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Games Entertainment

Can You Suggest Any Non-Zero Sum Games? 648

epeus asks: "I have noticed that most games for children (and adults) are Zero-sum by a game theory definition - you have to battle over limited resources either implictly (Chess, Frustration) or explicitly (Monopoly). Modern economic theory (dating back to the Enlightenment) makes it clear that the world is not like that - buying and selling creates value; confiscation destroys it. The 'Gift Culture' notion of Open Source described by ESR takes this a stage further. Can Slashdot readers suggest Non-Zero Sum games for children and adults to help break this mentality? The only ones I can think of are Victorian parlour games like Charades or Ghosts, where the point of the game is playing, not scoring it." I too think that there are times when we may focus too much on competition when we might be better off with entertainment. Don't get me wrong, there is a satisfying feeling to compete and win (or even to compete), but sometimes just the act of playing should be rewarding in and of itself. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the subject.
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Can You Suggest Any Non-Zero Sum Games?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    One of the best drinking games we play is Beer Chess.

    First, you need a big board. Ours was constructed to hold ice (to keep your beer cold). Next, all the pieces have to be a beer or bottle of some kind. Each move you make, you sip from that beer. If you lose a piece, you have to drink the whole thing.

    We used to shotglasses filled with Jack Daniels as Pawns, but we never seemed to finish the game for some reason...so we switched to those little 8 oz. Budweiser cans.
    For Rooks, we use the big fat Foster Cans.
    We have a few other favorites, but it doesn't matter too much since we made paper "hats" to put on the bottles to distinguish who is who.

    Not for the weak of liver...

    I get paid [sendmoreinfo.com] a nickel for every email I read!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:03AM (#460949)

    Tell that to the orcs and dragons who were killed and whose treasure was taken. It was pretty zero-sum to them. Damned PCs.

  • How about just about any of the Sim* games? For instance, SimCity where you goal is to build a bustling metropolis, but if you want, you can "win" just the same by building a tight knit little community. I think I should mention Roller Coaster Tycoon as well, although it has zero-sum elements in it...(your patrons do run out of money after a while).
    As for regular games, it depends partially on what you consider a "game." Most athletic games are zero sum affairs by nature, because it just isn't fun for everybody to get out on the football field and help the other team get the football to the end of the field... Unfortunatly, if an activity doesn't involve competition in some way, many people consider it a hobby or a pasttime instead of a game. Maybe you should look into some new hobbies.
    I personally like model building for example, but I'd hardly call it a "game".

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • Maybe zero sum isn't the right term then. From the original post, it sounds to me like the poster was worried that kids are going to get the message than whenever two groups of people work towards the same goal one of the groups must lose for the goal to be accomplished.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:08AM (#460954) Homepage Journal
    I think the original poster was trying to avoid getting into a zero-sum mindset, and games only promote this, even if you don't conciously think about it.

    One more point, you mentioned something about non-zero life being unfair? Sure it is, everybody (well at least more than 1/2 of the people) "win". That's hardly depressing in my book, in fact that's something to be happy about. It's a peace and love world where I can trade something of mine for something of yours and we both come out ahead.

    Oh, and books aren't always happy, and card games are almost invariably zero-sum. That said, I do agree with you on one point, if you make a game boring (Everybody wins all the time! Don't even bother trying kids!) then you've lost the point of playing a game in the first place.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:14AM (#460955) Homepage Journal
    I daresay your comments relate to ESR fairly well, but it's breathtaking how deeply you misunderstand RMS and his popularity. Do you _like_ RMS yourself, and what he stands for, or are you just making assumptions that his following is driven by the same goals as ESR fans?

    The reason RMS is held in high regard is because he personally, consistently, and repeatedly acts against the zero-sum concept wherever it presents itself. He began doing this when a LISP machine company gutted the MIT computer lab, imposing zero-sum conditions and blocking communication, and Stallman personally and singlehandedly reverse-engineered huge amounts of IP simply to give them to the 'loser' in the equation. He invented the GPL and specifically designed it so the single overriding requirement it imposes is that you may not make GPLed software zero-sum! It must always be left as an unlimited resource that cannot be seized as property by any 'player'. He continues to follow this purpose in everything he does, and won't bend an inch to accomodate those who want to make things more into 'winners' and 'losers'. To him, you are either part of the free society cooperating completely and socially, or you're in the way and need to stop being in the way, or be run over. If you're in the way you're not a competitor- you're a WALL. You're a locked door and the point is to open you, not beat you...

