When you must make a difficult choice, what better way to resolve things than by writing a list of the options, then tacking it to the wall and throwing darts at it (perhaps while blindfolded)? Sometimes this can indicate that the character doesn't care much about the outcome of the choice, which might be something quite trivial. Variations include:
- The darts missing the list entirely and the character making that decision based on whatever (or whoever) gets hit instead. Hilarity Ensues.
- The darts hitting only the empty wall, forcing the character to find another means of decision-making.
- A world leader or war strategist throwing darts at a map/globe to decide which country to invade or bomb; or more benignly, someone making travel decisions by sticking a dart or pin at random into the map.
- The outcome is revealed, the thrower takes the dart and puts it in the area he wanted to hit in the first place (betraying a preferred outcome) or throws it again ("anywhere but there").
- The dart-throwing character combines the two results. Hilarity Ensues.
- In commercials for a now-defunct electronics store, this was shown as the way the owner chose a new location.
- There used to be a TV commercial for the French National Lottery where an elderly couple, having won the lottery, threw darts at a world map to choose their next destination. The husband's resigned answer when his wife complained after hitting Australia for the third time, "C'est l'jeu, ma pauvre Lucette!" ("That's the game, my poor Lucette!"), had undergone Memetic Mutation of sorts.
- They don't use darts, but there's a series of ads in Canada in which investors make their decisions with the help of randomizing factors like roulette wheels and newspaper horoscopes.
- The tag being "Wouldn't it be nice if the world actually worked like this?"
- One of the old commercials for Bartles & Jaymes Premium Wine Cooler showed Frank and Ed selecting a new flavor with a spinning dartboard.
- In the Death Note manga, this was one of the ways suggested by the Yotsuba group to make their Kira's killings more random.
- The characters of Descendants of Darkness use this method to choose their vacation destination. Apparently, this has led them to spend past holidays on deserted islands or in the middle of the ocean.
- In Minami-ke, Kana decides what to do on the summer vacation. She and Chiaki end up fighting over what activity should be in what field, and what size they should be.
- In Snow White with the Red Hair Garak throws a dart at a map to decide which region they're going to source certain medicinal plants from since using the same region every year would damage the plants' stock in that region and make it difficult for it to recover. Her assistant and her apprentice both wish she'd choose a less destructive method since they live in a society where maps and most books are still drawn and written by hand and are not cheap.
- In the German Lindenstrasse comic of the TV series, the authors are shown doing this. "What should we do for the next episode?" - "What about rape?" - "Victim or perp first?" - "Victim!"
- In DuckTales, there's a story where Huey, Dewey and Louie and Doofus were trying to decide which Junior Woodchuck merit badge they'd try to earn. They agreed to have Doofus throw a dart to decide. He missed the badge list.
- Goofy once won a trip and was allowed to choose where to go. He employed this method to decide.
- In one Archie Comics story, Professor Flutesnoot is frustrated that Jughead's forecasts for the school paper continually prove to be accurate- even when they're the opposite of official forecasts. In the end, Flutesnoot confronts Jughead on his method- and is more than shocked to see this trope in action.
- One Dilbert comic had the Pointy-Haired Boss announce he was going to decide layoffs by throwing darts at the org chart. He missed and killed a random employee.
- Comes up in one Pearls Before Swine story where Rat becomes a stockbroker.
Rat: Rat Broker...can I help you?
Client: Yeah, you're an idiot...all your stock picks stink! Whaddya got over there, a bunch of drunk monkeys throwing darts at the business section?!!?
(cut to Rat in a room with three drunk monkeys)
Rat: Okay, who here violated our confidentiality agreement?
- This is used a few times in Non Sequitur. In one strip a criminal defense attorney is throwing a dart to pick his closing argument for why the judge should be merciful to his client, and the lazy way he does it suggests he does this a lot. In another comic Danae is shown using darts to come up with a completely random false celebrity story and then calling a news organization and telling them the fake story to see if they will report it, which they do, in order to prove a point about how bad the news is.
- Or dice, in the case of the gamer Jeft in With Strings Attached. He rolls percentile dice to determine whether they should make George get the Tribune ring, and mentions that he rolls dice a lot to make decisions. Varx thinks this is strange.
