Gamifying the Rules

by | November 18, 2016, 7:20am 3

It is my feeling that slowly, over time, there has been a gap forming between the development of technique, strategy, playing level, and the practical process of self officiation.

I hope to expand on this idea further in the future. In the meantime, I want to try and contribute resources to help fill this gap. As people develop awesome learning tools, from The Huddle to Rise Up and the Ultimate Athlete Project, the same can be done to analyze, describe and put to a test a list of ways for players to improve in rules knowledge, self officiation, and thus, spirit.

One of my many frustrations regarding teaching self officiation is the resistance shown by players to study the rules. Nothing seems to work as encouragement to read the rulebook. So I had to come from a different angle.

I would like to share what I call “The Rules Challenge”. This is a quiz game in teams. The teams are there to ease the individual pressure, but at the same time increase the peer pressure to collaborate with team performance.

Given that responses need to be evaluated as satisfactory or not, the Challenge needs a game host/judge. Needless to say, the judge has to be proficient in rules knowledge. I would love if someone is up for helping develop a self officiated version of the Challenge.

The rules of the Challenge seem a bit complex. That is because the more we played, the more participants got competitive and started looking for any possible trace of unfairness, which prompted outcries that had to be dealt with before continuing.

Below you’ll find the Challenge set-up, some strategies, and a link to sample questions I’ve come up with for the 2013 WFDF edition (I’m counting on keeping it up to date).

If you develop more questions, and would like to share them, send me an email and I’ll revise and include them. Same if someone develops an USAU version, or even questions about the differences between the two rule sets, for those traveling in or out of US borders. Don’t stick only to rules! You can use all the great resources that the WFDF has published, like the latest Spirit of the Game Handbook, Official Interpretations, the Appendix, etc.

Rules of the Rules Challenge

  1. Make two teams, considering attendance especially. You want both teams to have available players at every encounter.
  2. Optional, but recommended: make them bet something. This will help with commitment. I suggested the idea, with some success, of a homemade meal for everyone made by the losing team.
  3. Set up a calendar with the segments of the rules that are going to be addressed in each encounter. Annoy them with reminders.
  4. Prepare pairs of questions trying to make them similar in difficulty or topic. So one question will go to each team. [Have at least one question per participant per encounter, and no more than 2]
  5. Start the encounter by flipping a coin to choose who starts. From then on you will alternate. Then for each pair of questions, flip a coin again to give the starting team question A or B, or C and D [This way you eliminate any difficulty bias between all questions A and B]
  6. When you ask the question, the answering team does not discuss the answer, but rather they decide which team member will answer. That team member can’t answer again until all of the other teammates have done so too [This way you eliminate the possibility of someone monopolizing the game]. A correct answer gives that team 1 point. An unsatisfactory answers gives 0 points.
  7. In the case of an unsatisfactory answer, the other team has the option to “steal” it. Anyone on the team can steal, regardless of them answering before. A correct answer gives 1 point, and an incorrect one -1 point [given that it is optional and probably easier thanks to some guidance from the other team´s incorrect answer]
  8. For some specially complex questions, with various degrees of answers, you can have BONUS questions. In the case of an unsatisfactory answer that is “on track”, you can offer the BONUS question to complete the point. If the answer was ok, then the BONUS can mean an extra point.
  9. An alternative for participants who got used to the Challenge: split the text to be studied in halves, give the teams fifteen minutes to come up with questions for the other team.

Some caveats or recommendations:

  1. The difficulty of the questions needs to be according to the level of knowledge of the participants. 50% success rate seems reasonable to encourage studying without being discouraging.
  2. Some questions might need to be reformulated or repeated, careful to not give away the answer. Help, without making it too easy. Especially guide them to rephrase their answers with strict rules vocabulary. There is already a learning process here.
  3. If they are guessing because they don´t know, encourage them to say it first. The aim is to learn the rules.
  4. Keep track for every question, who answered and points awarded!
  5. For every encounter, consider twice as much time as you intuitively think it will take. Don´t do it at the end of practice if people usually run off.
  6. Do not answer any rules questions about the chapters being covered on the same day as the encounter.
  7. Be flexible. I haven’t tried it yet with a disciplined team that would study and follow the challenge to the letter. Most of you might be in a similar position.
  8. Not too long of a challenge: pick and choose for your schedule and leave some room for a rematch!

Sample Rules Challenge Questions


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  • Trent Simmons

    I would suggest simply asking both teams the same question, again with each team having selected a member to answer each time.
    Compare answers and the best answer wins. If the two players involved don’t agree on which answer was better, they each get 10 seconds to make their case about which was better, and also ask the opinion of others. If the two players can’t agree, no points are rewarded. If they both have the same answer, the two players involved can decide if it was worth a point.

    No need for a ref, just like on the field. If one team or certain players don’t play with Spirit, it will quickly become obvious. If players insist on arguing their point each time, that also will highlight a problem which should be easier to fix off the field than on the field.

    Great idea. If you’d be interested in helping to turn this into a board game, I’ve recently developed a trivia board game which could easily be adapted to this. if you are interested.

    • Martin Gottschalk

      Hi Trent, those ideas are awesome and will be put to a test in the upcoming season! I got the board game too, but haven´t had time to check it for now. I am friends with some board game specialists, two of which are ultiplayers! Sadly they are also big organizers and are also super busy.

      Anyway, I trust we´ll be working on something together at some point!


  • Kiwi Amy

    I love the concept! And I agree that it could totally work as a board game or an online challenge.

    As a learning designer in my day job, from experience I suggest that to really make it useful, and not like ‘reading the rules’ (which people don’t/won’t do!), questions should be written as scenarios – just like how you apply the rules on the field. This will help put them in context and be more likely for people to remember them. While quoting a a rule number is an added bonus, actually understanding *how* to apply the rules and *what to say when someone makes a call* is more useful and memorable. Also, the hand signals should totally be included – if you don’t do the signal, you lose a point!

    For example, “Team Awesome are pulling to Team Boss. Which team should have their foot on the line before the pull goes up?” BONUS: *picture round* – Image of player with one foot on the line and one foot in the field of play – Is Jenny allowed to stand like this, or has she put her team offside?

    I’m totally happy to help get this off the ground. Let me know if you’re keen :-)