    Are you (heh, 'WindowsTroll'. didn't notice that at first) following any of this? It's difficult to open a mind that is completely set in its ways. Whether or not you're following this, it can be summed up as, "No, that is not the way things are." Zero-sum and social ways of doing things coexist. They have _always_ coexisted, and your argument that social ways don't exist is just plain wrong- as wrong as a contrasting argument that competition and zero-sum could be completely eliminated.

    In the event that your arguing itself is zero-sum, and the expectation that you'll just plain deny what I'm saying, I would have to say- fine, believe what you want. There's room in the world for your way of thinking. However, you are not entitled to be treated as if your way of thinking was the ONLY way of thinking- because there is also room in the world for cooperation at all levels, up to the very highest and down to the simplest level- and whether you like it or not, people are going to go on cooperating without your approval.

    ...because life is not a zero-sum game, and because your 'it's about winning, baby' viewpoint... hasn't won >:)

  • An English-language version of the game exists, and is sold by Hasbro under the name "Lord of the Rings". I've played it - it's a lot of fun. The premise is basicly that its the players vs the board, rather than the players vs each other. As a team, they have to try to destroy the One Ring, and if they don't cooperate, there's pretty much no way to do it. (For one thing, the ringbearer tends to get corrupted easily, so people have to plan to trade off who the ringbearer is so they can make it to the end without the ringbearer getting corrupted all the way (which ends the game).)
  • by rlk ( 1089 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:13AM (#460961)
    almost always wind up being a group, cooperative affair. Usually there wind up being some important milestones (completing the edges, filling holes in certain areas, completing the puzzles), but everyone wins when people help each other out with their little piece of the overall puzzle.
  • Since Charades is mentioned, I'd also add games that are meant for large numbers of people at parties and such, including:
    • Outburst - Draw a card with 10 related objects on it and their relation, give other team the relation and X seconds to name as many of the items there; good for brainstorming and the like.
    • Taboo - Given a word or phrase, get your team to describe it but without using 5 key words that would make it really easy to name it.
    • Pictionary - Like Taboo, except you can only use drawning to convey the word.
    • Scattagories - Given a list of general catagories and a random letter, come up with things that fit those catagories that start with that letter, but to be as unique as possible for more points.
    I'm sure there's plenty of others out there that similar in nature. Sure, you do keep some score, but when you play these games in large groups, it's a matter of having fun and enjoying each other as opposed to winning the game. And if you are talking 'fun for the family', there are kids versions of these games that are generally well-suited for family playing.
  • Regarding price: yes, it's bloody expensive. It's expensive for good reason: the first step toward learning how to invest is to realize that you're going to have to spend money on learning.
    Methinks the good reason for it being expensive is, instead, that the author wants to make a bunch of money from it.

    The road that your contention leads down is one that leads uncomfortably near to:

    • Paying big bucks to get your engrams audited, and
    • Paying big bucks to take MLM courses
    There may well be well and worthy merits to this game, and it may even be worth the $200. Please just don't use "you need to learn to pay for courses" as the apologia for the pricing...
  • The problem with games like Sim City is that you tend to play them alone, I personaly am more interested in games that you can play with a group of friends. (That being said I really like sim city)

    And some of the old games like charades are a hell of a lot of fun.
  • by jafac ( 1449 )
    At first, Ogre seems like a zero-sum game (one side is a massive heavily armored AI tank, and the other is humans in various tanks jeeps and howitzers).

    Either side could win or lose - I, for one always felt that the Ogre side often simply represented a stronger force. (it's a slightly imbalanced game, but you can modify the handicaps on the scenarios).

