14:27, Tuesday 3 Sep., 2002 Link
So I've been reading about games and I'm rather taken by the definition of one as a social engagement in which all parties know the rules upfront. This is as opposed to the stock market, or war. Naturally I'm trying to think of new types of games, and the methodical approach is to look for places where an abstraction or break can be made, cf the written word breaks the time dependency of speaking and hearing, or the duplicating printing press breaks the one-to-oneness of communication.
My first angle is that games, even a game of noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) doesn't have all the rules written down. We're time-bound, the way we interpret the rules depends on history, the opponent. There's no rule that says "Do not change the win-state rule and declare you've won," yet we don't do that. So firstly, would it be possible to make a completely unambiguous game, one where the entire state of the game was spelt out in the arrangement of the board?
Secondly. The reason for spelling out the rules of morality, fair play, time-binding and so on, is that I'd like to change them. Would it be possible to have a game where the codified morality of the players was changed, instead of the rules or the positions of the pieces?
Which comes onto thirdly. How about changing the axis along which the game is played? An autogenerated chess-like game has a random board starting point, random win-state, random rules and random morality. An artificial intelligence program on a computer learns how to play the game, and plays entire games against itself. The role of the players is to change the factors of the universe in which the game is played: the rules, the win-state, etc.
Fourthly. I know there are already games in which the rules change within the game itself, where the players make the win-state and the rules as they go along. But for me there's not enough time binding for some reason. What if you didn't know all the rules when you started? (And maybe computer God-sims are a genuinely new kind of game, because you don't know the natural laws there.) And more just like the real world, what if the only win-state was that your opponent agreed you'd won?
Now this is the difficult one. A game like this wouldn't work with a game like Monopoly. If I just declared that I was going to put hotels on all the purple squares and you owed me money, the game would degenerate until we ended up fighting.
But in the real world it is possible to break the rules, and the fact that's done changes the nature of the game. If I break the rules and suddenly decide that the best way to win is to bomb your civilians, the nature of the game has changed completely. That rule was always there to be broken though, why wasn't it broken before? It's because of incentive spaces, pushes and pulls, costs.
And there are certain rules that can't be broken in the real world: geography, not having more than one thing in the same place at the same time (unless you make your tanks out of bosons), matter neither being created nor destroyed. But there are rules like not killing civilians which are more mutable.
Maybe what I'm after is a game in which the rules have more time-binding (time within the game) not less. And where the moves themselves effect the incentive space in which the rules exist.
It seems to me that rules are an approximation of pushes and pulls; that if this was linguistics then the real world would be optimality theory. Rules are just the bottom of potential wells.
So given all of that. How to make a game of tic tac toe that has no rules except geography and a mutable incentive space that changes based on past moves, and no win-state except your opponent agreeing you've won? And how to make a game which uses present-day technology effectively to change the axis we can play along, one that has a mutable morality? Answers on a postcard please.