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.

Game: Jenga

Constitutive rules:

  1. The game begins with a value of 54.
  2. Players alternate adding a value of one 1 each turn.
  3. As the value gets higher, the game becomes more difficult.
  4. The first player to fail to add a value of 1 is the loser and ends the game.

Operational rules:

  1. Set up the tower by placing three blocks on the ground next to each other to form a square shape. Add another layer of three blocks on top of that layer perpendicular to the first layer. Continue until the tower is complete.
  2. You may only use one hand at a time.
  3. During their turn, a player must remove a block from the tower without having it collapse. They must then place the removed block on the top of the tower, creating or adding to the topmost layer.
  4. You can remove any block except any from the incomplete top layer.
  5. Each player takes a turn until a player makes the tower fall. The player who made the tower fall is the loser.

Implicit rules:

  1. Each player takes a turn every round.
  2. You may not brace the tower against anything to keep it from falling.
  3. You must complete your turn in a reasonable amount of time.
  4. You may not blow on the tower or shake the table during another player’s turn to sabotage them.


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

 Randomness adds some uncertainty to the game as well as the ability for a less skilled player to win. It feels good not to have to choose everything in a game – that’s exhausting to me. Randomness makes things less predictable and a bit more fun. I’d rather roll a die every once and a while than have to weigh and strategize every decision in a game. It’s more fun to try to work with the random hand you’re dealt than be responsible for everything in the game. Plus, randomness is a good scapegoat if you do poorly in a game. It’s nicer to think you’re just having an unlucky streak than you totally stink at a game. Randomness also gives me the hope that maybe next time I’ll get better dice rolls and do better. It makes me want to play again.


  1. 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?  

(BackgammonCitadelsCatan, or other)  (Please incorporate concepts from the reading in your answer)

I think the randomness of the dice rolls in Backgammon made it more interesting. Like the readings said, games with no randomness could feel dry or too competitive. I liked that there was some randomness in Backgammon because it more unpredictable and less tense since not everything was within your control. It was fun to try to position my pieces without knowing exactly where my opponent would land. If I knew exactly which space they were going to land on, it would have seemed pointless to play. The whole game seems to be about strategizing with the limited information you have, knowing that your opponent can move a piece 1-6 spaces, but not knowing exactly where they will fall. Like the book said, uncertainty is key to creating the opportunity for meaningful decision-making.


  1. 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.

I think some examples of feedback loops can be found in Citadels. For example, if someone is the King character and amasses lots of gold from yellow districts in their city, they can use the king’s power of first character pick to continue being king turn after turn. Since being assassinated doesn’t void their power to pick first, this could create a positive feedback loop in which the King is able to keep making money and naming themselves the King. This would destabilize the game because the King would be much more successful and potentially end the game by winning.

I think the reason this game functions though is because the way the characters foil each other creates a negative feedback loop that helps keep the positive feedback loop in check. The Magician’s power to switch cards, the Assassin’s ability to kill, the Warlord’s ability to destroy districts, and the Thief’s ability to steal keeps the balance of power from getting too out of whack. If one player seems to dominate, they become a target for these characters with the ability to attack another player. The abilities of these characters to act on the King (and eachother) creates a negative feedback loop because it stabilizes the game, prolongs the game by allowing the ability to balance and rebalance the power between players.

I think Citadels is an example of a game that uses these feedback loops in a contrasting way like the readings suggested to create a complex, interesting and unpredictable game.


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


Saddle Point: A saddle point is an ideal solution to a game that benefits both players. Game-design wise, it’s a bad idea because if it exists and players find it, there’d be no incentive for them to play the way the rules specify. This causes players to adopt a degenerate strategy – an unintended strategy that yields success every time. This takes away meaningful decision-making in the game and the enjoyment of it because the players found a loophole.

Prisoners Dilemma: This is a game theory situation where two imprisoned people have two options – testify against their co-conspirator or not. If one testifies and the other doesn’t, one will go free and the other will go to jail. If they both testify, they will both go to jail. If neither testifies, they will both go to jail. They have no way to communicate or plan. It’s an unsolved game theoretical problem.

Zero Sum Game: A game where points are neither created nor destroyed, they only change hands. In a zero sum game, the winner’s win is equal to the value of the loser’s loss.