    But in the end, everyone dies, because we're talking about the twilight of civilization, so it's really a zero-sum game anyway. (unless you subscribe to the sequel game, (I can't for the life of me remember what the name was - pre Steve Jackson game, from when they were Metagames) where the two sides were automated combat robot factories, you built and programmed these little robots to go out and kill eachother and attack the enemy factory - supposedly the successors to the Ogres).
  • my 7 year old son plays on a basketball team. Doesn't matter who wins or loses - they don't keep track of the score.

    Supposedly this is to encourage the kids to pass the ball to all of the players and give them a chance at shooting a basket.

    but the kids keep track of the score, and they always pass the ball to the kid they know can make the shot.

    Also, they don't call fouls. At least that's what they told me when they asked me to ref. Other team's coach bitched me out for not calling a foul. Next game, someone else reffed, and they were VERY strict about double-dribbles and such. At this age, some of the kids can't even dribble the ball. On the other hand, the good players could beat me hands down.
    The whole thing is kind of ridiculous.
  • yeah, you're right. Why don't we all just kill ourselves now, so we can save future generations from having to pay for our current extravagence.

    So, everybody pick up the gun, place the muzzle in your mouth . . . on the count of three. . . one. . . two. . . three. . .

    . . . hey, you still here?
  • This cannot be turned into a zero-sum game, under the Zero-Sum Obliteration Convention of 1996.
  • I will not play at tug o' war.
    I'd rather play at hug o' war,
    Where everyone hugs
    Instead of tugs,
    Where everyone giggles
    And rolls on the rug,
    Where everyone kisses,
    And everyone grins,
    And everyone cuddles,
    And everyone wins.
    -- Shel Silverstein, "Hug o' War"

    Of course, adults tend to be better than children at playing this kind of game... ;)

    Vovida, OS VoIP
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • One tetris variant I played (I think it was Magical Tetris Challenge on the GBC) had a multiplayer mode in which the challenge was to remove rows in tandem with your partner.

    There are all sorts of cooperative games, as well.

    Unfortunately, most board games rely on pieces of paper or cards to represent things, and by physical restrictions there are only so many 'things' one can package with the game, making it zero sum in practice.

  • In the Lord of the Rings Boardgame [lordofther...rdgame.com] the group works together to win. In this case, either the Game wins, or the players win - not a single person. And working against eachother is a detriment to the party.

    It's also a rather fun game - as are most games developed by Reiner Knizia [lordofther...rdgame.com] - a well respected German game designer.

    Joseph Elwell.

  • Almost any mud is going to be non-zero-sum. The goal is to have fun, explore the world, and try to become more powerful. But there isn't necessarily a limit to how powerful or weak you can be, and being powerful isnt necessarily the end of the game.

    Helping others is one way that you can get more out than you put in - the game is usually more fun for everyone when there are more people.

    You might even want to check out the mud I run, Alter Aeon. Web page is at http://www.dentinmud.org/alter, connect via telnet to dentinmud.org port 3000.

  • Well, if you play simcity compulsively, you realize that the player simply does what governments to-- creates an environment which makes it possible for cities to thrive. The user zones the areas, builds roads, and provides for law enforcement. The cities thrive on their own, as long as the necessary infrastructure is in place.

  • Have you ever tried cooperating with the computer players? The AI in CivCTP can be described as a "belligerent idiot". Unless you play at the top level (or are spectacularly inept), you are going to be more powerful than the computer players, and they are not going to agree to cooperate with you, regardless of how much generosity and magnanimity you show. After a while they go hostile, start pirating your trade routes, menacing your cities. The only choice you have is of expending resources on defending against the moronic barbarians at the gates or of building up armies and wiping the floor with the computer players.
  • I think most of what you say is hogwash, but the concept of the end of scarcity illuminates our real nature as humans. These problems you mention are much more sophisticated than you make them out to be. Historically we have rarely been in times of need where the earth wasn't able to sustain our food or energy needs.

    The limiting factor has always been personal. Inneficient government structures, like monarchy, were preferred because it edified the ego of a small group at the cost of society at large. Government structures have relunctantly changed, but fundamentally everyone would like to be "more equal than others" or get a break that their peers don't have. We want someone below and we'll tolerate someone above as long as we feel we are in the "better half". There are exceptions, but this is the norm.

