Other Wise

Wotcha up to mate?

An old line that I’d long forgotten was brought back up recently:

In competitive games, I get to approximate the platonic ideal of an entirely selfish and self-centeredly manipulative creature, one bereft of every social grace and principle, and to thereby learn to solve interesting problems. What’s not to like?

Pidgeon opponents

Another thing written elsewhere

Part of respecting your opponents is respecting them as opponents and thus being willing to have them win or lose, to be hurt or happy, to succeed or be crushed or be somewhere in the middle. They are grownups now: they can and should take care of themselves. They are your opponent and that is what they are there for, so respect them for it and give them the roughest, most aggressively unforgiving, unrelenting and challenging game you can along with and as part of your respect.

Notes on a vantage

Three quick quips which I’ve had cause to reference multiple times and thus seem useful to keep stashed. First a comment on how and why I live:

Meanwhile the universe is interesting, delightfully interesting even, and I apply and dedicate my awareness and interest to that end. I assume, generously and with scant evidence, that it is a Good Thing to Have Understood, or at least to have Striven to Understand. I don’t know if that is in fact true, it seems quite likely that it isn’t, but it also seems a fine and possibly even wonderful conceit to live under.

And thence on the critical structures and requirements of something being a (viable) game:

That the answer is complex.

Primarily I see it as a function of cognitive ability. Oh, not in any elitist or superiority sense, but simply in terms of capacity. Tic-tac-toe is a fine game for younger children as they simply don’t yet have the cognitive abilities necessary for recognising what’s necessary to remove the game. It is rather less interesting if you or I played it. Similarly, the game of Go is very interesting for people precisely because we don’t have the cognitive capacity to remove the game. In short: in order to be a game the system as presented must fundamentally exceed our ability to comprehend the system.

How it exceeds us, by complexity for instance, or by stressing analytical forms we humans are inherently weak at like conditional probability, or by requiring modes of thought that we’ve not yet fully developed (and thus a lot of games for pre-adolescents stress symbolic thought as they’ve only just developed that capacity (it comes in around age 11)) — how it exceeds us really doesn’t matter, just that it exceeds us and is hauntingly close to the apparent edge of our capacities so as to provide the taunting illusion of almost-graspability. And it will remain a game only to the point that no matter how hard we study and analyse and work it, that we will still not fully understand the system represented or implied by the game.

(Somewhere in here there’s a fine rant that I’ll skip for now on the necessity for ambiguity in games, and how far too many so-called “games” are not in fact games because they don’t contain ambiguity: they just have game-states that are hard or laborious to parse)

Now a kicker in this is that most games rely on the fact that as humans we cannot completely model another human (of comparable capacity to ourselves). Godel’s incompleteness theorem guarantees that, and provides the primary reason I rarely ever play 2-player games. The problem here is that the modelling problem is also a cheap out for lazy game designers (ahem — there’s no subjectivity in this declaration, no sirree!). In this I find that the more interesting games exceed their players in both their systemic demands and in their demands of modelling the other players (and thus in the intersection of multiplayer interactions and the system, an implicit third factor).

After that basic, well, it gets murky and subjective and ever so much more complex. A lot of the subjective preferences there are arm-wavingly discussed in my profile text here on BGG. And, not to short shrift you too badly, I need to get ready for a gamesday with one of the top 18xx players in the world (Todd vander Pluym) who is in the area for a few days…and fascinating as this question is (and it is truly interesting), that’s a time-bounded opportunity and this question isn’t. Sorry.

And finally on the activity of playing games:

I find that face-to-face games provide context and variety which is largely not available in solo study. That alone more than makes face-to-face play worthwhile. Just participating in a game with other actors, and observing those actors, actors not in my mind, suffices a lot of my requirements for playing a game as you say. Much of anything I may think during that time or later will be catalysed and informed by my observation of those actors during the game — which is the great thing about playing games rather than merely thinking about games.

Definition: Euro(game)

Another quip from a post on Boardgamegeek:

A Euro is a marketing construct that describes a game aimed at the demographic of a young(er) suburban and culturally active/aware couple, possibly with 1-2 kids in the 6-14 age range, who wish to play games as a family or couple and/or socially with a similar couple. This well-defined, identified and understood market is the focus of many designers and publishers.

A trial of strategy

Another off-hand note that seemed more interesting after I’d noticed I’d written it:

My litmus tests for calling a game “strategic” are something like:

0) Does the game reward continuous planning from the current state out through the end-game starting from before the game’s actual start until the game ends?

1) Does the game also reward a continuous 3-5+ turn detailed look-ahead?

2) Are the decisions made in that detailed look-ahead primarily concerned with support of the continuous end-game planning?

3) Will players that fail to coherently do any of the previous three (necessarily(?)) lose to those that succeed in coherently doing the previous three?

Tribal bivalence

I wrote the following in a rather off-hand manner and found that I’d written rather more than I’d recognised I knew on the benefits of mobs and individual for the species:

Man is prone to witch hunts (and pillories and stocks and coventries, and…). Arguably the tendency toward witch hunts has been a significant contributing factor in the social binding and coherency that enabled our success as a species. We got the benefits of (assumed) individual intelligence and of herd/flock coherence, and that’s a pretty potent mix.

Definition: Economic Game

I wrote the following recently as part of a discussion on boardgamegeek:

An economic game implements an economy which the players either significantly create or engage in during the course of play. An economy consists of one or more marketplaces in which one or more currencies are exchanged either for goods/resources or other (potential) currencies, and in which the cycle of inputs to conversions to outputs is or can be self-sustaining. A currency is merely a granular entity with variable value which is conceived of as a trade item for other currencies or value goods.

A hark to a yester-profession

I wrote this a bit ago on BGG and had trouble finding it later, thus I note it here:

It came to me out of the wet dark and leaked ichor down the side of my bureau. By morning it was dead, life having fled from its rends and tears and broken teeth for the crust on the floor. I buried it deep behind the midden and rolled a heavy stone atop to remember its breathing by. I dare not eat the dark apples from the tree that sprang from under the stone.