and the drama. Palooza comprised more man-hours and creative content than any other project of my career. I generated material at an even pace throughout the experience, and didn’t think about the total number of trivia questions and planet descriptions I had written until it was all over. The drama largely involved a player with the screen name LoudmouthLee. Lee performed well in the trivia but less so in the social game due to his arrogance and unusually convenient rationales for knowing the answers to difficult questions. At one point he casually mentioned that his non-playing girlfriend helped him with a question. When other teams observed that this was a violation of the “no outside references” rule, Lee claimed a misunderstanding of the rule and I chose to be merciful. LoudmouthLee was eventually eliminated as a result of a sabotage perpetrated by a team that was out of the running but in a rare “kingmaker” position. Lee proclaimed that the sabotage, while not a violation of the rules, was unsportsmanlike and clearly motivated by personal rather than strategic motives. His comments spurred a heated exchange that included insinuations of cheating and favoritism based on real-life friendships between players. The situation was uncomfortable at the time but became an interesting case study on gameplay morality that I could share at cocktail parties.
The size and drama attracted many non-player spectators to the Interplanetary Palooza thread on Grey Labyrinth. It was the first game thread inducted into the Grey Labyrinth hall of fame.