zenpundit.com » games

Archive for the ‘games’ Category

Trump as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother

Monday, September 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — on finger-based decision theory ]

Surely this is the answer to Decision Theory and Human Behavior — don’t we all do it this way?

Image via Elkus

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a comparative mapping of time and eternity? ]

From my POV, this image is superb:

Adam Elkus Chess image

It demonstrates both the experience of the human chess player, who cannot in general play by a “brute force” method since the tree of choices exceeds his neuronal capacity, and the rational experience of the brute force method, illuminated in the case of a problem small enough in scale for artful representation.

And part of what’s interesting — wonderful — here is the fact that the chess board is graphically far less beautiful, I dare to say, than the representation of the corresponding tree of choices.

And it reminds me of nothing so much as Mark Lombardi‘s fine art “conspiracy” graphs, like this one:

lombardi graph

— taken from Lombardi’s book, Global Networks, in which the artist draws the networks of influence surrounding eg oil and war in the Middle East — and which I’m sure can be found with a little effort for less than the $234.63 atvwhich Amazon currently offers a used paperback copy.


With thanks to Adam Elkus for pointing me to this concise icon of the Garden of Forking Paths.

Analogies of game and play, life and death

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameronno trump — a situation in which no suit is designated as trump ]

SPEC DQ Trump & Monopoly


  • Trump, Trump Tower at City Center
  • Monopoly, EA Brings iOS Hit Monopoly Hotels to Google Play
  • **

    There are at least three major analogies for life to be found within life itself: dreams, games, and plays — and in each case, there’s the possibility of an infinite regression, of dreams within dreams, games within games, and plays within plays.

    Shakespeare has the play within a play motif down nicety, but it traces back if I’m not mistaken to Plotinus, if not before. There’s that favorite remark of mine in the Enneads:

    Murders, death in all its guises, the reduction and sacking of cities, all must be to us just such a spectacle as the changing scenes of a play; all is but the varied incident of a plot, costume on and off, acted grief and lament. For on earth, in all the succession of life, it is not the Soul within but the Shadow outside of the authentic man, that grieves and complains and acts out the plot on this world stage which men have dotted with stages of their own constructing. All this is the doing of man knowing no more than to live the lower and outer life, and never perceiving that, in his weeping and in his graver doings alike, he is but at play; to handle austere matters austerely is reserved for the thoughtful: the other kind of man is himself a futility. Those incapable of thinking gravely read gravity into frivolities which correspond to their own frivolous Nature. Anyone that joins in their trifling and so comes to look on life with their eyes must understand that by lending himself to such idleness he has laid aside his own character. If Socrates himself takes part in the trifling, he trifles in the outer Socrates.


    We can move from theater to dream with almost suspicious ease via Pedro Calderón de la Barca, whose play La Vida es Sueño plays (in what is more a “game” sense than a “theatrical” one) with the idea of life as a dream — the idea embodied in his play’s very title.

    Indeed, as the translator Michael Kidd suggests in his Introduction to the play:

    To emphasize the illusory nature of this existence, the Spanish Baroque relied on three central metaphors: life as art, life as theater, and, most important for Calderón, life as a dream.

    Here, then, is the heart of Calderón:

    We live in such an exceptional world that living is no more than dreaming; and experience teaches me that he who lives dreams what he is until waking. The king dreams that he’s king, and he lives under this deception commanding, planning, and governing; and his acclaim, which he receives on loan, is scribbled in the wind and turned to ashes by death. What grave misfortune! To think that anyone should wish to govern knowing that he will awaken in the sleep of death! The rich man dreams of more riches, which only bring him more worries; the poor man dreams that he suffers in misery and poverty; the man who improves his lot dreams; the man who toils and petitions dreams; the man who insults and offends dreams. And in this world, in short, everyone dreams what he is although no one realizes it. I dream that I’m here, weighed down by these chains, and I’ve dreamt that I found myself in more flattering circumstances. What is life? A frenzy. What is life? A vain hope, a shadow, a fiction. The greatest good is fleeting, for all life is a dream and even dreams are but dreams.

    And for recursion — an earlier translator of those lines about anyone who might “wish to govern knowing that he will awaken in the sleep of death” renders them thus:

    Who would wish a crown to take,
    Seeing that he must awake
    In the dream beyond death’s gate?

    Why, we are almost in the realm of Chuang Tzu..

    Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.


    Oho — do we imagine we have escaped moral necessity by viewing life as a dream?

    Calderón again:

    I want to do what’s right, for it pays to do what’s right even in dreams.


    Ah, but games.

