Last weekend I watched the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest with my partner. It is the first time I had ever paid any attention to Eurovision and it was a pretty fun evening of spectacle. While I couldn't follow the Swedish commentary, my fiancée could and would generally relay any particularly interesting information.
One thing she mentioned when we were approaching the end of the night is that the order in which the voting results are revealed is algorithmically sorted to generate the maximum suspense. I can't help but wonder what would that algorithm look like? Seems it would be an interesting challenge to try to create my own version.
As a first step, we need to find an answer to the question: What do we mean by suspense in this context?
Without knowing the answer to this question, we don't know what we are trying to maximise and that will make it very difficult to produce an effect system.
I definitely don't know all the answers here and would like to hear your ideas, but here is what I am currently thinking. High suspense means:
- A lot of movement in rankings (especially the top position)
- If there is a clear winner, their victory is made obvious as late as possible
- If the final result is close, the second last round should show positions 1 & 2 as close as possible, ideally with the final victor being second.
In other words, you want to ensure that the audience is unsure of the victor for as long as possible, and to try to ensure that as many countries as possible are in the running and jockeying for position.
So what other factors do you think contribute to suspense?