- In Duel Enrollment this is how the headmaster of the Legerdemain Academy of Sorcery ends up visiting England.
Brian: Seriously? ... Of all the places that dart could've fallen it lands here ... should've just gone surfing instead. Oh well, better make the most of this vacation.
- In Strange Reflections Harry's alternate-universe counterpart Hadrian cares so little about his sister Iris that he habitually casts a puncture charm at the history section of a Flourish and Blotts catalog when he has to buy her a birthday present.
- In Heroes Assemble! Harry throws a dart at a map of the US when he decides to take a break from work and hits Los Angeles.
- In Coping with Consequences Lily throws something sticky at a hover-charmed map to decide which Muggle town to meet Voldemort in.
- In the 1967 Doctor Dolittle movie, this is how they decided to visit the floating island.
- In Blankman a sleazy tabloid news programme producer uses this method to determine that evening's stories: "The Vice President..." [dart] "... and an alien..." [dart] "... have S&M sex!"
- One character in Office Space has a terrible idea for a variation on this which he calls "Leap to Conclusions", where instead of a dartboard it is just a big mat on the floor with different "conclusions" written all over it. The idea is to just "leap" onto the mat when one needs to make a decision and follow whatever conclusion one lands on. Everyone he describes it to thinks it's a terrible idea but apparently, it is his lifelong dream to make it a real product which he does after getting a fat settlement check for an auto-accident.
- The Last King of Scotland opens with Garrigan spinning a globe, closing his eyes, and sticking his finger on it to decide what country he will travel overseas to work in, deciding that his prospects working as a doctor in Scotland are boring. The first time, he gets Canada, so he decides to give the globe another spin. This gets him Uganda.
- Tom and Jerry: The Fast and the Furry: J.W. Globwobbler throws darts at a world map while blindfolded to decide where the big race will go next.
- In the novel Anne of the Island, Philippa is notoriously indecisive. She must decide on a hat to wear to the park by putting both on a chair, closing her eyes, and jabbing randomly with a hatpin. She's depressed that she can't use a similar method to decide which of her two "main" suitors ("the rest are either too young or too poor") to marry.
- There's a variant in one of the stories in Clive Barker's Books of Blood. The heroine stumbles across the secret location of the group of geniuses who secretly run the world. (Without the advice of these superior intellects, world leaders are helpless - we see one of them gnawing on his own wig at the prospect of actually having to make his own decisions for a change.) And how do the wise masters of the Earth decide the destiny of the human race? Well, for the first few years they debated and debated, but never seemed to reach any conclusion... so nowadays they mostly decide the outcome of wars and the fate of nations by holding frog races.
- Doctor Dolittle chose most (maybe all) of his destinations by spinning a globe or opening an atlas to a random page and stabbing with a pencil. Once he managed to hit a celestial body, and that's why there's a novel called Doctor Dolittle in the Moon.
- In Joseph L. Schott's No Left Turns he mentions a joking discussion with the night supervisor at the Justice Building about how FBI personnel assignments were determined.
By the next night I had it figured out by intuition and deduction. "It's a blindfolded chimpanzee," I said to Miles. "He sits on a desk in the Administrative Division. The Director hands him a dart with an agent's name on it and the ape throws it blindfolded at a large map of the United States. The agent goes to the field office nearest the spot the dart strikes. After each throw, the Director rewards him with an oreo cookie."
- In The Mouse On Wall Street by Leonard Wibberly Duchess Gloriana XII has been given the task of losing a large sum of money in a manner that seems feckless rather than deliberate. Her chosen method is to place several pages on the Wall Street journal on a wall and use darts to randomly select companies to invest large sums in on the grounds that investing randomly like this without any regard for prudence or knowledge should be as good a way of losing money while seeming to be feckless as any. She does cheat a little by doing enough research to make sure that the companies selected in this way are the sort no investor would ever make money from. This being the Fenwick series, instead of things going wrong as planned things go Horribly Right instead and hilarity ensues.
