Kingmaking has been around as long as interactive multi-player games have. It is generally considered a bad thing, and frowned upon, especially by those on the losing end of it. Before I discuss it, I'll give my definition:
Kingmaking is when a player who cannot win a game is in a position, by his actions, to decide who does win.Although I tend to be against implementing any measures preventing it, or even imposing taboos upon it, I am somewhat undecided in my opinion on the various issues about kingmaking.
It's not against the rules
Shouldn't it be valid for a player to do anything within the rules? Sort of, but there are clear exceptions. If a player does not care about winning and simply does anything he can within the rules to disrupt play, that is unacceptable.
Always try to win
If a player cannot win, they should still be trying to win. What does this mean? Maximize their final score? Come as close to the winner's score as possible? Not come in last? These goals can be contradictory.
Say kingmaker K has 20 points, player A has 28, and player B has 30. K plays to maximize his own score. He gets 6 points, and B wins the game with 36 points. K loses by 10 points.
Let's try it the other way. K plays to come as close to winning as possible. He chooses actions that net him only 5 points. However, this prevents B from scoring any points, and let's A score 4. K loses by 7 points.
Clearly, this is only possible if scoring is predictable in the game. But which is the proper play to avoid accusations of kingmaking? The answer is neither. Once you land in the position, you are screwed no matter what you do. Intelligent players must realize this and not take it personally.
Who chose the winner?
In the above two examples, K either allowed B to get 6 points or A to get 4. So what? Every turn you take, you are making choices to give opportunities to and to block opportunities from the other players. Perhaps A allowed B to get 10 points earlier in the game. Why is it that only the player who makes the final call is the bad guy? If I made a play on turn 1 that cost you 4 points and you lost by 2, was I a kingmaker?
Ok, so you've accepted that kingmaking isn't going to go away, and that it's not evil. How are you going to make the final stab? Is it going to based on who screwed you the most during the game, who won last time, or where you'll have to sleep tonight?
I really don't care. Games with human interaction are going to be driven by human emotions. If you ruined a player's plans, expect them to remember it. If you win often, expect to be a target.
If gaming is all about winning for you, then you might have the wrong hobby. Play as hard as you can to win, but enjoy the process not the victory. Congratulate the winner, and hold no grudges against the kingmaker...except perhaps next time when you are in his seat.
Kingmaker image by chrisinengland