    We have rarely had scarcity, but we have always had the irrational desire to hold onto something and believe it is scarce, whether or not it really is. You can see business scrambling to patent information. We know it is absurd, but they can't bear to think of letting it go. They must quantify it and make sure their gain is someone else's loss. Sad, but true.

    Your post made me think of something that I have considered for years. Let me give an example:

    Lets say you work at a company and you use some form of machine to do your job. Now assume that a new machine comes along that helps you to do your job twice as fast. Barring some time to recouperate the cost of the machines, why are you still working 8 hours a day if you are producing twice as much?

    In a zero sum game there is no reason to not slip into a 4 hour workday. Really, our purpose life isn't to be a wage slave, but for the large majority of the population they are locked into a work week regardless of what they produce. As a business owner (and geek at heart) I'm looking at ways that I can answer this question in my own business, but I'll confess that I haven't yet come up with a solution.

    The only real scarcity is our humbleness to live without reference to heirarchy.

  • by docwhat ( 3582 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:06AM (#460987) Homepage

    Here is a link to an online version of the game:
    http://www.dhegarty.de/pop_philosophy/downshifting /prisoners_dilemma.html [dhegarty.de]

    For those too lazy to look at the link, the summary is that you have two prisoners. One will be let out based on the results of a game. It's played in rounds. Each round each prisoner decides to cooperate or compete.

    • Both cooperate, each get 3 credits
    • Both compete, each get 1 credit
    • If one competes and the other cooperates, the competative one gets 5 credits and the cooperative one gets nothing.

    I'm not sure this is pro-cooperative. Oh well.

  • by freeBill ( 3843 ) on Saturday February 03, 2001 @11:21PM (#460988) Homepage
    ...was Nova Games' "Dragonriders of Pern" which also happened to be a non-zero-sum game.

    But "Dragonriders" (based on the McCaffrey series of novels) went beyond that. The two players could cooperate or compete to whatever degree they preferred. But cooperation was always more successful than competition.

    The way the game played was you each rode a dragon which had the ability to breathe fire and destroy parasitic thread falling from the sky. Each player independently chose an maneuver simultaneously. Then an ingenious relative movement system allowed the dragons to execute the two maneuvers simultaneously without giving away the action of the first player to call out their action to the other.

    If one player maneuvered his dragon between the other dragon and the thread, his dragon got burned. It was even possible to destroy two threads simultaneously, if both players cooperated.

    Cooperation always produced the best results. If one player played competitively while the other tried to help him, the competitive player would "score" higher yet not as high as if both cooperated. But, if both players played competitively (each trying to get more than the other), the result was almost always failure with the thread not being destroyed and reaching the ground (where it would destroy crops).

    I don't believe this game is still available. I think the publisher has gone out of business. It would probably translate very easily to a web game (two or more players sending in their maneuvers to a central server). I could be wrong about the publisher because they have another game system ("Lost Worlds," featuring fantasy hand-to-hand combat) and occasionally I see a new release based on this system (the most recent being a comic-book-based combat system).

    There are actually quite a few non-zero-sum games which have been quite successful through the years. Many have been mentioned here, so I won't repeat with a post so far down on the main thread.

    I would like to comment on two groups of these games mentioned in earlier posts: RPGs (role-playing games like "Dungeons and Dragons") and diplomacy games (like "Illuminati" or "Dune" or "Cosmic Encounter").

    RPGs are true non-zero-sum games. While they can be played with varying degrees of competition (even competition between the referee and the players), they are intended to be non-zero-sum games and anyone who doesn't play them that way is not really playing the game.

    Diplomacy games are games which are fundamentally zero-sum games which are played with so many competing players that a single winner is difficult (sometimes bordering on impossibility if one player threatening to win can always be stopped by a large coalition of opponents). Such games sometimes admit of non-zero-sum solutions by allowing two or more players to share a victory. Thus a cooperative element may become necessary, but this is not quite the same as a non-zero-sum game because a coalition victory still requires that the others lose.

