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Do Well, But Not Perfect
Regiment: If I may criticize: it should be "Do Well But Not Perfectly".
Dark Sasami: But that would make the title perfect.

Describe Do Well, But Not Perfect here, but be sure to inlcude at least one error!

Sometimes the objective of a game (or the player) is to do well - but not perfectly. This annoys people who absolutely must get a perfect score every time. Oftentimes, the butter zone of "good enough" is unforgivably tiny, meaning that the player has little chance of achieving it without some very carefully balanced playing. Crazy as it seems, getting an imperfect score deliberately might be difficult, resulting in it being more difficult to get the rewards for completing the so-called "easier" objectives than it is to be rewarded for the difficult ones. Can also apply to computer players, where the A.I. is purposely programmed to not play perfect so that the player actually has a fair chance to win, but while still providing a challenge. A good example is button mashing, where even the most skilled human button masher can be easily outsped by a computer, or beating the world champion at chess, because Humans Aren't Perfect. Otherwise, natural Artificial Stupidity will take care of that. For more general NPCs, compare to Tactical Suicide Boss and Plot-Induced Stupidity.

On highly competitive environments, this trope can be in effect to test how far are the participants proficient at Obfuscating Stupidity. Disguising one's potential and situational advantage is crucial to avoid being ganged up on by the rest in the early stages, which becomes as crucial as being actually skilled enough to come up on top at the end.

Note that this trope doesn't refer to situations where the player's goal is to achieve a "decent-or-above" score. It refers to points where the player's goal is to achieve a very specific range of scores which require you to make certain errors at specific, but unmentioned,ponts.

Compare Earn Your Bad Ending, Playing Sick, & Second Place Is for Winners. Contrast 100% Completion. See also Enemy Mine & Tall Poppy Syndrome. This may be the best strategy when The Runner Up Takes It All is in play.

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Video Game Examples:

     Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask:
    • One of the pieces of heart can only be obtained by wearing a mask that forces you to stay awake, listen to the old lady read a story that lasts for over fourteen in-game hours, and then fail to answer her follow-up question correctly.
    • On a related note, there is an archery game in Clock Town. For beating the record score, you get a Quiver upgrade, and for getting a perfect score, you get a Piece of Heart. The result of this is, if you get a perfect score your first time, which is quite difficult, you will only get the quiver upgrade. Which means you need to get a perfect score a second time to get the Piece of Heart, without any chance of a consolation prize of 50 Rupees for just beating your best score. It's much easier to just beat the record score by one the first time before actually trying for a perfect score. However, the better example of the trope is what happens on subsequent sets of three days. The record score is reset, so you can beat it again for 50 Rupees, or get a perfect for 200. However, getting one perfect score makes it impossible to get ANY prize from anything less than a perfect score. So to get the easiest profit out of this, the best tactic for making money out of this is to beat your best score by one repeatedly until that becomes genuinely difficult, or you get a perfect score, then reset the clock, rather than trying for the big prize every time.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, your sword trainer rewards you for hitting him a certain number of times before he hits you thrice. Your most rewarding strategy is to start by hitting him 100 times before throwing in the towel, then 300 times before doing so, and finally 500 times. If you go straight to 300, you'll miss out on 50 rupees; if you go straight to 500, you'll miss another 100 rupees.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, getting over 28 points in the "Clean Cut" minigame will earn you rare treasures like Goddess Plumes and Golden Skulls. However, getting between 20 and 23 points will get you an Evil Crystal, another rare item. Another prize you want occasionally in the same minigame is the 30 Rupees for 15-19 points. Since the game costs 10 Rupees, getting this relatively low score every few times will ensure that you'll never run out of Rupees while playing it.
    • If you survive all 12 rounds of the "Boss Rush" minigame, you get a ludicrous 9,900 Rupees. This seems like a lot, but by the time you have the necessary upgrades to hold that many Rupees, there's not much left to buy with them. You can, however, forfeit the game early for different prizes. Quitting after round 8 gives you the Hylian Shield, the only unbreakable shield in the game. It's very handy for the final battle, which involves a lot of shield-blocking and shield-bashing, and for not needing to worry about your stupid shatterprone shield in general. And it looks cool. Even if you really want that pile of Rupees, it's a good idea to get the shield first: it makes the minigame a lot easier, since you can't use potions to repair your shield if it breaks.
      • There's also the fact that you can only win one prize from the Boss Rush; even if you make it all the way to the final battle in the chain and win, you only get the "beat all the bosses" prize. This means that, in order to win the Hylian Shield and Piece of Heart from the minigame, you have to play and quit the challenge after beating 4 battles (for the Piece of Heart) and 8 battles (for the Hylian Shield).

     Beat 'Em Ups/Hack 'N Slash 
  • One strategy for getting through God Hand is to deliberately manipulate the Dynamic Difficulty by letting yourself take hits now and then. Landing hits raises the difficulty, while taking them lowers it; since you really don't want to face bosses at Level Die, this becomes a game of give-and-take.
  • Battle Garegga requires the player to die a certain amount of times, or the rank will get too high and the final stage will become near impossible. Normally, this isn't enough on its own, so letting enemies escape and missing powerups are often employed to lower the rank further.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood has the "Strong Closer" Achievement/Trophy. To get it, you have to take the lead within the last ten seconds of a multiplayer match and keep it by the end of the match. Naturally, the best way to get it would be to stay close enough to the leader that you can easily overtake, but not actually take the lead until the time is right.
    • This achievement can easily be "boosted" by cooperating with someone in a private match, but getting it legit, in a dramatic come-from-behind victory can lead to whoops and cackles of joy.
    • In Revelations, there is an achievement related to the "Base Defence" minigame triggered by being notorious for too long. For some players, getting this achievement requires going on a rampage, or other similar high-profile activities. And even then, you better hope it's early in the game, before you permanently lock the Assassin Dens by installing a master assassin in them.
  • Odin Sphere has you correctly guess in which order you have to play through the final Boss Rush to get the good ending. In reality, you're supposed to mess it up on purpose to see every possible outcome and collect every cutscene in the game, which is the only way to get the Golden Ending. So there's no real need for correctly chaining the boss fights, since you'll have to go through every possible combination to get every cutscene, one way or another.
  • Kya Dark Legacy has some minigames that you can bet on. The trick is, you win only if you beat your previous high score. If you get a high enough score on the first go that you can't reliably win the next ones, it becomes pointless.

     Platformers 
  • The GBA version of Super Mario Bros. 3 has a new ending theme song if you've beaten every stage. If you want to hear the original ending theme, you'll have to miss at least one.
  • Speedruns of the Genesis Sonic games will avoid completing certain levels in under 30 seconds, as the 50,000 time bonus takes a while to add itself to your score.
  • In Sonic and the Secret Rings, you get various rewards for getting certain amounts of bronze, silver, and gold medals. Yes, you have to get bronze and silver even if you already got gold; and no, they won't tell you what you're missing if you already got a higher rank.
  • Kirby's Dream Land 2's not-so-perfect ending is the only way you can learn the enemy names in that game, and you can only see it by defeating Dedede without collecting all of the Rainbow Drops.
    • Kirby's Dream Land 3 also features an enemy bestiary in its "imperfect" ending.
  • In Tomba! you had to do this if you wanted all three medals in the racing minigame.
  • The infamous final Canary Mary race from Banjo-Tooie. Mary has such a bad case of Rubberband AI that if you pull ahead too early, she will speed up so much that the race literally becomes unwinnable. The fact that there is nothing in-game to clue you in on this combined with the fact that the race is controlled (and the first three races relatively easily won) with Button Mashing... well, it's no wonder Rare makes sadistic jokes about it in the sequel.

