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Two ways a resemblance can be unwelcome

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — NSFW, I repeat, NSFW , maybe ]

You can be photoshopped from Canada to France, Sikh to Muslim, &c —

The fake (on the left), photoshopped from the authentic selfie (on the right), was apparently created and posted because of the guy’s support of women in the games industry, cf Gamergate.


Alternatively, your name might sound suspiciously NSFW to non-Vietnamese=speaking ears:

Details at the link Cath at Sembl provides.

The process of associative memory

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — it seems — to me at least — that associative memory is at the root of creativity, and that the process, preconscious pattern-recognition, is basically aesthetic in nature ]


There’s the present moment — in this case, today’s tweet from the RNLI above.

And there’s the memory it elicits — in this case, Hokusai‘s Great Wave at Kanagawa, with its three little boats, tiny Mt Fuji, and towering, breaking wave, from A Series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji:


That’s the same process, from perception to memory, that I was thinking of when I wrote DoubleQuoting the French Revolution, and quoted Robert Frost:

The artist must value himself as he snatches a thing from some previous order in time and space into a new order with not so much as a ligature clinging to it of the old place where it was organic.


Come to which, and moving by the same process from what’s in front of me to what I remember, here’s a DQ of Hokusai (~1760-1849) — before me now as I write this — and an image deriving from the work of Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010) on fractals” — which looking at the Hokusai quickly reminds me of:

SPEC DQ Hokusai fractal


And as I look at that DoubleQuote, here at the time of writing this post, it reminds me strongly of my earlier DoubleQuote of Van Gogh and Von Kármán:

In each of these two cases, art precedes science.


In each case, too, the associative process is the same, with some item perceived in the present calling up a past memory that is related to it — in a manner that can generally be articulated and annotated.

Such is the mechanism of a typical “move” in a DoubleQuote or HipBone game.

The Astounding Case of the Unequal Equals

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — how two ideas beget a third ]

I’m a Brit, so the motto Mind the Gap is familiar to me — it warns people not to step between platform and train when entering or exiting the Tube

underground_2504657b mind the gap

— as is the London Underground symbol — and for that matter, the glyph for female, earlier the alchemical symbol of Venus.


Today’s Telegraph contains a graphic that interests me a whole lot, under the title Equal Pay Day: 14 ways to visualise the gender pay gap:

telegraph mind the gap


Does it interest me because I’m a fan of the London Underground? Not exactly. The Underground’s graphics, then? I’ll admit to an admiration for the Underground’s justifiably celebrated map


— which I’ve long thought would make a superb extended HipBone Game board, shown above in its 1968 incarnation. But that’s not it either. And although I don’t think gender should influence the pay a person receives for a given quantity or quality of work — Quant and Qualit again, one of the weirdst paradoxes my min d has ever encountered — it’s not the politics of the sign that interests and delights me.


It’s the way two disparate elements — tube and gender graphics — are combined to create a remarkably powerful third:

SPEC DQ mind the gap

It’s a simple, elegant illustration of the intersection of two sets of ideas that Arthur Koestler talked about and that I’m constantly drawing on in my own work:

And yes, I’m aware that technically the equation I’m pointing to happened in two stages, with the substitution of the phrase “mind the gap” for the word “underground” in the blue bar of the tube logo — but the bar was also used, among other things, for the names of individual stations, so I don’t consider that much of a creative leap.

No, it’s the juxtaposition of underground logo with the gender sign by means of a conflation of their respective circles that’s impressive, coupled with the pun on the gender-specific and underground meanings of “mind the gap”.

That’s the very essence of the intersections Koestler was talking about, and illustrates as vividly as I know how, the power released by such an intersection.


Oh, and yes — fair play clearly requires fair pay.

And it’s Hedy Lamarr‘s birthday, dammit.

Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games

Friday, October 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — my own three-way play, and a little goose ethology from Konrad Lorenz ]

lorenz goose geese gander pecking order from laws of the game
Konrad Lorenz, Paul Leyhausen, Motivation of human and animal behavior: an ethological view, p 129


Returning to the topic of ternary logics and scissors paper stone, here’s another old post of mine (Dec 2000):

I’ve always thought it was a training in the complete frustration of the assumption that conflict could be decided, most of all by means of skill of any kind. I mean, if you want to decide on a random basis, toss a coin, and if you want to decide on a basis of power or skill, set up a contest in which superior power or skill succeeds…

In scissors paper stone you have a setup where (as in heads and tails) no choice is superior to any other as far as chance is concerned, but there’s a troubling “threeness” about the thing which means it’s not aligned with an “either/or” logic but with a subtler logic altogether.

Two other places where this kind of “intransitivity” relation can be found would be (a) the geese studied by Konrad Lorenz which had a pecking order “a > b > c > a” (ie of the three particular geese, one would always defer to the second, which would always defer to the third, which in turn would always defer to the first) — and this is a perfectly “natural” effect which Lorenz encountered in “real life” — and (b) the impossible triangle devised by L S and R Penrose, which is clearly and unambiguously paradoxical (though logically equivalent to the Lorenz geese as far as I can tell).

