Reading Notes 2

1. Game: Connect Four

Constitutive Rules:

  1. Players choose the color of the their checkers.
  2. Each player alternates dropping their respective-colored checker into the grid.
  3. The first player to get four checkers in a row (either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) wins the game.

Operational Rules:

  • Attempt to block the opponent with your checkers.
  • Wait until your opponent has three checkers in a row before blocking them.
  • Try to get two checkers next to each other on the bottom row, with empty spaces on the both sides, for a premature win.

Implicit Rules:

  • Each player must not spend a significant amount of time on their turn.
  • Players cannot reverse their decisions after dropping a checker into the grid.
  • If the grid fills up without a winner (a tie), the game should be replayed.


2. Randomness makes a game more compelling by providing an element of suspense. By suspense, I mean the potential for events in a game to suddenly take a turn in another player’s direction. This suspense is important because, without it, a game might become dull, given the knowledge that the losing player(s) has no chance of making a comeback (i.e. a lack of meaningful choice). Like a good twist in a movie, randomness is always lurking and ready to strike when least expected.


3. In the game Space Cadets, the randomness comes in the form of rolling six dice. Each die (resource) has the potential to move the game forward for a team or stall it. That being said, randomness will not save an unskilled team in Space Cadets. If a team is managing their resources poorly, a few lucky rolls will not salvage their chances of winning the game. I believe this is a good compromise. A game should provide interesting and sudden turns of events (via randomness), but the net sum of these events should always sway in the better player’s favor.


4. In Space Cadets, a negative feedback loop is the Shield Officer. This player stabilizes the game by blocking enemy attacks and preventing any further attacks. If an enemy team is about to shoot down another’s ship, the shield officer can stabilize the game by putting up shields, which buys the team some time to repair and keeps the game moving. Likewise, the Sensor Officer can collect resources which repair the ship, and ultimately extend the game’s lifespan. A positive feedback loop in Space Cadets might be the Weapons Officer. This player keeps the game at its brink by damaging the other team’s ship. The more weapons that are fired throughout a game, the more unstable the match becomes, and the more likely the game will end. This balance of positive and negative feedback loops is, according to Salem and Zimmerman, “crucial to designing meaningful play.” If there’s too much positive or negative feedback, the game becomes unfair or too determined in one player’s direction. Space Cadets, I believe, balances this quite nicely. The Weapons Officer and the Shield Officer play a kind of “tug-of-war,” where one makes slow gains on another until they relapse. This interplay of feedback loops will naturally fall into the favor of the team with the stronger positive feedback loop.


5. A saddle point is a game decision that is too obvious to be considered interesting.

The prisoner’s dilemma is the problem players face when they have to make choices based on what they believe the other player is thinking. Hypothetically, given that a player knows what the other is thinking, the player has the option to cooperate with them or rat them out.

A zero sum game is a type of game where the victory for one player means the loss for another player. When added together, (+1) and (-1), they equal zero, hence the name.