     Puzzle Games 
  • In Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, if you want to fight Dan, for the first six rounds you have to finish every match with a time of 61 seconds or more, a maximum chain of 3 or less, a maximum power gem size of 19 or less, and never end with a super finish. You'll fight Dan after the 6th round if you do.
  • In the Atari ST version of Lemmings 2: The Tribes, it's possible to save too many lemmings and make the game unwinnable. Saving the extra lemming may have been a glitch - at best, it requires extreme precision across multiple screen-widths.
  • The Superior Software game Ravenskull scores you on a percentage system, each task completed adding to your percentage, and the game can only be won if your final percentage is high enough. The catch? The number of tasks in the game does indeed allow for a maximum of 100%, but the score counter only has room for two digits, so a "perfect" 100% counts as zero.
  • In order to fight special opponents in Puyo Puyo 2, you need to beat all the opponents on a floor while keeping your score below a certain point, or else you go to the next floor.

     Racing 
  • For many racing and sports games that have Rubber Band A.I., it seems easier to hang back and play poorly until the very end where you can score a last minute victory. This can infuriate players who are used to the idea of "play your hardest", only to be punished for doing too well, whereas playing badly makes the game easy enough to score a win eventually.
    • To elaborate, games that use Rubber Band A.I. are designed to "adapt" to the player's fluctuating skill level. If you aren't too good at the game, the AI will go easy on you to allow you to catch up and win. If you are extremely skilled, the AI will become more aggressive and may even blatantly cheat just to stop you. In other words, playing too well may make the game become Unwinnable because the AI is ramped up too high to defeat, but playing just well enough will make things not too difficult for you to handle. Depending on how the AI is programmed, players can easily exploit the AI behavior to win all the time.
  • Project Gotham Racing 4 has an achievement "Play it Again Sam", awarded for improving on a medal that you've already won in an event, thus requiring your first medal in that event to be one of the lesser medals.
  • The smartphone game Real Racing 3 has "Time Trials", in which you set a lap time from a flying start. There is a one-time bonus of R$1000 (R$ being the in-game currency) for each "group" you rise in the standings ... that caps at R$5000. Thus, someone who runs three laps that belong in Group A (the fastest) will earn less money than someone who runs a Group K lap followed by a Group F lap followed by a Group A lap.
  • In R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, if you finish every GP Mode race with every team and sponsor combo possible, you'll only have a fraction of the car unlocks. To get the rest, you have to deliberately place 2nd or 3rd in some races (while still qualifying), as your unlocks in GP Mode are based on your placement in prior races.

     Rhythm Games 
  • The earlier Guitar Hero installments. You need to beat Career Mode on/5-Star every song on each difficulty separately to unlock all the guitars. Guitar Hero III made the achievements for beating Career Mode stackable (hard gets you easy and medium) but not the ones for 5-Starring everything. World Tour and later games abandoned this approach.
    • In the early Guitar Hero games, you couldn't tell what your star rank would be until the end of the song. Fansite ScoreHero compiled a list of cutoffs for the different grades by repeatedly playing through and recording what scores earned how many stars. This got rather difficult when suddenly single-point precision is required.
    • No-fail cheats in later games made it significantly easier. Trying to miss enough to land exactly one point short of the four star cutoff while still passing the song is hideously counterintutive; far easier is to set a target score from the start, whammy point the last digits early on, play normally (well, skipping holds) until you hit the score and then ignore everything else.
    • And then there was Barfo.
  • In Dance Dance Revolution and other rhythm games, "x Attacking" is the process of trying to get as many of a certain judgement below perfect as possible (the most common variant is "Great Attacking", "Great" being the judgement below perfect in DDR). This is actually harder than playing the game for real, since you have to be just a little off the beat, consistently. It's usually a Self-Imposed Challenge, but In The Groove acknowledges Great Attacks.
    • Players have been known to halfass the 3rd and final song of a credit of DDR because they're too tired to play the Extra Stage.
    • Pop N Music has the "ALL GOOD" norma, which requires you to get all Goods. It's very difficult to do, so it's no surprise that it's a 15-point norma.
      • There is also a slightly easier norma which requires you clear a song with a full meter and a maximum of 25,000 (out of 100,000) points. Getting all Goods would get you exactly 20,000 points and a full meter, so even with a full combo you can occasionally get a Great.
    • One of the top-tier challenges in the PSX version of DDR 4th Mix's Challenge Mode was to clear a specific section of a song without a single Perfect or Great. This required Good Attacking the song, as a Boo or Miss would lower your gauge, and you fail if it empties, while the only way to raise it is to get Perfects or Greats. Another challenge required getting all Goods on a (much shorter) section.
      • DDR Extreme US PS2 had you do a section with zero points, basically the same thing (you can't get any Greats or Perfects at all, and any Boos or Misses would drain your health).
    • PS2 versions of beatmania IIDX often have gallery pictures unlocked by clearing a song in Expert Mode with 18% or less on your gauge at the end (note that you fail if it empties at any time), another for finishing with more than 80% but not 100%, and three more for ranges in between.
      • beatmania IIDX and at least one version of Beatmania III offer the Border Bonus: Finish the song with your meter filled just barely enough to pass, and you'll get a bonus of 5730 points. There are also higher bonuses if you combine this with getting all Greats or higher, or all Just Greats.
      • In beatmania IIDX 20 tricoro's Legend Cross event (until it ended), one of the requirements to unlock boss songs was to finish a song with an EX score of exactly 573.
    • This is basically the (unimaginative) point of half of the World Max mission mode in Pump It Up. Quite a few other missions have some incredibly clever gameplay mechanics though, or some alternative stepcharts that are so fun they should probably be illegal.
    • jubeat, Reflec Beat, Tonesphere, and Cytus discourage this sort of run through score-based pass/fail systems. In jubeat's case, you need 700,000 points out of 1 million to clear the song, and getting all Goods instead of Perfects only yields 500,000 points.
      "Full combo! Result: FAILED."
  • In DJMAX Portable and DJMAX Portable 2, there are discs you can obtain by getting certain percentages. There's the discs that require you to get at least a certain percentage on a song, but there's also ones that require you to get very low percentages, as well as ones that require you to have exactly a multiple of 10 as your percentage. There's also the Lucky and Evil discs, obtained by getting 77.7% and 66.6%, respectively.
    • Also, combo unlocks, the process of which consists of the following: achieve a particular combo...and then break it before you reach the next combo unlock. If you do reach the next unlock, that unlock will be opened, but not any of the ones before it.
    • DJMAX Trilogy has the "Self Injury" mission, in which the goal is to have an accuracy between 60% and 70%. Delves a little into Fake Difficulty because hold notes, when held down, yield MAX 100% for every eighth note that it's held down for.
    • DJMAX Technika's Technical Mode. Each set has two boss songs (or in the case of two sets, three), and which one you get depends on your MAX-to-notecount ratio for the first 3 stages. So you should always try to nail lots of MAXes, right? WRONG. Some of the boss songs you get for getting high MAX percentages actually have a lower max combo than their low-accuracy counterparts, meaning you get more points on the 4th stage if you get the boss song that requires lower accuracy. So what does this lead to? Having to play "Cool Attack" and get some Cools to avoid raising the MAX percentage too high and getting the lower-scoring 4th stage.
      • The Specialist Set, however, has an intentional example of this. Get less than 70% MAX judgments and you get the set's third possible boss song, Fermion.
  • Flash Flash Revolution has/had a number of unlockable achievements based on getting fewer "Perfect" arrow hits, more Goods and Averages, or minimum numbers of Misses and Boos.
  • The Elite Beat Agents and Ouendan games have different cutscenes for failing level segments and the entire level, and most of them are worth seeing. It's not quite as easy as you'd think, though, since you can't clearly see the point where you fail or pass the level segment (making it easy to hit a note at the end of a segment by accident and push the rating bar over to "pass" when you thought not hitting it would cause it to empty completely) and doing poorly will easily cause you to get a game over instead, not to mention that you need to fail every level segment to get the bad ending for the level.
    • Another version of this trope starts appearing in Elite Beat Agents and Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Tamashii: Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2. EBA introduced a vs. Ghost mode, in which you challenge the best saved score you have on a particular song — this manifests as a vs. battle. If you do too well in setting a high score, you will have a lot of trouble beating yourself.
      • Furthermore, within the battle itself, you can get points by a perfect 300 run on a particular section of the beatmap, and half a point for getting even a single 100. Gain three or four points and you go into a sort of super mode, increasing your performance while decreasing the opponent's. If you do better than your original score in some points, you'll hit this mode one section before your opponent. They then hit the next one, making you lose the cutscene checkpoint.
      • Also, whenever the opponent does that to you, the numbers and trails become smaller and harder to hit. If you want to mitigate this, you'll have to do exactly as well as your opponent until just before the end.
  • In Cytus, there are two types of Perfects: A green one that adds to your TP (an alternate scoring system), and a blue one that doesn't (just like all the other timing judgements). Conclusion: You can get all Perfects but ZERO TP.
  • Theatrhythm Final Fantasy has Dark Notes. Each Dark Note has three bosses, determined by your performance in two tracks. Pass a certain point in the Field Music Stage, and you will fight Boss No. 2 or 3, but not No. 1; so if Boss No. 1 has an item you want, then you need to use someone with shoddy Agility. If you have above half of your maximum HP after defeating two enemies in the Battle Music Stage, you will fight Boss No. 3, so if Boss No. 2 has something you want, put the White Magic away and take a few hits.

