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We have a game where we need to count number of errors as performance criteria. We are looking for a way to positively note the scores. One idea was to make an association to golfing by naming it handicap.

Do you have any suggestions or ideas how to express this in a positive connotation?

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Who will you be showing these performance criteria to? – JohnGB Oct 9 '11 at 13:07
Its a game and we give immediate feedback during the game, counting errors. At the end the user gets the end score in terms of number of errors. – Ben Oct 9 '11 at 13:26

People naturally think that more = better. With a handicap this is reversed with less = better, which is unintuitive to most people. Also it is a word mostly used in golf, so if your customers don't play or understand golf, you will have a problem.

Assuming that you want fewer errors here, you then want the person with the fewest errors to have the highest score.

Why not start out by giving everyone say 100 points, and then deducting 1 point for each error (or more for major errors). In the end you will have a points table with the highest at the top and lowest at the bottom.

Someone who would have had a handicap of 15 in your system would now have a score of 85. "Hey, 85 isn't so bad, I'll bet that I can get to 90" is more likely than "I had a handicap of 15 maybe I can get it to 10"

To summarise: Give everyone equal points and deduct points for errors. Then you can just use points as your measure.

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Thanks- one idea about naming it handicap was to have a special terminology to make the game sticky - just like facebook gold or badges -. It might be not immediately clear but maybe makes users curious what it is. Maybe handicap is not ideal word. Points is defenetly a good option though. – Ben Oct 9 '11 at 14:00
The term 'handicap' is (or has been) also used in some languages to indicate disabilities. (The term was, I believe, coined to be positive, but ended up having negative connotations.) – Inca Oct 9 '11 at 17:29

It is tricky, because ( as @JohnGB mentioned ) you need to make the less==better association, and this is not natural.

One option would be to simply note the number of errors, but also indicate a "performance level" - in simple terms, Gold Silver or Bronze levels, based on not making too many errors. So you keep an indication of the expected finish, if performance keeps up at the current rate. If they are at a rate of 10 errors, they are at gold level, if it is 25, that is silver, and 40 makes them bronze. Lower than that is chocolate.

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The more levels you can get in there the better, and you can then do a leader boards based on the number of errors more than the leader. Getting your levels correct is important, and it may be relevant to have some special levels for the very few errors - 5-0. Zero errors, should get a special award, if it is possible to achieve this. – Schroedingers Cat Oct 9 '11 at 14:23

Are you looking for a verbal or visual solution?

Visual: show the object banged up and bruised. Think how a car looks at the end of a race of Trackmania Canyon 2 :) iow give a visual indication of how much "damage" the score has suffered by depicting some object at first 100% healthy and strong, and as the errors accumulate add visible damage to it.

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Don't even expose the language of errors or negativity to the player. If you know when an error may be incurred, then simply have a performance criteria where each time you get past a potential error point without making an error, that criteria is incremented.

So for example, maybe you call the measure 'Perfection' or 'Perfect Run' or something relevant to your context. Say there are 50 occasions in your game where errors can be incurred. Each time you pass an error point, 2% is added to the score. The goal would be to reach the end with 100% Perfection. If a player gets 60% one time they'll want to try and be more perfect the next time.

Thus you have no decreasing values, no negative points, no negative language.

If you don't have specific occasions where errors occur, then split it another way, such as units of time - if a game lasts 10 minutes, then add a point to the Perfection score every time another 6 seconds goes by with no errors.

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Good answer. Counting errors means the best a user will hear is 'this is how marginally less rubbish you are than last time'. Counting successes means 'here's how much more awesome you've become'. People like being awesome. Not rubbish. – Jimmy Breck-McKye Oct 10 '11 at 10:19

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