Reading Notes #2

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


Operational Rules

Build a tower out of the blocks provided by stacking rows of three blocks adjacent to one another, with each level perpendicular to the previous level. Once built, the person who built the tower gets the first move, which consists of removing one block from the tower from any level, using one hand, and placing it on the top. The active player may bump other blocks to make room for the block he/she wishes to remove if it does not disturb the rest of the tower. The game ends when the tower falls or any piece falls other than the one being taken out during the turn to move to the top. The winner is the last person to successfully extract and place a block at the top of the tower.

Constitutive Rules

The tower is set up with 54 wooden blocks. These blocks are arranged in 18 levels of three blocks placed adjacent to one another. Each block is 1.5cm by 2.5cm by 7.5cm. Each move consists of taking only one block from the tower.

Implicit Rules

Position the tower so that all players can reach the tower. Do not blow on the tower or otherwise sabotage your or your opponent’s turn with other aspects of physics. Build the tower vertically up and not on a diagonal.

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

To an extent, randomness can make a game exciting. However, like the book mentions, complete randomness is as banal as pre-determined fate. If the winner of a game is entirely determined by a random draw and independent of any skill or thought, there is little or no motivation to play the game.

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)

In Backgammon, the randomness of the numbers you would roll kept you on your feet, constantly bracing yourself for any outcome of the roll in order to best translate that into a move. Like the book describes, the feeling of randomness “creates a sense of open-ended possibility and players are rewarded for taking advantage of chance configurations” – allowing players to feel challenged, and smarter when they come up with tactful solutions on the spot.

4. Describe examples (from any games we have played in class or another game you have played) of these key cybernetics concepts: a positive feedback loop anda negative feedback loop.

The game Citadel involves both a positive and a negative feedback loop, keeping the game in a constant state of flux. Many of the characters, such as the King, Merchant, and Warlord, receive gold every time someone builds a district of their category, creating a positive feedback loop. However, characters such as the thief and the assassin are able to kill and steal from these characters, creating a negative feedback loop which can allow characters to lose their investments and spiral toward a loss.

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

Saddle Point

A shortcut or loophole through the game design, a fast track to victory which exploits the weaknesses in a game in order to achieve maximum game profit.

Prisoners Dilemma

A situation in which two players interested only in their own individual benefit must strategically act in order to minimize their own punishment. If both players act rationally and selflessly, both receive the minimum punishment. If one acts selfishly and the other doesn’t, the former benefits and the latter suffers.

Zero Sum Game

A game in which one player gains what the other loses, creating a situation where ultimately only one can win and one can lose.