     Roguelikes 
When fighting the final boss spaceship of FTL: Faster Than Light, you can kill the ship's crew members before seriously attacking the ship itself. As you kill more crew, you reduce their ability to repair the ship, man weapons and shields, etc. If you kill all the crew, an autopilot takes over their duties and the battle becomes a lot harder.

     RPG 
  • Early in the original Knights of the Old Republic game you are forced to participate in a swoop race in order to rescue Bastila, who has been captured and is being offered as a prize to whoever wins the race. After your first successful completion of the track with a better time than the current record another racer will then perform slightly better than your time, requiring you to run the track again and beat your own best time by a fair margin. Granted, you are warned there will be other players, but not that one of them will always be better than your first run. Unless, of course, you know in advance.
  • Super Mario RPG has a mini game where you jump on Goombas to win flower points. Score at least 20 points and you'll win a flower tab. However, the next time you play, you MUST score at least two extra points higher than your previous attempt in order to win again. If you scored more then twenty, this is still the case, and you'll have to score two more points the next time you play, so the best strategy is to stop and stand still once you've reached 20 points, beating your score little by little each time to continue earning victories.
  • In .hack, the Grunty races award prizes for beating the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place times, and you can race them over and over again to win more; however, your race times become the new record times to beat. If you want to maximize the payout, then you want to just barely beat the current times (starting with 3rd place and working up) so that the new times are not too hard to beat.
  • In Final Fantasy II, (or at least the PSP version), this trope is in full effect when leveling characters. Due to the...unique nature of the game's Stat Grinding system, the odds of getting a stat boost after any one battle is directly proportional to the length of the battle. The idea, one suspects, is to prevent players from grinding low-level monsters indefinitely, but the end result is being punished for fighting battles as efficiently as possible, whereas if you artificially prolong the fight (a common strategy is to put enemies to sleep to prevent them from running away, then abusing fellow party members), the odds of getting a stat boost increase almost to the point of guarantee. This can be maddening to a certain kind of gamer... which is to say a sapient one.
  • Final Fantasy VII:
    • There is a mini-game where you have to prevent soldiers from reaching a fort. Failing to do this causes a fight against the boss with the regular characters. Normally, you get the proper reward only if you complete the mini-game, and you lose it if you have to fight the boss, win or lose. However, the one time this mini-game is plot-mandated, the normal reward is given if you complete the mini-game or beat the boss. And as it turns out, you can get a rare and powerful piece of armor by defeating the boss at this point (and never before this point), and the boss is pretty easy. A savvy character will lose the mini-game on purpose the final time, since there's no benefit in winning.
    • The "posing" minigame during Rufus' sendoff at Junon is also noteworthy. The second-best prize (60-90 points) is an HP Plus Materia (boosts max HP by 10% per level), while the "top" prize is a weapon for Cloud that you'll be able to buy in the very next town. HP Plus Materia, meanwhile, is not only generally more useful, but also doesn't appear in shops for a fair while after this, and is much more expensive.
    • There's also the entire endgame, where the first boss battle determines how the next two play out: Depending on how quickly the player beats the first boss, what levels the player's characters have and how many Optional Party Members the player has found, the second battle will have the player split into one to three teams, with the main team continuing into the final boss battle solo. Both the final and penultimate bosses also gain HP boosts for every character in the game with maximum levels, and if the player uses Knights of the Round on the first boss.
  • Final Fantasy VIII's first task is to defeat Ifrit within a selected-by-you time limit. The catch is that the test is described as a "test of judgment", so completing it too soon means you could not accurately estimate your abilities and gave yourself too much time. In other words, scoring well on this test requires finishing with less time remaining — a perfect score is reached if you finish with ten seconds or less remaining on the clock.
    • In the Japanese version, you have to kill Ifrit and escape the dungeon before you run out of time, making the whole experience more of a test of time management rather than rationality (plus it serves as a Chekhov's Gun for something you'll be doing later in the story).
    • Even if you give yourself the lowest amount of time possible, your score will still drop if you kill Ifrit too soon. The best score requires you to finish with seven seconds or less on the clock, which means most people will end up letting Ifrit beat on them for a while (you can still get a game over if he's talking when the timer runs out, though).
    • However, you can cheat the system in the English version and avoid this trouble by taking note of how much time you have remaining when you defeat Ifrit. Then, when the naming screen comes up, stay on that screen and keep an eye on your watch until time's up, then continue gameplay as normal. There, now you have the best possible score, a giant hellbeast at your beck and call, and a smug sense of superiority.
  • Final Fantasy IX: In "The Festival of the Hunt" minigame, the goal is to earn the most points of all the competitors by killing monsters in the streets. If you (playing as Zidane) win, you get 5000 gil. If Vivi wins, you get a useless Tetra Master card. Letting Freya win, however, nets you a decent elemental-absorbing accessory that teaches your characters a few useful skills. To let her win, just put the controller down for 12 minutes or kill yourself in the first battle you come across.

