Game Changer

Game Changer

Our species enjoys playing games throughout our adult lives, not just during our younger years. In fact, some have proposed renaming us "Homo Ludens" instead of "Homo Sapiens." As suggested, games offer a kind of safe haven for exploring the universe.

We embark on the creation of these rules-governed games as a means to delve into the implications of our expanding comprehension of the existence of rules in our universe. Some propose that these games serve as tools to explore our awareness and inner worlds. A theory of mind becomes essential in gaming, enabling us to predict our opponent's next move and formulate strategic plans in response.

During my travels, I discovered that games are employed in India to facilitate the introduction of a new couple before an arranged marriage. Games serve as a powerful medium for expressing our agency and free will. When we decide to engage in a game, the choices we make within it unveil aspects of our personalities.

There is math in games

There are many similarities between math and games, which might explain why a mathematician wrote a book about games instead of an anthropologist or historian. Playing a game is like exploring its rules, similar to solving a math problem. Just like the basic rules of math, a game follows a set of structured rules. Having a deep understanding of the math involved can give you a big advantage when playing a game.

Now, let's talk about Monopoly. Which properties in Monopoly are the best to purchase? Furthermore, which Monopoly board square garners the most traffic? It's commonly known as the 'jail square' since landing on it or the diagonally opposite square results in incarceration. Alternatively, drawing a chance card may also lead you to jail, and rolling three consecutive doubles also sends you behind bars.

The jail square on the Monopoly board is, in fact, three times more likely to be visited than any other square; however, it cannot be purchased. Take into account that the most frequent result of rolling two dice from the jail square is seven. Why?

[6 + 1] → [5 + 2] → [4 + 3] → [3 + 4] → [2 + 5] → [1 + 6]

There are six ways to roll a seven. If you roll a two or a twelve, you have exactly one choice. Consequently, people are more likely to roll a six, seven, or eight after being released from jail, placing them in the orange area of properties.

Here's the advice: the orange properties can provide you with an advantage in this game, according to math. It also turns out that understanding the underlying mathematics can significantly improve your chances of winning many games.

India has good players

India is a nation that takes great pleasure in gaming, and some of the best games ever created have their origins there. One noteworthy example is chess, which originated in India. It's intriguing to note that the original version of chess featured four players instead of the typical two. In this format, players sought to take over each other's armies, merging them into their own. With four armies vying for supremacy on the battlefield, it explains the presence of two rooks, two knights, and two bishops in the two-player game; a fusion representing two distinct armies.

Another intriguing fact is that, in the early stages of chess, players used to throw a die to determine which piece they could move next. The dice determined the eligible piece for movement, restricting players from freely choosing any piece. Due to the outlawing of gambling in India, the dice were eventually eliminated, transforming the game into a purely tactical exercise for the players.

Snakes and Ladders is another game with its roots in India, designed to instill the idea that karma is crucial to achieving nirvana or moksha. In this game, snakes represent bad luck and are often associated with negative traits, such as intoxication, which would send players back to the starting point. Climbing a ladder serves as a reward for good deeds, like lending a helping hand to your neighbor. Nirvana is the square one strives for, and missing it means starting the rebirth process anew. Snakes and Ladders, as it happens, boasts profound spiritual roots in India.

How to make a great game

  1. A game should never end before it has even begun. There ought to be a chance for victory, even if one is not as skilled as their opponent. Take, for example, the chess match between Donald Trump and Garry Kasparov; it didn't seem particularly engaging. Perhaps both of them could have enjoyed a fairer competition if they opted for a game of Snakes and Ladders.
  2. A game does not conclude before its designated time. The greatest games are those in which anyone can still clinch victory right up until the very last second. This is arguably the primary reason why Monopoly is considered a subpar game; it quickly becomes evident who possesses the most properties, and the game's objective shifts towards forcing every other player into bankruptcy.
  3. A game should be constructed with a foundation of strategy and agency, even if there is an element of chance. Without strategy, the player risks becoming little more than a machine adhering strictly to the game's rules. Consider Snakes and Ladders, for instance, where your only active participation involves tossing the dice to determine the next course of events.
  4. A game should feature straightforward rules that, when followed, result in a wide array of intriguing gameplay variations. These uncomplicated rules facilitate a quick start to playing, while the diverse options and expanding possibilities contribute to its replay value, making it worthwhile to revisit again and again.
  5. A game must possess a compelling narrative. Similar to a well-crafted piece of mathematics, a gratifying game features an immensely fascinating narrative arc, without necessarily requiring castles and goblins. Backgammon exemplifies each of these five characteristics. Remarkably, it stands among the oldest games ever invented by humans. Infused with dice, it seamlessly blends the delightful elements of unpredictability and randomness, yet skillful strategy remains pivotal for success, even when the dice roll unfavorably.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” ⏤ John C. Maxwell