1 min read

Catch-up mechanisms

In a lot of games, once you start winning, it's very difficult for your opponents to catch up. When there's no hope of winning, most players just give up. Usually there's still quite a bit of game left, so you might feel obligated to keep playing toward that inevitable outcome even though you're not having fun any more. (Monopoly, for example)

Games that manage to stay fun accomplish this with catch-up mechanisms. There's a lot of different ways to give the losing players a fighting chance, but when done right, it keeps everyone engaged to the very end. (Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, etc.)

In the real world, this runaway leader problem is most obvious when you look at wealth inequality. Typically, the rich get richer. It's extremely difficult for someone with nothing to compete against someone who's already winning the game.

However, the big difference is that life and wealth are infinite games. You never win or lose. You just keep playing and define your own success criteria. Just because someone else wants to be a billionaire doesn't mean you need even a million dollars to live well.

This is a typical critique of crypto as well. The built-in ways to earn wealth in crypto require that you start with some money. You need to buy mining rigs, tokens to stake, etc. There is no built-in catch-up mechanism.

In this way, crypto is just a reflection of the real world. If you want to catch up, you don't need a mechanism that rewards you for losing by punishing others for winning. Create value for others and monetize it.


P.S. Crypto is a very interesting lens for analyzing economics. It mirrors the real world, replacing human systems with code.