[ by Charles Cameron — a chess variant exploring the twinned human drives for competition and collaboration ]
I posted a neat piece of math the other day, showing how dogs might respond to conditions of combined fear and rage in terms of a catastrophe theory diagram, and Larry Dunbar pointed out in a comment that humans might respond differently in equivalent circumstances depending on whether they had a strategy going into the situation or not…
The idea that humans can have an override on such instinctive drives as fear and rage is obviously an important one, and Larry’s comment reminded me of a post I’ve been meaning to make about another “dualism” we humans are subject to…
Humans are not IBM machines: they have dual drives, responding to a greater or lesser extent at all times to competitive and collaborative motivations.
I was attempting to capture something of that essential dualism in the simplest possible game format when I devised my story-telling chess variant for Ruth Catlow‘s Rethinking Wargames blog:
My own chess variant, which would require two fairly accomplished story-tellers of roughly equal chess strength to play it, is one in which the game is played as in any chess game, following the usual rules, with the added proviso that at each move, the player should write a fictionalized account of the move, such that the combined narratives of the two players taken together in sequence of moves constitutes a story for publication.
The point is that each player then has two motives in making each move — a chess-winning-motive, and a storytelling-collaborative-motive — and the way they play will thus reflect something that parallels human motivation, with its characteristic mix of survival drive and quest for selfactualization / spirituality.
I’m neither a decent chess-player not a decent writer of fiction, but I believe I’m a first rate conceptual game designer, and that this game concept captures something essential about the human condition in simple form. I offer it as a thought-experiment with “live” game potential.
One last thought:
I suspect that this game is in effect a game for exploring the intersection of zero-sum with non-zero-sum games, so playing with the interactions of collaboration and competition should also offer us insight into the interactions of quality and quantity.
For more on Ruth Catlow’s work, see her book Artists Re: thinking Games.