    A similar situation occurs in the party game "Mafia" which almost always has more than one winner, but a win still requires losers. (BTW, this game would be another which would make a great web game along the line of "Survivor." Does anyone know if the rights are owned by anyone? Maybe I should create an "Ask Slashdot" question out of this.)

    I cannot leave this without mentioning another of the best games ever (whose name I cannot remember). It was a kind of an anthropology simulation published by a non-profit (I'm thinking the publisher may have been associated with the University of Denver, but I could be wrong). I believe there was an adult version and a children's version, but I only played the kids' version.

    It was specifically designed for the purposes described by the poster of this question: To provide a non-zero-sum game to teach to a medium-sized group of children. Its only drawback is they could only play it once.

    The group of players was divided into two pseudo-cultures. Separated into two rooms, each group was told about their culture and its values. Then each was taught a "game within a game" which reflected those values. Each group practiced their game, separated from the other "culture."

    Then, in the next phase of the game, each group sent a party of envoys or anthropologists to observe the other. Each would try to play the other's game. After a time, the envoys would return to their own culture and try to describe what they observed. Armed with these descriptions, another group of envoys would then be sent, playing the other culture's game, and reporting back.

    Once everybody gets a chance to play envoy, the two groups get back together and each tries to describe the rules of the other's game and their culture.

    I'm sure you can guess how this turns out, but until you try it you will not believe the insights which can be derived from this simple game. If anybody knows how to get ahold of it, I hope they post the resource for this "Ask Slashdot" question-raiser, as I'm sure this would be very appropriate for the situation he describes.
  • Dammit you beat me to it! My post has a link [geocities.com], though!
  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <snarks@gmail.com> on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:08AM (#460993) Homepage Journal
    From dictionary.com:
    game n. 1. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games.

    Ever heard of role-playing games?
  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <snarks@gmail.com> on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:13AM (#460994) Homepage Journal
    Many posters don't seem to know what zero-sum means.
    Of or relating to a situation in which a gain is offset by an equal loss: “. . .under the zero-sum budgeting system that governs federal spending, the money for spinal research is likely to be deducted from some other research account” (Daniel S. Greenburg).

  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <snarks@gmail.com> on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:26AM (#460995) Homepage Journal
    Calvinball [geocities.com] is definitely non-zero-sum. It's potentially infinite-sum.
  • by Alan Shutko ( 5101 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:07AM (#460999) Homepage
    Since the point of most RPGs is to work together.

    (Unfortunately, the RPG industry does seem to be a zero-sum game....)
  • If the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the country each contributed half of their money/resources to this and other problems, we could have an entire world with a solid communications, travel, and most importantly, EDUCATIONAL infrastructure. THE ENTIRE WORLD. But, no, the rich would never do that; it's their money and they earned it, and screw everyone else.

    Actually, the wealthiest 1% already have about that much of their labor confiscated by taxes, and it hasn't paid for your fantasy in this country, let alone the entire world. (The top 50% of taxpayers, from the middle of the middle class on up, pay 96% of federal income taxes.) The government squanders most of that confiscated wealth.

    It would be interesting to see what private charities would come up with if they weren't crowded out by the bloated, wasteful government social programs (and constrained by related regulations). Between the greater efficiency and effectiveness of the private charities and vastly lower taxes and regulations making it easier to create wealth and acquire property, we really could wipe out poverty... but it doesn't look like it'll happen.

    I think most of us want to help out, but with the poor and needy voting for the politicians who want to enslave us, what's the point?

  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:05AM (#461003) Homepage Journal

    I don't remember the exact name, but it consisted of me (and usually, though not always, my brother) going outside.

    out * side (Noun): The big room on the other side of the machine room door that sometimes has a blue ceiling with white fluffy things and a bright, hot yellow light, and sometimes has a black ceiling with lots of little lights

    The game we played consisted mainly of running and jumping, although we occasionally played a variant where we would lie on the grass and look up.

    The object of the game usually was to imagine a new way in which we could save the planet from the meteors and asteroids and alien invaders that were falling down around us. We did occassionally alter the parameters to include in our mandate the destruction of all things Plastic (up to and including Star Wars figures that would now be worth approximately 18 jillion dollars).