    That said, the toughest monster in the Festival of the Hunt, the Zaghnol, has two items worth stealing and gives about enough points to single-handedly win the competition. By avoiding lesser battles, entering a certain area with 4:30 left on the timer, and making Zidane take a fall against the Zaghnol, the player can get all of the items.
  • Final Fantasy X's entire experience system revolved around this. If you use the right character and end a battle in one turn, you'd get 1/7 the maximum amount of AP, as only characters who act in battle get any AP at all, and it's not split or leaked in any way. Conversely, if you waste six turns (using a different character each time) and use the seventh to end the battle, then every character gets full experience.
  • Final Fantasy X-2:
    • The best culprit to pin during the Mi'ihen Mystery is Rikku if you're aiming for 100% completion. One of the criteria for catching this person requires a certain cutscene that can only be seen if you almost catch the Chocobo during Chapter 2. If you catch it or let it get away without resistance, it becomes far more difficult (if not impossible) to accuse that person.
    • Later, during the massage minigame, you obtain a prize of a Gold Hairpin if you succeed on the first attempt. If you fail at least once, though, you obtain Heady Perfume, which is arguably a more useful accessory.
    • The first time you play the "Gunner's Gauntlet" minigame/mission, completion of the timed course and a score of 500 are necessary to pass the mission. It can be replayed to achieve a higher score and additional prizes. On a New Game+, however, when you get to this mission again, the required score is now your high score from your previous playthrough[s].
  • In some bosses on World of Warcraft, if you take down their health too quickly, you can run into problems.
    • For example, in the Madness of Deathwing encounter, it's possible for the Blistering Tentacles (which come up after you reduce a limb tentacle's health enough), to come up at the same time as the Elementium Bolt or the Regenerative Blood (which come up on a timer) even if the raid has killed the Mutated Corruption already. So if the raid damages the limb too quickly, it'll have to fight the Regenerative Blood at the same time as the Blistering Tentacles and/or the Elementium Bolt, making things very difficult.
    • Additionally, on the Maloriak encounter, while most spells that can be interrupted should be, and in some cases, must be, interrupting all the casts in which he releases aberrations will result in all 18 aberrations coming out at once during Phase 2 along with the Prime Specimens, and since they get a damage buff when close to each other, it's almost impossible to survive.
    • Similarly, while many boss achievements have DPS requirements that are difficult to meet around the time of the related content's release, others can easily be failed by defeating the boss too quickly, typically resulting in raid groups telling players to stop DPS so that the boss won't die before the group meets the achievement requirements.
  • The World Ends with You puts a positive twist on this. Each noise provides a (potentially) different drop for each of four difficulty levels. As drop rates aren't always 100%, however, you may miss out on the one for your difficulty level, but should you do so, you'll then get a chance at the next lowest drop, and (should you miss out on that one too) the next lowest drop, until either you get a drop, or miss out on the lowest drop. Despite this, it's still possible to lock out lower drops at higher difficulty levels by raising your drop rate too high, especially since it's possible to miss unlocking Easy.
  • Mabinogi's Stat Grinding system for skills requires a certain number of successes and failures before you can increase a skill's rank. At higher levels, you may be so good at using the skill that it becomes harder to reach the required number of failures than successes.
  • Mega Man Battle Network, and later Mega Man Star Force: When you re-match the bosses for their summon chips, winning in 30 seconds gets you the most powerful variation of the chip. 60 seconds or more gets you the weakest variation. Somewhere in the middle is the middle variation. So you either obliterate the boss in 30 seconds, or drag out the battle, but not too long.
    • Battle Network also applies for chips from viruses, as some codes can only be obtained with a low rank, and specific codes are an important part of folder-building. You can also calculatedly take a couple hits and obliterate the boss/virus otherwise.
  • In the Pokémon games, capturing a wild Mon is likelier if it's been weakened by attacks from your creatures — but if your attacks knock its HP to zero and it faints, you can't catch it at all.
    • In the original generation of games, legendary Pokemon had a Scrappy Mechanic that was removed from all subsequent games. Ideally to catch a legendary you want to reduce its health to a sliver and then inflict Sleep or Paralysis, but doing this in the first generation would prompt the Pokeball to miss entirely. If they had no status ailment, it's more likely to hit. True they'll likely break out but better than just missing.
    • In the bug catching contest in the second generation, first prize was a Sun Stone, which only evolved two Pokemon. Second prize was an Everstone, a hold item that kept Pokemon from evolving (which is completely useless since you can just cancel the evolutions manually anyway). Third prize was a Gold Berry, a hold item that restored 30 HP and was incredibly rare. Once you got two Sun Stones, Gold Berries were what you wanted to win.
  • In Billy Vs SNAKEMAN Phase Battles, you get a Lost Weapon if you use the "Shoot the Core" action while the phase is under 100 HP, but if it runs out of HP, you instead gets a more common Kaiju Drop. Damage from maxed out player averages around 500 damage and if you're not at least occasionally dealing over 100 damage a hit, you have no business fighting phases. Thankfully, this was mitigated during the Hero's Quest updates, which added a "Hold Back" option that cancelled all damage bonuses you had for that attack (because you had to perform an action similar to "Shoot the Core" in order to retrieve plot-critical character Mimi).
  • This is done intentionally in Mother 3. To "amuse" Porky, the villain, you must almost beat his robot, but not quite. If you beat him to any degree, you're told that you tried too hard and need to chill. If you lose too badly, you're told that you suck and need to try again. If you intentionally let him win by the slightest possible amount, you're told it was "an epic battle" or some similar expression and move on to the next challenge you're supposed to barely lose. The robot is also incredibly slow to complete each contest, just to rub in how ludicrous it is.
  • Xenoblade has Achievements for getting incapacitated in battle and falling to your death from a great height. Fortunately there's only one of each, and Death Is a Slap on the Wrist in this game.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, the Rookie Gloves allow you to use Bros./Luiginary Attacks without using any BP, as long as you don't get a Excellent score.

     Sports 
  • A strategy for Mario Kart and many other kart racers, while playing with other humans, is to follow fairly closely behind the lead player but not be the lead. This way, you receive better items to attack with and get a last-second victory. This is especially true with Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart Wii, as the infamous Blue Shell is designed to target the racer in 1st place and nobody else, as long as they aren't too close behind. This is less true with games like Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing or Diddy Kong Racing, however, that have highly defensive item systems: Those 2nd or lower need to attack and defend, but the lead racer need only defend.
  • A few instances in Mario Party have this. In the first game, if a player is in the Bowser Suit in Bowser's version of the Bash 'n' Cash minigame, it's usually more beneficial to let the other 3 players take one or two coins bags of 5 from you rather than none. Why? Because if you don't lose any coins, then Bowser will take 15 coins from you, just to make you suffer.
    • In the GBA game Advance, there is Bowser Land that has you riding a Bowser themed roller coaster and trying to get to the end by playing random Bowser minigames. The catch is that if you finish too fast, or don't fail enough minigames, then Bowser won't reward you with as much coins. Fail too many minigames though, and Bowser will also cut your reward for going too slow, or even end your game before you can finish.
  • In Madden NFL's Franchise Mode, if your team wins 3 Super Bowls in a row, your head coach will retire. He may retire for other reasons if you don't, but an unprecedented Super Bowl three-peat will ensure this.
    • In Madden NFL 2004, a single player could not accumulate more than 1023 rushing yards in a single game; any more would wrap around to -1024 due to an overflow error. With a good team, a good playbook, and a good working knowledge of AI behavior, the player might need to cut a run short and make a substitution to avoid wrecking his star running back's statistics.
    • In sister series NCAA Football, there are often achievements for winning all of the various bowl game trophies. However, many of the bowl games are consolations for the schools who finished #2, #3, or lower in their conferences.
    • The AI referees in both games are also deliberately programmed to make the occasional mistake, just to allow you to challenge calls and win.
  • Mario Golf N64 had bronze, silver, and gold trophies for finishing tournaments in the appropriate place. Silver and Bronze need to be earned separately from Gold, but they don't do anything anyway.
  • Sports Jam gives trophies in Original Mode for getting the the #1 high score, the #2 high score, and anywhere from the #3 to #10 high score. The tricky part was that it has to be in that place on the high score chart at the time. So the best way to get #2 is play one really good game, then get a score higher than the default #1, 40,000 (pretty easy) but not quite as great as your best score. Not too hard if you plan for it, but it can get frustrating if you don't.
  • In Punch-Out!!, you have the Challenge with Glass Joe that requires to knock him down three times, and let him win by decision, and the Challenge with TD Mr. Sandman that requires you to almost get knocked out, and then return to win. Also, there's the protective headgear unlocked for losing 100 times in Career Mode. It becomes Lost Forever if you clear all of Career Mode without getting it, since Career Mode goes away upon completion. That's the only mode you can use it in anyway, though, so it's not a big loss.
  • In the (originally) MMO golf game Pangya, Approach Mode is a competition to put your ball as close to the hole as possible - without going in. If your cup winds up in the hole, you come in last.

     Shooters 
  • The Battlefield3 MVP 2 and MVP 3 dog tags for multiplayer are unlocked by receiving enough MVP 2 and MVP 3 ribbons — which means that the player has to come in 2nd or 3rd each time, as scoring MVP (first place) only counts towards the MVP dog tag.
  • A challenge in TimeSplitters requires you as the Veiled SWAT to keep bank robbers from taking more than four bags of loot to their base in order to play as Veiled SWAT in Arcade Mode. Finish the challenge without the robbers getting away with a single bag though, and a glitch will keep him forever locked, even if you retry and letting the other team score a bag or two. Just hope you didn't already save, and reset.
  • Failing an optional mission objective (but completing the mandatory one) in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere occasionally "punishes" the player with a secret level.
  • The homebrew NES game Thwaite, a game inspired by Missile Command that parodies Animal Crossing, has a Canon Ending where the culprit is found and a non-canon ending activated by a No Damage Run. It goes through a couple scenes including bad puns on "TAS" before an ending where nobody discovers what really happened because no evidence ever landed, and then a developer thanks the player for having the dedication to make a tool-assisted run.