Anyhow, what I’m trying to suggest is that “scissors paper stone” can work a little like a koan, it can somehow challenge our usual binary asusmptions and train us in a more flexible and “lateral” way of thinking..


Some thoughts about a game (real or agent-based) in which three players (or sides) compete, two teaming up against one in constantly different configurations of challenge and victory (June 2005):

The idea is simplicity itself, putting it into words unambiguously is difficult.

Yesterday I was at a hotel swimming pool where two sons of another guest and my own son Emlyn were playing around together, all aged around 10-12, with nobody else there, and I asked them to play a game where one of the three would be “top guy” and the other two would try to dunk and generally overthrow him, and as soon as it became clear that the top guy had been dunked and dethroned, there would be a new “top guy” (one of the two who had been doing the overthrowing and come out the obvious winner) and the other two would pounce on him…

They were not evenly matched, but any one of them was easily outmatched by the other two working together, and being “top guy” meant your head was above water and you were, so to speak, “comfortable” — so there was a real premium on being “top guy”, and the other two were (at any time) eager to collaborate to get the position.

And there was no tendency for the two brothers to gang up against my son, because the immediacy of two defeating one was more urgent and compelling than any ideas of teaming by kinship interests, minor differences in strength and skill, etc…


Prisoners’ Dilemma deals with the essence of twoness, as do many win / lose games such as tennis or chess, and this game deals with the essence of threeness, as (in a very different mode) does paper scissors rock.

My sense from PSR, and reason for being particularly interested in threeness in games, is that PSR involves thinking in flagrant defiance of our usual binary logic as humans.

I suspect my threeness game could be paradigmatic for cooperation and competition, in that each player at any given moment is either “top guy” or “member of the opposition” — and thus plays either “sole defender” (competing without a trace of collaboration) or “team attacker” (cooperating to compete) at any give moment, but with a very rapid turnover between the two.

The kids seemed to enjoy the in-the-pool version yesterday, until it the water-play got a bit too rough after about forty minutes or an hour of enthusiastic splashing and dunking.

And finally:

As a game designer, I want to think through this mode of play, two against one with switching, in a number of media — water play, three-person tag, possible card-game instantiations, board games, a chess variant perhaps, a variant on my own HipBone Games, etc — and as a conceptual matrix for game-theorizing, modeling, understanding conflict and conflict resolution, etc.

I wonder what ideas and possible uses the basic idea might trigger in others…

Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games

Friday, October 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — Adam Elkus, Umberto Eco, Chris Crawford and John Robb ]

Rock Paper Scissors, diagram by Enzoklop via Wikimedia


Adam Elkus talks about strategy and games, in the inaugural Center for International Maritime Security “Real Time Strategy” podcast. What delighted me was his commentary on rock paper scissors between the 9.55 and 11 minute marks:

I would say that if I was to pick a single game for people to play in a structured way to understand a lot about strategy. Here’s, actually I’ll probably surprise a lot of you people here, and say they can probably just do well with rock paper scissors, in a sense that a lot of games have representational issues of how realistic or generalizable they are, and at the core a lot of strategy amounts to making choices about what to do without knowing what your opponent will do, and the game that’s one of the most atomic and basic in the way it represents that is rock paper scissors. But not just a one off game, a finite game, if you play repeated games of rock paper scissors, the way people win is by detecting sequential dependencies in the various choices that their opponent makes – so learning about the opponent over time, particularly their choices of what they’re going to field, is a very useful heuristic, is a very useful educational gesture..

Adam has more to say about rock paper scissors at his Zenpundit post, Master and (Drone) Commander?


A couple of additional quotes, from an earlier post of mine in a private venue:

Here’s Umberto Eco in his Search for the Perfect Language:

Recent studies have established that unlike western thought, based on a two-valued logic (either true or false), Aymara thought is based on a three-valued logic, and is, therefore, capable of expressing modal subtleties which other languages can only capture through complex circumlocutions…

And here is Chris Crawford, from his justly famous Art of Computer Game Design:

The advantage of asymmetric games lies in the ability to build nontransitive or triangular relationships into the game. Transitivity is a well-defined mathematical property. In the context of games it is best illustrated with the rock-scissors-paper game. Two players play this game; each secretly selects one of the three pieces; they simultaneously announce and compare their choices. If both made the same choice the result is a draw and the game is repeated. If they make different choices, then rock breaks scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper enfolds rock. This relationship, in which each component can defeat one other and can be defeated by one other, is a nontransitive relationship; the fact that rock beats scissors and scissors beat paper does not mean that rock beats paper. Notice that this particular nontransitive relationship only produces clean results with three components. This is because each component only relates to two other components; it beats one and loses to the other. A rock-scissors-paper game with binary outcomes (win or lose) cannot be made with more than three components. One could be made with multiple components if several levels of victory (using a point system, perhaps) were admitted.


John Robb on The Future of Drone Warfare is worth conasidering here, too, and play nicely with more of Adam’s thoughts in the podcast.

See also my post, Of games III: Rock, Paper, Tank.

And I think I’d best stop here, and make a second post on rock-scissors-paper and threeness games in general.

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