    While zero-sum, the game could actually produce a winner, if the participants could manage to stay outside after dark long enough to catch fireflies before the referee called for dinner. This happened on rare occasions, but it did occur.

    There is an extensive equipment list, however. You need the Silver Surfer's surfboard, a Mega-Lox Rocket Pack, a couple of bazookas, wings, the ability to levitate, and a half dozen tanks. In the event that you're too poor to purchase these, cardboard boxes, unused window screens, and oddly shaped sticks may be substituted at no penalty.

    Two things to beware of -- there is a danger that the participants will grow up to be creative thinkers who cherish freedom and independance. Do what you can to squash such desires by allowing the participants to watch as much television as possible, where they will be subjected to fads, trends, and groupthink. The other danger is of incidental damage to Evil Doers Everywhere, Galactic Invaders, and the neighbor's fence.

  • I'm not sure I follow you all the way here. Wouldn't Kiyosaki stand to gain a lot more by selling ten times more games by reducing the price to a quarter of its present cost?

    I mean, Mattel and the other game companies have the price point down to a fine art: they're maximizing their profits by balancing price against number of sales.

    If the price is $200 because Kiyosaki is greedy, then he's only hurting himself: he's not making as much money as he could be... which would make him a dumb man.

    I don't think he's a dumb man, although I do find his books nearly unreadable.

    I'm pretty sure that he figures he might as well not waste people's time. The people that will really put the ideas into use are the same people who are going to ante up the bucks for the game (and video and cassettes and books and all the other stuff that the game comes with).

    Personally, I'd rather see it priced at about $50. Even if people don't actively start managing their money to maximize their cashflow, I'm pretty sure that there'll be some amount of change in their lives. Perhaps they'd finally clue in that they could pay off their credit cards and bring their spending under control...

  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:42AM (#461009) Homepage
    A generic followup to several of the posts asking for details:

    Yes, it is The Good Capitalist. There are opportunities to give to charity, but, no, you're not going to find much in the way of subsidized healthcare and education in the game. It's a game about making money without working: indeed, about making enough money that you don't need to work.

    Regarding price: yes, it's bloody expensive. It's expensive for good reason: the first step toward learning how to invest is to realize that you're going to have to spend money on learning.

    Is it worth $200? Sure--if you've got six friends who'll kick in twenty-five bucks each to play it. And play it, you will: in six months, I've played upwards of three dozen times. Hell, we have a coffeehouse games night, now... anyone who wants to drop in and play, can play. Great fun.

    That said, here's the general game play:

    There's a large playing board. There are two loops on the board: one for the rat race, and one for the fast track. I'll describe the rat race: it's where by far most of your learning will take place.

    The fast track is about three dozen "spaces." There are three each of 'paycheque,' 'doodad,' and 'market' spaces; one each of 'baby,' 'charity,' and 'downsize.' The remainder are 'opportunity' spaces.

    Your game card contains income, expense and investment sections. You have a paycheque, from your 9-to-5 job; and expenses of a mortgage, various loans/credit cards, and living expenses. There's an additional expense for children, should you land on the 'baby' space.

    Your income, less your expenses, is your cashflow. The money that you can save, and that you can invest.

    When you pass or land on a 'paycheque,' you get the cashflow amount. When you land on a 'doodad,' it's an unexpected expense that comes out of your savings. When you land on 'charity,' you can donate and gain the use of a second die for three rolls, which gets you past paycheques more quickly (giving = getting, is the philosophy here). When you land on 'baby,' you add a kid to your expenses. And when you get downsized, you pay up your expenses en masse, from your savings, once, and then miss a few turns.

    The real action is on the 'opportunity' and 'market' spaces. Opportunities come in two sizes: below $6K, and above $6K. They consist of opportunties to buy and sell one of four stocks and two bonds; to buy rental properties, from small condos to entire apartment complexes, with varying rates of return; to purchase land, gold or other property that has no immediate return; and to start up or purchase businesses.

    It's up to you to figure out if the opportunity is worthwhile, whether you can afford it, whether you should carry a loan if you don't have the cash at hand, and whether it's time to sell it.