     Strategy 
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics, you get experience and skill points every time you successfully execute an action. Because of this, it can be very beneficial to prolong a fight by casting Sleep or Frog on the last remaining enemy and then take turns beating on your own guys with Throw Rock or a weak physical attack (if you're a caster). Other effective and non-damaging ways to up experience include the squire job Accumulate and Ramza's Yell skill. Completing the battles quickly and efficiently nets you far less points.
  • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, one of the Bangaa Bugle missions gives you a different item for completing the quest in a certain number of turns. Completing it in 3 or less gives you an item which is rare but obtainable by other methods, while completing it in exactly 4 gives you an item which could otherwise only be obtained by choosing it over an item whose alternate method of collection is much more difficult to achieve.
    • There are goals in auctions you can only achieve by getting 2nd and 3rd place when bidding for a territory or item a certain number of times.
  • Advance Wars DS and Days Of Ruin have medals requiring B-Ranks and C-Ranks. Good luck getting those naturally, especially since the levels in those games are mostly easy.
    • Also in Game Boy Wars 3, some maps in Campaign are only accessed by clearing certain other maps slowly. If you clear those certain other maps quickly, you don't unlock BOTH maps. Just the one obtained by clearing the map quickly.
  • Red Alert 2 had a smaller example: every campaign level has a "par time" value. Finishing the map faster or slower than this changes the debriefing between "good work, people" and "good work but we lost many good men". It also determines your rank.
    • Especially aggravating if you see this, and go for a No Casualties Run the next mission, only to be again told many good men were lost...
  • In Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel, the Good conclusion requires only destroying some, not all, of the brains. Otherwise, the character's Karma Meter is dinged as not perfect, leading to the second tier ending. It's annoying, but it's a rare example where a bug is a Good Bad Bug works as Fridge Brilliance.
  • Unlocking gaiden chapters in Fire Emblem DS requires you to let your people get killed - including Chiki, a butt-kicking dragon girl that I doubt anyone would just let go of. Getting that last level also requires losing the Falchion if you got the good one. (The official strategy guide suggests giving her the Falchion, sending her off to die, then bringing her back with the Aum staff the hidden level holds.) At least Nagi makes up for it.
    • The Sacred Stones has Cormag, one of the best characters in the game, show up as an enemy reinforcement in Chapter 13 on Erika's route. If you complete the chapter before he shows up, he's Lost Forever.
    • In general you have to try not to do things too fast in Fire Emblem games. Experience is limited, so you want to clear out every enemy possible even in chapters where the goal is capturing a base or defeating an enemy general, and while that doesn't seem so bad there's also the matter of enemy re-inforcements, which can really screw you over so you might think it's a good idea to finish a chapter before any more come or occupy all the forts/exits so none can spawn, you may actually want to wait it out and kill all the reinforcements to get more experience. This also applies to the escape chapters in Thracia 776 where enemies are infinite and the goal is to get out as soon as possible, it's recommended to at least wait a little bit and kill some enemies for extra experience instead of escaping as soon as possible.
    • Try not to have perfect stats when playing the Spotpass chapter The Wellspring of Truth. It's a Mirror Match where the enemy copies your units, skills and stats directly. It's cool if you can hit half the enemies with Lethality, but you don't want them to hit even one of yours with Lethality, due to the Final Death mechanic of the games. It's recommended to take only one or two of your strongest units, unequip any dangerous skills or weapons from them, fill the rest of the army with your B-team, and abuse the Pair Up mechanic (which the AI will never use, even when mimicking you).
  • In Front Mission Alternative, failing the final mission unlocks a new mission with a better ending.

     Survival Horror 
  • You could unlock different weapons in Replay Mode in Parasite Eve 2 depending on your ending score. Some good items required low scores.
    • Only the lowest possible rank nets you an arguably better item than the rank above it. However, getting the lowest possible rank is a challenge in and of itself, as you have to flee every battle so as to not rack up points by killing things. Using this method, you not only have to be able to dodge virtually every enemy in the game without getting hit, you're also forced to take on every boss in the game with the weakest weapon.
      • There is actually a way around that — Beat the game twice in a row with the best possible rating. The game will only ever give you a specific reward one time; if you ever got a repeated "Rank", you would get the reward for the next HIGHER Rank; this carries over. In other words: Getting the best possible Rank twice in a row (assuming you are not playing in a mode that alters the Rankings) will give you the "best Rank" rewards and the "worst Rank" rewards. The latter set borders on Game Breaker territory in some ways.
  • The Suffering. In order to get the neutral ending, one has to save some innocents, do some good. But not in all situations. It's okay to shoot the guy who keeps firebombing you by accident.
  • This is the AI director's take on the team's progress in Left 4 Dead. Doing too well will make less health and bomb items appear and the director is more likely to spawn a Tank - except when the game just feels like giving you all the special Infected, including the Witch and Tank, with no medkits until the end of the level when your team all has less than 20 health left from the Tank that smashed them earlier, or when the Director decides to spawn three tanks in a row because you've been killing them with impunity the past few games. The Director is a fickle bastard and is wholly impossible to predict.
  • Eternal Darkness is much more... interesting... when you're low on Sanity. This arguably gives the player an incentive not to finish off wounded enemies.

