Reading Notes # 2

1.  Choose a simple game (not found in the reading) and describe its Constitutive Rules, Operational Rules, and (at least 3…) Implicit Rules.

The card game Spoons:

Constitutive: There exists a array, A, of 52 numbers, ranging from 1 to 13, with 4 copies of each number. They are randomly ordered.  Players are randomly assigned 4 of these numbers, and the other players can’t see them. The goal is to have 4 of the same number assigned to you. One player is then assigned a 5th number, randomly, and gives up one of his 5 numbers to the next player, so that he has four again. The next player then has 5 numbers, and gives one of her numbers to the next player so that she has 4 again. This continues until the last player gives up one of her numbers and puts it in an empty array, B.  Meanwhile, the first player has continued that progression, receiving more numbers, one at a time, and choosing ones to give to the next player so that he maintains only 4 numbers at a time. The last player continues to enter numbers into array B. This continues until one player has 4 of the same number, at which point the other players are notified and the last one to notice loses.

Operational: Each player is given 4 cards from a deck. You sit in a circle, with spoons in the center, the number of which should be 1 less than the total number of players. One person has the rest of the deck and begins to pick up one card at a time and put them in their hand. They are seeking to have 4 of one kind, aka 4 aces, and so judging the 5 cards they have in there hand after picking one up, they then discard a card. Each player may only have four cards in their hand at once. The player sitting to the left of them then takes the card that player one discarded and does the same thing, ending by discarding one of the cards to the next player in a circle who does the same. The last player simply has a discard pile that cannot be revisted by any of the players. The circle continues until a player has 4 of kind, at which point they silently grab a spoon from a center. When the others notice that she has grabbed a spoon, they too grab spoons, even if they don’t have 4 of kind, and the last person to notice, and grab a spoon is out.


1. You cannot lie, and say you have four of a kind when you do not.

2. You cannot peak at the deck before you begin or at any point during the game

3. You cannot take more than 1 spoon from the center.

 2.  In your opinion what does the element of randomness contribute to making a game more compelling?

Randomness, as we discussed in class, is the element that can allow a mediocre player to beat a great player. It makes it worth the risk. For example, the chance of winning the lottery is painfully slim, yet there is a chance, and so long as there is a chance, people will continue to play the game. While in a game like backgammon, a better player will often win because they have a better grasp on strategy etc., the element of randomness convinces their opponent that they still have a shot, and thus they will still play the game. Additionally, though it is not as successful as meaningful choice and strategy in making a game successfully unpredictable, it does help to keep the outcome of a game open ended. I like it because it makes for more mood swings in a game. Like chutes and ladders, rolling a dice can make even a player who is very ahead and perceptive and strategic experience a crippling wave of bad luck.

3. Pick one of the games we played in class that involves randomness  and describe how you feel personally about the role randomness plays in the game experience?  (Backgammon, Citadels, Catan, or other)  (Please incorporate concepts from the reading in your answer)

I would reiterate my answer to the previous question, especially with backgammon.  I don’t even know how to address the randomness in Space Dice Duel because there were SO many dice, and it was so repetitive and physical that perhaps that transcended chance and moved into the arena of time spent. In Citadels though there are no dice – however the picking of cards, shuffling up of roles, and carry-out of action without yet knowing the recipient create for a sort of chance like scenario. The reason I think this is successful in the game is that it prohibits each player from really thinking more than one term ahead. Because say you are king, and you, by chance, pick district cards that have red circles in the corner, so you decided you want to be warlord next round, thinking you can pick that role because you get first pick. And then the king was the one card left out, randomly. Though this is certainly more convoluted than a dice roll, even the strategic choices of other players present themselves a randomness in your eyes as you play. Overall, it serves the game to keep you on your toes and continually reassess your strategies, developing new ones from scratch each round.

4.  Describe examples (from any of the games we have played in class or another game you have played) of these key cybernetics concepts : a positive feedback loop and a negative feedback loop. ( This question is not so easy )

A positive feedback loop that i think of, is on the board of the game Cranium. When you got a question right (maybe? I forget the exact rules), you get to move off of the slower track and onto the outer fast track on the board, which has far few spaces to move through before the end. This is a positive feedback loop because you are rewarded for scoring more points, and thus teams who are ahead, become even more ahead.

An example of a negative feedback loop in a game….is harder. The only thing that is coming to mind in Jenga, which reminded me of the traditional sensor, comparator, and activator model. In this case, your finger would be the sensor, pushing a block gently. Then you would compare the wobbling of the structure, and the respective push of the block, and decide whether or not to continue pushing that block or find a new one. This feedback loop is seeking stability though – if it is too tight no action will be taken and if it the block is loose it will be pushed out. Additionally your eyes serve as another sensor, looking at where blocks have previously been removed, i.e. left or right, and attempts blocks accordingly. So if too many blocks have been removed from one side or direction, you as the comparator might decide to attempt a block going the other way to achieve stability.

5. In your own words explain these concepts from the field of Game Theory :

A saddle point, as described in the book, is a point in geometry that is the lowest point between two peaks if you were to travel from peak to peak, but if you were to travel perpendicular to that path,  it is the highest peak between two valleys. The non 3D/physical description of this idea is a move, path, or strategy in a game that simultaneously yields the highest rewards for you, while also causing the most damage to your opponent. Once discovered, this path becomes the obvious and only course of action, and thus leeches the game (or situation within the game) of any meaningful choice or fun. When there is only one logical option, then the game becomes linear. This is something that game designers want to avoid in the creation of a game.

A zero sum situation is when for any one player to gain a point (etc.), another player must lose a point. This can be the over arching structure of the game in the sense that if one player wins, the other player loses, or it can exist as a mechanism within the game. For example, if I pick a card that says, take all the cards from another player’s hand, and I take my neighbor’s cards, then for every card I have received from them, they have one less card. If you add up their loss, and my gain, the total would be zero.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game theory theoretical situation that does not have an agreed upon answer. Unlike the cake theoretical and other Game theory examples, this one is not a zero sum game. The way it is structured, is that two criminals are arrested for committing a crime together and are placed in solitary confinement where they can have no communication with each other. The police make them each the same offer: if they testify against their partner, and their partner does not testify against them, they will get 0 years in prison and their partner will get 3. However, if they both choose to testify against each other, then they both will get 2 years in prison. Likewise, if neither choose to testify, then they will each get 1 year. Assuming that they are each rational thinkers, some theorists argue that they would both make the same decision, following the same thought process in this symmetrical situation. Others disagree – it remains disputed.