- The Addams Family: In "The Addams Family Meets the VIPs", a pair of foreign VIPs get frustrated with the tour their assigned guide has given them, thinking that he's trying to present only what America wants them to see. They decide to stick a pin in a phone book to decide which ordinary American family they will drop in on to find out what things are really like...and hit the Addams' name. Misunderstanding and Hilarity Ensues.
- Have I Got News for You has used several variants of an opening animation where George W. Bush throws darts at a map of the Middle East. Version one: The dart landed on "Iraqistan" (later "Saudi Iraqia"), accompanied by a mushroom cloud. Version two: It lands on France. Version three: Instead of a map, the dartboard has four options: Boom, Bust, Bailout, and Burger.
- In Porridge, Fletcher mentions that in his previous prison they used to run roulette by bribing a warden to turn a blind eye, blindfolding the "croupier" and spinning him around when he threw a dart at a dartboard covered with a list of numbers. Until the spinning is a little too vigorous and the warden "turned a blind eye to everything after that."
- In an episode of Step by Step, it is revealed that the people who do Career Aptitude tests decide the results by putting chewed gum on a ruler and flinging it at a board covered with various job titles.
- In an episode of Profiler, the team finds the recurring Serial Killer's lair and finds a page from a telephone book needled to the wall with a bunch of holes in it. They soon figure out that the Victim of the Week turns up on the page and is the only one that was struck twice.
- The French bureaucrats in Clochmerle use a dartboard as their main decision-making tool.
- In the final episode of Chelmsford123 Emperor Hadrian uses this method to decide which part of The Roman Empire he should visit, inevitably settling on Britain, after several tries to hit the map with the arrow.
- In Adventures in Odyssey this was how the producers of America Sings were going to decide which small town was going to feature on the show. The first time the boss misses and hits the man who's in the room with him (the boss had his eyes shut at the time). He hits Odyssey the second time though.
- Unglued, the immortal joke set of Magic: The Gathering, gives us the card "Look at Me, I'm the DCI" (the DCI is the body that decides which Magic cards are tournament-legal). The card art is a crude crayon drawing depicting "the DCI's rigorous decision-making process" — throwing darts at a board with cards stuck on it.
- In Devil Survivor 2 Record Breaker, the Golden Ending has Yamato spin a globe and throw a dart at it, to determine where his next trip is going to take him.
- In Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire, the royal astrologer is sitting in a room full of various divining equipment. One is a dart-board with two halves: "Yes" and "No".
- In Book 3 of Schlock Mercenary, the Tagon Toughs need to hide from the bosses that just tried to blow them up and decide to do so in an uninhabited system somewhere in the galaxy. They opt to pick the location by hanging a galactic survey map on one wall of the gym and throwing a dart at it. The hole from next throw is 50 light-years across at the scale of the map.
Tagon: Hah! Bullseye!
Jevee Ceeta: That's the Galactic Core, Tagon. We don't want to go there.
- In the Free Spirit (2014) comic "Wish Gone Amiss", the casting directors of a sitcom that Gene auditions for use darts and photographs to pick an actor, as opposed to judging each candidate individually. Winnie uses her magic to make the dart hit a picture of Gene.
- In Housepets! the Milton ferrets apparently came up with "Theme Park World" in such a manner.
- Referenced in Gunnerkrigg Court, in The Rant below the comic revealing that Alistair was turning into a bird.
Congratulations to those who figured this out. In my mind, I am picturing a dartboard with every available space riddled with darts.
- A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip had a man trying to impress his wife by having her throw a dart at a spinning globe and they would travel there for a romantic trip, except it was rigged to only hit the cheapest town in Utah. This backfired in the votey bonus panel when the dart's impact punctured the globe, leading his wife to believe they're going to the Earth's core.
- In the Palin as President Web interactive, this method is used to select the name of Sarah Palin's next child.
- Seanbaby theorized that this was the method Capcom used to design enemies in the NES game Yo! Noid
- Paw Dugan does this to pick his next Musical review.
- d20monkey theory of game design (the author also constantly insists that the results get better and better).
- How did Roadkill start their first episode? A blindfolded Finnegan threw a dart at a map of the US. Wherever the dart landed, they'd buy an alleged car and drive it back home.