     General/Uncategorized 
  • Certain varieties of Speed Run eschew perfection for speed. In fact, many Speed Run sites distinguish between a Speed Run (getting to the end in the fastest time possible) and a 100% Completion run (getting to the end in the fastest time possible with everything you can get in the game). The former are also denominated Any% speedruns, in contrast and to distinguish them from 100% runs.
    • Some archives even note which runs involve taking damage or dying to save time (usually to capitalize on flinching, Mercy Invincibility, or respawning in a location closer to the next objective).
  • Hidden Object Games that have Achievements (or something similar) commonly have one for speedy solving of a hidden object scene. The Collector's Edition of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles has two achievements for slow solving — one for solving a puzzle scene in over 10 minutes, and one for solving a hidden object scene in over 10 minutes. So if you want to get the award for collecting all the achievements, you need to take a break during two scenes and let the game timer run.
  • Similarly, the newest You Don't Know Jack rewards players for various counter-intuitive actions. There's achievements/trophies for losing a million dollars on the Jack Attack and for losing to a player ranked lower than you online, and in-game, there's "Wrong Answers of the Game", which pay out double winnings for being selected.
  • The Flash game Infectonator World Edition has an achievement for all upgrades, but completing a level perfectly locks it from grinding. Also, you can upgrade far in excess of what you need to beat the game.
  • In the first Metal Gear Solid, getting the bad ending unlocks the stealth camouflage.
  • Players can use this to their advantage in Rez. Depending on your performance in a level, you face a different version of the end boss. Shoot down less than 90% of the enemies, and get the Mega version. More than 90% but less than 98%, get the Giga version, which is somewhat tougher. More than 98% and you face the Tera version, which is even harder. Now, before playing the final stage, you can replay the previous stages. To get the most out of this, you want to kill enough enemies to get as many Progress Nodes and Overdrives as you can find, but not so much that the end boss will be tough enough to take them all away from you.
  • Indigo Prophecy has this come up a few times. Since you play as both the killer Lucas and the detectives hunting for him, sometimes it's better to do enough so Lucas doesn't panic but not so much as to make the work hard on the detectives. For example, at the very start of the game, right after Lucas kills, you're expected to do all the things you'd expect a killer to do (hide the body and the weapon, wash off the blood, act casual to avoid suspicion, and escape before the police catch on). When playing as the detectives, you have to investigate the scene of the crime, but you can't move on with the game until you find the weapon. If you made Lucas hide the weapon, the camera cuts away while Lucas hides it, so even the player doesn't know where Lucas hid it, meaning the player (as the detectives) has to hunt for it. If you "forgot" to hide the weapon, the detectives would find it on the ground at the crime scene, meaning you can move on that much easier.
    • There's also one instance where you get better results from failing QTEs the game throws at you. While Lucas is being questioned in his office, don't follow the prompts which appear when the green mites attack him, as succeeding in them causes Lucas to freak out over their appearance, which makes him appear hysterical to his interrogator who cannot see the insects.
  • On several occasions, Heavy Rain actually rewards the player for failing a Quick Time Event with additional scenes and Character Development that you wouldn't notice otherwise. E.g. the first time (out of two possible) that Ethan is taken into custody, Norman breaks him out, establishing himself as the only cop in the game who will protect an innocent at all costs.
  • In the Trauma Center series, getting the XS rank (or S in Under the Knife) is always a challenge, but some missions are even worse because curing the patient as expediently as possible (like a real doctor would) will not produce enough points to qualify for the S and XS rankings. Thus, you have to let the GUILT/Stigma pathogen create lacerations and tumors for you to fix up and get points from.
    • X-3 in Second Opinion. Go too fast, and you lack the chain bonus needed to get an XS; you need to let some thorns regenerate so you can achieve a high enough chain.
  • Certain stages in Raiden Fighters Jet can only be reached through requirements such as dying in a particular stage, not triggering the gold medals, or using continues. So if you're trying to achieve the Level 35 or Level 50 endings without continuing...
  • In Pokémon Pinball, if you are aiming for a high score, you will intentionally want to come just short of clearing the Mewtwo bonus stage if you reach it (it is reached on either table by clearing the table's two unique bonus stages). It is by far the most profitable bonus stage, and the fastest way to earn points in the game. The way the stage works is that you score 50 million points per hit on Mewtwo, and it takes 24 hits to win. Ideally you will want to get about 20 hits and then just stop playing. The reason behind this is that if you win, you'll loop back to your table's first bonus stage, but if you fail, you'll play the Mewtwo bonus stage again the next time you go to a bonus stage.
  • In The Sims, once a Sim reaches the top level 10 job of his or her career, there is a random chance after every workday that they will be demoted to a mid-level job in another field. For example, a military general will become a SWAT team leader, or a movie star will become a Congressman. While this can add variety to the gameplay and keep things fresh, it's extremely annoying if you just want to rake in the dough, not to mention that the new career path will probably require your Sim to build more skills and make new friends. To avoid this, many players simply have their Sims stay at the level 9 job, never meeting the requirements for the last promotion.
  • Homeworld's Dynamic Difficulty results in an interesting situation where sometimes it was best to scrap your entire fleet (especially after the one level that lets you go to town stealing ion frigates) so that the next level was tuned to a smaller, more balanced fleet.
  • Tamagotchi had several different critters to raise your egg into. Getting a specific one required knowing exactly how often to ignore or how long to delay attending to its beeping.
  • Mitsumete Knight has a few Titles that require this to get them so you can complete your Titles' list, most notably the Knight Titles and the "Blade of Darkness'' Title, which require a combination of a specific Level and number of Medals to get them.
  • MSN Games' badge system sometimes forces you to do this. Each of the games has a score called High Score Level 10 (previously known as Mastery Level 10). This score must be earned during a single game to earn the badge. However, some games end too early to earn the target score if you were playing just to beat the game, so you must find creative ways to stall the game and milk as many points out of it as possible.
    • In most Match-3 games, this is done by not finishing the level goal, but just making more and more matches, only finishing levels when the time is about to run out.
    • In Zuma, the only way to rack in points is to keep adding balls to the back of the chain and clear them before they reach the end of the path - this needs at least as much skill as beating all the levels in the online version.
    • In Bridge, you must avoid winning hands, and instead let the enemy bid a high contract then play well to make them fail it, giving you points for their undertricks.
      • This is a possible tactic in Rubber Bridge at the card table, too, which is part of the reason that limited-hand variants were created.
  • On GSN.com, you can earn an online currency called "Oodles," which you can redeem for drawing entries and various other stuff. One of the ways to earn oodles is to make the high score list on certain games. However, on certain games, your score won't take if it's too high. GSN says it's because there is a certain maximum score that they think can be achieved legitimately on certain games.
  • Scarface: The World is Yours has this in a cut-scene. First, you are confronted with robbers holding up a bank. You blast them all. Cue cut-scene. Somehow, six escape. Following them is now a must.
  • In Harvest Moon: Magical Melody, the only way you can enter a certain horse race and win an item that ups your stamina capacity is to keep your horse's heart level at a certain place. That means that if you let your horse get too happy, you have to either abuse it until it is less happy, or you can't enter the race.
  • In Sid Meier’s Pirates! 2004 remake, there are three different types of "Governors' Daughters" to romance, being the Beautiful, Attractive, and Plain daughters. While you get the best overall reward for marrying a Beautiful daughter, some of the best early-game rewards (namely the Special Items) can be gotten through romancing the Plain and Attractive ones, but not the Beautiful ones. In addition, the rewards you get are partially dependent on how well you dance with said daughter. If you dance well with an Attractive Daughter, she will give you a quest to infiltrate an enemy colony and arrest some criminal, a reward worth less than the price of an item and generally takes considerable time and effort. However, if you only dance partially-well with her, she will give you an item instead.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing, the ChibiBuddy™ is a virtual pet mini-game that was available during 2012's Crimbo event. Raising a ChibiBuddy™ involves interacting with it to raise or lower its stats (Fitness, Intelligence, Socialization, or Alignment). If any of your ChibiBuddy's stats hits zero, it dies (if it hits zero Fitness, it might have a heart attack; if it hits zero Socialization, it might literally die of loneliness), but the same goes if one of its stats hits the maximum of ten (if it reaches maximum Fitness, it might die from overtaxing itself during a work-out; if it reaches maximum Alignment, it might die from making a Heroic Sacrifice).
  • In Hydorah, the final stage of the Red Eden boss can only be approached when its shield is open at the same time as it is on the right side of the screen. Since the shield and the screen move on different timers, it takes a long time before they sync up if they start in a bad position. Since the initial position also depends on how fast you beat the first two stages, you're actually better off taking your time. If you beat the first two stages too fast, you'll be left waiting forever on the last stage before you can even attack.
  • The Qix-alike Gals Panic S series had additional rewards (read: images) available for level clearances from 90-99%.
  • One section near the end of Case 2-4 of Phoenix Wright: Justice For All has Phoenix Hold the Line in court by stalling for time until the police can find a kidnapped Maya, by throwing suspicion onto an innocent Adrian Andrews. However, you have to make sure not to Hold the Line too well, or else you throw enough suspicion on Adrian that the judge decides that the real culprit couldn't possibly have done it and convicts her instead.

Non-videogame examples:

  • This Freefall comic has Sam Starfall justifying intentionally losing a contract because a perfect record would be something he'd always have to live up to.
  • Discworld: In Moving Pictures, one student at Unseen University aims to stay a student as long as he can and live off his student's allowance. He puts more effort into getting halfway between 88% (pass) and 80% (where he would lose the allowance) on the exam than most students put into simply graduating.
  • This is the backstory of Saki's title character. She would get punished if she did too well, and made fun of if she lost, so she would get perfectly no score, which is actually harder to get than a clear win or loss. Unfortunately, this leads to some early friction with Nodoka, who, after she realizes that Saki could win if she played normally, gets frustrated with Saki's playstyle and insists that she play normally.
  • In the Marine Corps novels by W.E.B. Griffin, the veteran marines know that when a unit undergoes inspection, the inspector will not stop looking around until he finds something wrong. So they make a point of having a handful of obvious minor issues with whatever is being inspected so that the inspection ends quickly and they can get back to doing something useful.
  • In Kyon Big Damn Hero, Kyon mentions that Yuki's average is only short of being perfect by the four percent of answers she simply didn't bother completing. A perfect score would attract unneeded attention to her. May be a Shout-Out to a certain member of the Unseen University and to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. (See below)
  • In the Carmen Sandiego books written in a "which way" format (similar to Choose Your Own Adventure), you would be reprimanded if your score at the end was too good. Getting such a score would require you to not "waste time" looking for clues, the implication being that you're either very reckless, or memorized the answers before playing.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the bad guy of Part 4, Yoshikage Kira, just wants to live a "simple life", so in school, he'd always get second place in competitions and make sure he never got first place in anything. This extends to when the protagonists are trying to track him; he dislikes the attention, so has a Stand-user change his appearance.
  • A board game example: In oware (one of the more popular and strategic mancala games) it's possible to chain-up captures to take more seeds and get closer to the 25 seeds needed to win. But a move that would capture all the seeds there — a grand slam — is severely restricted. Depending on the variation being played, either the move is not legal, or the move happens but the capture doesn't, or the capture happens but your opponent then gets to take all the seeds on your side.
  • In the book The Homework Machine, Brenton rewrites the software for the eponymous machine to have it make mistakes at random when answering homework sheets when he realizes the teacher may be aware that he and his friends are cheating.
  • In Hikaru no Go (and in actual Go), this is what you have to do in order to have a tied game, although it can happen by accident. It's treated as something only high-level players can do every time. Although having to try for a tie seems true for just about every game out there.
  • Many superheroes need to learn to do this in order to fit in with friends and/or protect their secret identities. For example, in The Incredibles, Dashiell "Dash" Parr's power of Super Speed prevents him from participating in school track competitions until he learns to hold back enough to finish in second place.
  • Another non-video game example is in the "Groundhog Day" Loop novel Replay. On subsequent replays Jeff tries to avoid investments that would turn him into a multi-millionaire to keep himself out of the spotlight.
  • A Game Show example: On The Bank Job, at the very end of the series, the two "winners" were given the Prisoner's Dilemma choice in the form of giving each other a briefcase full of "Cash" or "Trash". if both chose "Cash", they'd split the jackpot, if one chose "Trash" and the other "Cash", the player who chose "Trash" gets it all and the player who chose "Cash" leaves empty-handed, and if both chose "Trash", they'd both leave with nothing. So far, it's a standard Prisoner's Dilemma, but here's the twist: If both chose "Trash", the money they had and lost would be split evenly between the players who were eliminated in 3rd through 5th place, so as to prevent the entire series from turning into a Shaggy Dog Story. Since the equilibrium in the Prisoner's Dilemma occurs when both players defect (in this case, choosing "Trash"), the runners-up splitting the money becomes arguably the most likely scenario, which meant the optimal strategy would be trying to get 3rd, 4th, or 5th place. In fact, one of the finalists knew this, and it would certainly explain why several contestants who previously proved themselves skillful at the trivia portion suddenly started to perform significantly worse the instant they started the round of 5.
  • In the party game Dixit, the "leader" in each round chooses a card with a piece of surrealist art on it, and thinks up a word or phrase that fits that picture. The other players choose their own cards that they think fits the phrase, then vote on which card they think best fits. The leader scores no points if none of the other players vote for their card, but also scores no points if all the other players vote for their card, so the best strategy in the game is to avoid making your phrase too on-the-nose.
  • Non-video game example: in Homestuck, this is one of Karkat's philosophical issues with living in a world where You Can't Fight Fate: if the random caprices of whatever Eldritch Abomination controls it hold that you have to fail at something, but still survive it, then doing "too well" at your given goals will literally cause your death just as easily as a decapitation.
  • Invoked in The Kindaichi Case Files. In one story, Kindaichi reveals the murderer by having all of the suspects take a multiple choice test, with all of the questions secretly pertaining to the case (For example, asking where one would buy a certain type of rope, with that type of rope being what was used in the murders). All of the suspects did an average job on the test...except for one, who got every single question wrong. It turned out that she was the murderer and, in deliberately failing the test to try to clear her name, she just proved her guilt (with other evidence provided after).
  • Fossil Fighters: Champions has a sidequest wherein you have to help a character boil an egg in a hot spring for exactly ten seconds. Do it correctly, and you receive a useful item and some icons. Miss it by mere milliseconds, however, and you can net other useful items. The most notable is probably what happens if you end up pressing the button at exactly 9.9 seconds, in which case, you can obtain the super-rare Mysterious Egg fossils.
  • In one episode of Watch My Chops, Corneil the dog takes part in an intelligence test with several other animals, and does so well in the first part that the researcher realizes he should be able to talk (which he secretly is). Afraid that his secret will come out, Corneil proceeds to do absolutely nothing during the final part of the test, thus equalizing his score.
  • This is the advice Jet gives Spike in an episode of Cowboy Bebop when the crew visits a casino. Instead of doing so well that he draws suspicion to himself, Spike goes around helping other people win and taking tips for himself from their winnings.
  • On White Collar Neal and Mozzie realize too late that a painting Mozzie sold is on a FBI watchlist. The painting was supposedly destroyed earlier in the season and if the FBI recovers the painting and authenticates it as real, they will have proof that Neal and Mozzie stole the treasure cache the painting was part of. Their only hope is to steal the real painting from its new owner and replace it with a forgery. Neal has to make the forgery look good enough that it would have reasonably fooled a knowledgeable buyer but have just enough flaws that the FBI experts can figure out it is a fake.
  • In the first book of The Demon Headmaster series, Dinah Glass is accustomed to doing this so she won't stand out. When she arrives at her new school, she has to take a test and makes a few deliberate mistakes. Then she finds out it's run by a supervillain with Hypnotic Eyes...
  • In The Hunger Games, this can be a potential issue in training. The gamemakers give each participant a score from 1-12 based on his/her performance in training that indicates how likely the gamemakers think it is that he/she will win the games. Having too low a score marks you as easy meat, but having too high a score makes you a serious threat and ensures that you will be one of the first hunted down and killed.
  • In Watchmen, Ozymandias, the world's smartest man, decided to only get above-average grades as a child so that he wouldn't stand out.
  • In Bakuman。, there's a scene where Takagi does Mashiro's homework for him so that Mashiro can keep working on their manga. Since Takagi is significantly better than Mashiro at school, he mentions that he deliberately made some mistakes so that the teacher wouldn't get suspicious.
  • In Love and Capes, Darkblade relaxes with a monthly pub quiz. But consistently winning would attract attention, so instead he aims to get precisely 67%.
  • A new Web Original game show titled Tension requires its contestant to answer 10 questions, getting exactly five right and five wrong to win $100. Here's the "sneak preview" episode.
  • In The Salvation War, it is actually a staple of living for the demons: if they do things bad, they get punished, but if they do things too well, they will wonder why this is not a constant and demand that level of perfection in the future, so everyone does just well enough to satisfy their superiors.
  • Peter mentions this in Office Space: perform well and you'll attract more attention (and pressure) from management, so there's a strong incentive to do just enough to not get fired.
  • In The Vicar of Dibley, Geraldine enters a contest to win the second place prize, a lifetime supply of chocolate, her Trademark Favourite Food. She is disappointed to find that she won the grand prize, a trip to Disneyland Paris, which she instead uses as the prize for a local contest she is running.
  • In El Goonish Shive, during a trading card game tournament, Luke entered the tournament in order to have an excuse to be there. He intended to lose his first match quickly so he could get on with his real objective but still play well enough that it wouldn't be obvious that he was trying to lose. However, because his opponent insulted him, Luke was angry enough to play well enough to win the match (after many time consuming turns).