    It was the quote that follows, about death and games, that drove me to write this post, and I believe it takes us deeper into the mystery of these analogies of life and death: Gabby DaRienzo is writing about “ussing game mechanics to encourage players to think about death and mortality” in her piece, Death Positivity in Video Games:

    Death serves multiple mechanical roles in videogames — it is most commonly used as a thing you want to avoid, a goal you need to accomplish, or as a narrative device. While death is prominent in many videogames, we generally give it much less thought and treat it with much less seriousness than actual death, especially when it comes to the player.

    And there we have it — the recognition that we care less or more, proportionately, about some things in games than we do in “RL”.

    Some of that difference, it would seem is to do with the mechanics and “inworld” motivations of particular games — but it would be an interesting landscape to plot, game by game or genre by genre. Flight simulators need to be in close correspondence with the realities they are represnting in terms of turbulent air flows, fuel consumption, and landing strips, for iunstance — but if their clouds are visually a bit less than realistic, it’s no big deal. A Tibetan mandala-based game, on the other hand, might want to get the scrolled cloud-work so characteristic of Tibetan art and the Thirty-two Excellent Signs of a Buddha’s Enlightening Body exactly right — in Tibetan cultural terms. Strage, but true:

    Each hair of a Buddha’s eyebrow is exactly the same length.


    Money, then.

    In Monopoly, it’s everything — and life?

    On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four

    Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl — following parts 1, 2 and 3 with a fourth ]

    Back in my student days, I used to have a three dimensional tic-tac-toe board, 4 x 4 x 4, made of plexiglas sheets with holes drilled in them, and using colored golf-tees for markers. I could play pretty well on that board, but these ones would drive me nuts — whether for tic-tac-toe or for HipBone / Sembl.

    with a chaser:

    And that’s what I call a DoubleTweet.

    Warrior / Spirit

    Sunday, September 6th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — is “conflict resolution” in conflict with “conflict” — and if so, what’s the appropriate resolution? ]

    In Search of Warrior Spirit Yoga Joe
    [left] Strozzi-Heckler’s book, now in its fourth edition; [right] one of a series of figures called Yoga Joes.


    Craig Davies at a site called Art-Sheep has a post titled Classic Green Army Figures Practicing Yoga Instead Of Holding Guns, and sees thing in black and white, or perhaps better, darkness and light:

    If something is a total opposite to war, that is the practice of yoga. Concentrating or relaxing your muscles and mind in order to release tension, is something a soldier would never have the luxury to do under the dangerous circumstances of war.

    Inventor Dan Abramson thought of a amazingly creative and beautiful way to connect the two, by creating “Yoga Joes”, a series of simple green plastic army men that have some killer… yoga moves.

    Apart from artistically interesting, Abramson’s cool idea to create a series of yoga soldiers gives an essence of serenity to the cruel and violent nature of war.

    “I made Yoga Joes because I thought that it would be a fun way to get more people into yoga – especially dudes… beyond that, I wanted to make a violent toy become peaceful,” he says.

    That’s glib, and wrong, and not too far from what many people think who identify with the “peace” side of “war and peace”.


    Richard Strozzi-Heckler, on the other hand..

    Well, he was one of them, teaching Aikido, arguably the most openly pacifistic of the martial arts — and when he got invited to train some Green Berets, in the words of George Leonard:

    Even before the program got started, Richard was excoriated by people he respected for even considering teaching aikido and other awareness disciplines to Green Berets, to “trained killers.”

    Leonard goes on to ask some probing questions:

    Does this imply that those of us who love peace would have no soldiers at all? And if we do have soldiers, do we really want them to be deprived of the best possible training? Do we want low-grade soldiers with no awareness or empathy? And if we do teach awareness and empathy to our soldiers, will they be able to perform the brutal tasks sometimes assigned them? Surely we don’t want a horde of Rambos loosed upon the world. But if not Rambo, then who?


    Think for a minute:

    If something is a total opposite to war, that is the practice of yoga.

    Yeah? And the total opposite of one is many? or none? or minus one? or all?

    If I asked you, what is the opposite of yoga, would you say war?

    And what’s the opposite of peace?

    I wrote above of those who identify with the “peace” side of “war and peace” — and there are, by contrast, those who who identify more readily with the “war” side — but are those two sides “at war” with one another? Can, to press the point, “peace” be “at war” with anything?



  • Dan Abramson, Yoga Joes: here to keep the inner peace
  • George Leonard, intro to Strozzi-Heckler, In Search of the Warrior Spirit: Teaching Awareness Disciplines to the Green Berets
  • **

    Comparative realities?

    toy & statue

    The Buddha‘s Diamond Sutra:

    So I say to you –
    This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:

    Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
    Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
    Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.

    So is all conditioned existence to be seen.

    Switch to our mobile site