- Episode 11, since they were "fresh out of ideas", featured a repeat with Freiburger throwing.
Finnegan: You're in the Gulf of Mexico, dude.
- Episode 11, since they were "fresh out of ideas", featured a repeat with Freiburger throwing.
- An episode of South Park had a variation where a chicken would have its head cut off and its body would flop around until landing on a particular portion of a large dartboard-like setup on the floor. This was used to determine the value of things on Wall Street.
- One episode of Robot Chicken showed the Battlestar Galactica creator using this method to determine who would turn out to be a Cylon next.
- The Fairly OddParents:
- Timmy Turner tried to use one to decide which part-time job he should seek. He hit the ball boy of a basketball team, which forced said ball boy to leave the job, allowing Timmy to take it.
- It's said in the same episode that this is how Cosmo decided to go out with Wanda... and she still has the scar to prove it.
- The Mask has an episode where Pretorius abducted the Mayor and was using his identity while running for Mayor. When one of the thugs answered a phone call from a person asking for the Mayor's position regarding a certain point, he used a decision dart to pick an answer.
- The Simpsons: Using a sword for a dart and a globe for a board, Sideshow Bob tried to pick a place to start a new life in "The Italian Bob". Not liking the randomly chosen places (Orlando, Florida, North Korea, Shelbyville, and "Bartovia"), he more carefully spun the globe so his sword landed on Tuscany.
- In one Underdog cartoon, the King of the Saucer Men did this to find a planet with a good pastry chef. After the first two attempts landed on planets with horrible chefs, he wised up; his third one landed on Earth, and he decided to check the place out first this time and find someone there who was good. (Unfortunately, the one he pinpointed was Underdog's girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred.)
- Garfield and Friends:
- "The Genuine Article" begins with Garfield tossing darts at a dartboard to decide what he does for the cartoon. Some of the biggest options on it are "Eat" and "Sleep", but his dart lands on a smaller option, "Kick the Puppy Off the Table".
- In the U.S. Acres segment, "Kiddie Korner", Aloysius Pig is seen throwing darts at a dartboard to decide how to program the fall schedule for (da dum!) the network. The six options he has on it are "Renew Old Show", "Buy New Show", "Cancel Saturday", "Power Anything", "Cancel Everything", and "More Bears". The last option has two darts in it, while the second-to-last one gets a dart tossed into it. Before Aloysius can toss another dart, Roy interrupts him to have him sing a special Nursery Rhyme he wrote about him in response to him finding something offensive in every nursery rhyme that Orson and his friends try.
- Some restaurants and similar establishments let indecisive people throw a dart to choose what food to get.
- There are people who make all their important decisions in this manner. Either they go with the result they get, in which case it obviously didn't matter much to them, or they override it, having realised which option they preferred all along.
- There's a popular theory in some areas that this is how weather forecasters decide what to predict.
- Many economists believe that the market is smarter than you are, so a random strategy (or at least a "buy all the biggest stocks" strategy) will save you wasting time on a lot of research and calculations that won't actually pay off. It's the basis of those "index" funds you may have seen advertisednote It's also the basis of a Dilbert cartoon where Dogbert was selling a fund whose investment decisions were taken by a group that was expected to outperform traditional stock analysts: a bunch of monkeys with a dartboard.
- John Stossel once illustrated that point literally on 20/20 by throwing darts on a big list of stocks and then purchasing the hits and showing how they did.
- One problem with using any kind of actual research to make decisions on when to buy or sell stock (as opposed to this method) is that nearly the only people who know enough about the company's status and plans to make good decisions can't legally act on them most of the time, because of laws forbidding insider trading. It's also true that one of the flags the SEC looks for to investigate insider trading is someone making a lot of money quickly, but another flag is someone losing a lot of money quickly: even insider trading is not a sure thing.
- The Guardian pitted three investment professionals against a group of students and a cat batting around his favourite toy for selecting and swapping stocks over a year. The professionals did better than the students, but lost out to the kitty.
- Dartboards (and spinner wheels) have been sold with this premise, with the catch that there's a magnet under some of the options (usually along the lines of "nap", "go fishing", "loaf around"...) that forces the dart/arrow to land there.