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Of games I: Lobs over the net

[ by Charles Cameron — some recent game references with seriously playful intent ]

Marc Lynch had an amusing post about Egypt the other day, in which he talked about Calvinball:

For those who don’t remember Bill Watterson’s game theory masterpiece, Calvinball is a game defined by the absence of rules — or, rather, that the rules are made up as they go along. Calvinball sometimes resembles recognizable games such as football, but is quickly revealed to be something else entirely. The rules change in mid-play, as do the goals (“When I learned you were a spy, I switched goals. This is your goal and mine’s hidden.”), the identities of the players (“I’m actually a badminton player disguised as a double-agent football player!”) and the nature of the competition (“I want you to cross my goal. The points will go to your team, which is really my team!”). The only permanent rule is that the game is never played the same way twice. Is there any better analogy for Egypt’s current state of play?

Let me do a DoubleQuote on that. The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote a while back:

Not one game is being played, but several, and, if the game metaphor may be stretched further, the problem about real life is that moving one’s knight to QB3 may always be replied to by a lob over the net


In any case, Calvin had it first:

2 Responses to “Of games I: Lobs over the net”

  1. Michael Robinson Says:

    Charles, there is the earlier ‘improvisational’ game  Mornington Crescent (emerged c. 1978) which has a surprising number of specialist web sites devoted to rules, game variants, a Wikiexample play and a ‘short rules version played against a server’

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hm, and hi, Michael:
    I dipped into the Mornington Crescent pool some while back, and will have to take another look.  
    It has also become apparent to me that Calvin & Hobbes is far more recent than I’d realized — it looks as though that particular strip is dated 1995 — and MacIntyre? I’m not sure whether that passage is in the first edition of After Virtue, which I believe was in 1981, or the second, or the third & current edition — from which my source quoted it, which looks to have been published in 2007.
    So my chronology is all awry. 
    There’s also Peter Suber’s game, Nomic, in which the game is played by changing the rules of the game — dating to 1982.

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