    Selling properties and businesses (not stocks; stocks are sold in the oppoortunities deck of cards) happens with the 'market' cards. Some investments are good to keep as income; some are better off sold, to generate immediate cash that can be used for investing for better returns. Again, it's up to you to decide.

    There are rules for handling bankruptcy, should you overextend yourself. Bankruptcy is stressful, but it doesn't necessarily take you out of the game. And it generally only happens if you play high-risk... which is a learning opportunity itself: sometimes, high-risk results in high payoffs, beyond one's expectations and hopes.

    There's math involved. You have to get good at doing adding and subtracting, because your income and expense numbers are going to be changing, which will impact your bottom-line cashflow.

    You get to learn about the value of bank loans, which can be used to invest in opportunities that pay so well that the interest costs for the loan are dwarfed by the cashflow the investment generates. You learn about investing in the stock market, and the kind of payoffs that can happen there. You learn about buying properties that are remarkably low-priced that you'd think are fucked-up, but turn out to pay off... and about rental property, some of the costs involved, and some of the risks involved (interest rate increases; tenant damage; etc).

    All in all, it's a very stimulating game. If you're not currently investing in the stock market , rental properties and businesses, then it's worth getting the game: it'll let you learn and experiment, without actually risking tens of thousands of dollars.

  • by FFFish ( 7567 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:01AM (#461010) Homepage
    "Cashflow," from Robert Kiyosaki. It's a simulation of real life, intended to shift one's thinking about handling money. The objective: to get out of the rat race of daily 9-to-5 employee life, and onto the fast track of business ownership.

    There's no competition, really, once you understand the game. It's all about making decisions for oneself, investing wisely and generating enough passive income (income that you don't have to work for someone else to earn: i.e. stocks and bonds, rental properties, etc.) to outpace your fixed living expenses.

    The best part is that it's fairly true-to-life (at least if you live in the USA; the rental property thing isn't nearly as profitable in, say, Canada), and gives you a chance to experiment with risk without actually putting one's hard-earned cash up for grabs.

    (putting one's cash into investing takes place eventually, mind you: you'll sooner or later learn that to make money, you're gonna have to spend it...)

  • by demo ( 8301 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:42AM (#461012)
    When the participants grow up, they can participate in one of the greatest zero-sum games of them all.

    No winner, no loser. The games often ends, but can usually be startet again some minutes later.

    A lot of books have been written on the meta-game of finding other participants. Some people prefer to play with the same participant over many games. Other try out different participants all the time.

    Can be played in groups, pairs and sometimes just solitaire.

    One of the most played games of all time... Sex!
  • Philosophyer Ludwig Wittgenstein used how the concept of "game" as a set category was not amenable to necessary and sufficient conditions - that there is no single thing that all games share, but rather there are what he called "family resemblences" shared by all things called games.

    For example, Ring-Around-the-Roses is called a game by virtually everyone, yet there is no winning or losing. Some games are not fun for anyone involved, such as a wargame (or, in same ways, war itself) yet they are still considered games by virtue of their being simulated.

    SimCity is a game. We call it a game, we buy it in the game section, we say "I am playing a game of SimCity." We try to optimize our performance in SimCity on a variety of metrics (avoiding riots, maximizing income, etc.)

  • Europa Universalis [europa-universalis.com] is a recent computer game that fulfills most of your criteria. It is based on a French boargame with a cult following. The computer game has sold very well in Europe. Check out the positive reviews on the homepage.

    ************************************************ ** *

  • Yes, and the implicit message being that if everyone cooperates all the time, everyone maximizes their benefit. Because the game is rigged to produce that end.

    Try this more realistic variant on for size: change the third rule to pay out 8 credits instead of 5. Any reasonably bright kid, and any adult with any experience in reasoning can figure out what they're going to get on average if they alternate 5-0-5-0-5-0 and so on. Alternating 8-0-8-0-8-0 on the other hand ... What you get is people trying to get in sync, alternately competing and not. But when one doesn't *know* who the other prisoner is at any one time (you pass out chits with numbers on them instead), that's when it gets interesting.
  • Outdoor sport, takes some skill, fun, non-competitive.
  • It's a game. Geesh! I mention Ayn Rand because she had a similar habit of taking otherwise trivial things way too seriously. She invented some sort of Objectivist board game that was Ideologically Pure. I remember some Ayn Rand nut in college explaining to me how it was played. It didn't sound like a lot of fun.