Meat Space examples:

  • "Perfect is enemy of good enough" is supposed to have been the personal motto of Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov (a variation of this quote appears in Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October, still attributed to Gorshkov). Other versions of this maxim are associated with Voltaire and Clausewitz, among others.
  • Pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, entirely dominating his sport, had a habit of only beating (often, his own) world records by just 1 cm. This was due to substantial prize money regularly offered for new world records. Every time such a prize was offered, Bubka beat his record slightly, but it was often apparent due to the amount he cleared his jumps that he was physically able to jump a lot higher than he did.
    • This is quite common in athletic sports; Usain Bolt, for example, only beats the world record in the 100m sprint by a fraction of a second, probably to ensure he can beat it again in the future, even though he can clearly do far better.
  • This is often regarded as the best overall strategy behind the game show The Weakest Link. Do too poorly and your competitors will want to vote you off for holding the team back. Do too well and your competitors may be more likely to vote you off due to seeing you as a potential competitive threat in the later rounds.
    • This also holds true to any show that involves teamwork and voting people out. Weak players are easily voted off of the show but players who perform strongly every time will also be sent up for elimination so that they can't win at the end.
    • But in a game with the possibility to win immunity from elimination, doing perfect will ensure being in the endgame.
  • When bowling in a handicap league, you will get more wins if you only bowl well enough to win by a few points than if you bowl a great game. This is because people get handicap points to even out the differences in their average. If someone is bowling under their average, you can lower your handicap by bowling under your average too and still win, while if they play above their average, a close win does less damage to your average than a spectacular game. Bowling a 300 will only hurt your average, with no benefit unless it was required to win that game, and even if it was, the damage it will do to your handicap next session will almost guarantee a loss. This is a form of sandbagging, and is against the rules, but very difficult to prove. People who are good enough to pull this off really should be playing "scratch" (non-handicapped), but in practice there's an area of skill where someone isn't good enough to win money in a scratch league, but can win a handicap one easily by sandbagging without getting caught.
  • As shown in 2012 Olympic badminton, poorly-designed tournaments can have this issue. Sometimes your best option is to just barely qualify with a low score, in order to face a weaker opponent in the next round. However, doing this on purpose is considered cheating. Four pairs were expelled from the Olympics for trying it.
  • This a deliberate choice by Muslim tapestry weavers, who add one flaw because only Allah may be perfect. During the tour of the United Nations, one's guide will often point to a tapestry that is several stories tall and challenge you to find it.
    • Same with ancient mosaics - visit any Roman villa and you'll see every mosaic has a single break in symmetry, to show that the makers were only human
  • Game Show example: The original Dutch version of 1 vs. 100 awarded money on each question based on the percentage of the remaining Mob eliminated, not the absolute number of mob members eliminated. This resulted in a system where the longer the One drags out the game, the more money he/she would win if he/she successfully defeated the entire Mob. Example scenarios  This means that the best-case scenario occurs by eliminating the Mob one member at a time over the course of at least 100 questions, answering every single question correctly and using the Double on the question which eliminates the last Mob member; doing so would net the One a bit over €309,000.
    • In the American version, this was at first partially fixed: it was still beneficial to knock out a greater number of Mob members at higher levels, but the prize for taking out the entire mob was $1,000,000 no matter what. In later seasons, a fixed cash prize was awarded for every 10 Mob members the One knocked out.
  • In Real Life having a forgery being too close to the ideal document can be suspicious depending how imperfect the typical legitimate document, currency or what ever you're trying to fake is. Obviously if it is too far from the ideal document that is also suspicious.
    • During the American Civil War, the Union printed fake Confederate dollars in order to cause inflation and disrupt the South's economy. The fakes were immediately obvious because they were of much better quality than the real dollars, but they were used anyway, since everyone knew that Confederate dollars were subjected to Ridiculous Exchange Rates.
  • In Spider Solitaire, it's possible to do so well that you clear almost all the cards off the table without ever pulling cards from the pile. Since you NEED to draw all the cards from the pile and clear them to win, though, and since you can't draw from the pile without having at least one card on every stack, it's possible to end up not having enough cards to populate every stack, and thus render the game Unwinnable by doing too well, too quickly.
  • This happens to be the only way that a program can successfully pass the Turing Test. The computer must demonstrate a 'good' understanding of language and conversation, but must not be 'perfect' or else it becomes easy for the human to tell which is the computer (probably because of the Uncanny Valley).
  • Card-counting relies on this. Win too little money and it's not worth your while, but win too much and the casino administration will catch on.
  • Also a staple in cheating on things like tests or exams. It's less suspicious if you deliberately toss in a few wrong answers.
  • Hallmark German perfectionism doomed quite a few Nazi spies in WWII. They would have impeccable forged documents on them, stapled with staples of stainless steel, which was the give away, since Russians used ordinary steel, and it always had rust on it.
    • Similarly, some German spies attempting to infiltrate the Americans were discovered because they knew the second verse of The Star Spangled Banner (the first verse of which is the National Anthem).
  • A strategy used in free-for-all multiplayer Magic: Since you have multiple opponents to worry about, the last things you want to appear to be are the strongest player or the weakest player. If you're the strongest player, you get ganged up on and eliminated so that you no longer pose a threat to anyone else. If you're the weakest, you get ganged up on and eliminated because hey, one less opponent.
  • Daniel Kitson tells Flight of the Conchords that they have to hit the "comedic middle ground" when they open for him in the BBC Radio Show, if they're not funny then people will leave before the headliner, but if they're too funny then the headliner will not look as good in comparison.
  • This is a common goal of makers of reference materials such as maps, in order to detect plagiarism. Tiny errors such as misspelled names are often inserted deliberately so that if any other work is published later with the same errors, the creators of the original can use the errors as evidence of plagiarism.
  • Many official documents, such as passports, have subtle text such as having minuscule writing appear as a border or outline for the document, while one or more of the words in the sentence or line of words is misspelled.
  • This thinking can save a whole season for smaller clubs in association football. If a small club manages to qualify for a continental or major cup, it should be an achievement for obvious reasons. But many times, the club doesn't have enough structure and ends up not only doing bad in the continental cup they managed to qualify, but also gets relegated in their national league since their players can't manage playing 2 major championships in 1 season.
  • The trope can apply to the workplace, depending on the type of job, any time outstanding performance is "rewarded" by greater future expectations:
    • Going above and beyond your duties all the time may eventually get you a raise, a promotion, or some other type of bonus, but now your boss/supervisor expects you to perform your tasks in excellent form at all times. Fall behind after doing so well (which sometimes is not your fault at all) and your boss may decide to dock your pay, demote you, or even fire you for not performing as good as you used to. Many workers have adopted the strategy of applying the trope to their work so that they can get by with just the bare minimum so that they complete their duties and aren't the first people to go to for extra tasks.
    • This is the constant bane of every enterprise that has a quota imposed on it or a budget allocated to it. Excel the quota and sure, you'll get a bonus, but the quota might be increased next time. Spend less than your budget, and you'll get your next budget cut. This leads people to cut work or pad their budget with unnecessary expenses.
  • When the Canadian Forces were changing one of the standards used for fitness tests at military colleges from pull-ups on a bar to push ups, they conducted trials to determine what the number of push-ups required to pass the actual test should be. Knowing that they would be setting the minimum standard which they would later have to also pass during the twice-annual fitness tests, the vast majority of cadets would do a number of push-ups less than they actually could do, but enough to show they were putting effort into it, and then make a show of collapsing as if totally exhausted.
  • An interesting example occurred during the development of Battle Chess. The artist who designed the queen piece knew he was working with meddlesome executives, and he also knew exactly what he wanted the queen to look like, how she should move, etc. So he drew her animations exactly like he wanted... and then added a pet duck that made no sense in the context. The executive told him it looked great except the duck had to go, and he ended up with exactly the original design.
  • In American Idol, the X Factor, and similar TV shows, this is a good strategy during the rounds post-first audition but pre-viewer vote rounds. If you do too well during those rounds, the judges will expect much more of you during the viewer vote rounds and be harder on you, thus making it look like you're worse than you actually are, and losing you votes and possibly causing your elimination. Conversely, if you don't do that well in those rounds, the judges won't be as tough on you later on, making it look like you're better than you actually are. Furthermore, viewers tend to like the narrative of an underdog bursting through the pack and becoming a contender. Indeed, in such shows, the early favorite rarely wins. Therefore, in those rounds, a good strategy is to sing at about 80-90% of your maximum ability: well enough to get you to the viewer vote rounds, but not well enough to heap unnecessary pressure on yourself.

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