    Be very afraid of people like this. They're the sort of people who want to outlaw Halloween because it trains children in Satanism. Different absurd beliefs, same absurd way of thinking.
  • by Dan D. ( 10998 )
    Now true the goal of the game can be to try to set things up so the guy next to you causes the thing to fall, which means you want to try to set your peices so that it topples his. The problem is that over time, it can actually be to your detrement because his peice won't necessarily fall. Of course the worst case is that things go utterly wrong and your bad peice becomes your own faulty cornerstone. So this is a case where you're not in 'direct' competition with the other players (unless there are only two, but that's a degenerate) and it's actually to everyones advantage to cooperate. Which is why in the end, people are upset when their cooperative high tower falls because someone got too shakey. I know there's a theorem for emergent cooperation involving the fixed point theorem, but I don't remember it now... sorry.

  • by dallen ( 11400 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:45AM (#461034) Homepage Journal
    There's always "The Neverending Tale [neverendingtale.com]," a web-based text adventure game for kids. (Currently at over 50,000 pages, almost all contributed by visitors from the web). We designed it for kids, and moderate for appropriate content. The design goals are to encourage creativity, cooperation, and interest in reading and writing.

    We are actively soliciting programmers to help improve the classroom version, drop me an email if you are interested!

    Q: What do you get when a Postmodernist joins the Mafia?

  • For linux, there is LinCity.
  • What about Gauntlet

    My friends and I wasted so many quarters on this game...[insert nostalgic interlude here]...

    This is one game I'd LOVE to see an "open source" equivalent for. Crossfire [real-time.com] is the closes thing I've seen, and it's not really close at all - it's far more of a Multiplayer Ultima V than a Guantlet (still looks fun, though, from what little I've played with it.) Anybody know of any "Gauntlet-like" game projects going on?

    "They have strategic air commands, nuclear submarines, and John Wayne. We have this"
  • Those "socialist" practices embodied in SimCity are actually how 90% of American cities operate.

    The basis of SimCity is American-style Zoning. The basis of American-style zoning is to protect the property values of the bourgeois. The only way to succeed in SimCity is for your 'citizans' to increase their rent profits, aka property values, while attracting additional capital to your location. Therefore SimCity, is at best, a simulation of State Capitalism.
  • by superdoo ( 13097 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @11:20AM (#461042) Homepage
    "all great expansionist powers seem to collapse shortly after their peak."

    Would it still be called a peak if they didn't collapse shortly afterward?

  • Yeah... train them early for all those drinking games. Hey lots of those are zero-sum!
  • Actually, as much fun as this game is, I think it is a zero sum game. There are only so many groups in play at a time, and when I gain control of one, it is removed from the control of somebody else. Or it becomes much harder for the other players to take control of. Either way, I'm better off and everyone else is worse off.
  • Doh! I can't believe I forgot this.

    This is actually pretty close to zero sum - if you scale it down to Von Neuman's model, it's 1 for a win, zero for a tie, zero for an overtime loss, and -1 for a loss. That's variable sum (either zero or one). But you're definitely right.

    "You owe me a case of beer. Sucka'."

  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @01:25PM (#461049) Journal
    Zero-sum is a reference to game theory, which holds that any game in which there is one definite winner and one definite loser is a zero sum game: basically, a win is a +1, a loss is a -1, and when you sum the scores, you get zero. Chess is a good example: you either win or lose, and point-value systems are usually used only as a measure of how well you did at it. Hockey (or baseball, or football, or soccer) is another: whomever has the most points at the end, wins. Period. Stalemates/draws are worth zero points.

    There are a few examples of non zero-sum games: for example, "The Prisoner's Dilemma" is a non-zero sum game (and technically, it is a game, albeit a very serious one).

    "You owe me a case of beer. Sucka'."

  • I remember a game that probably every high school international-relations or economics type class has played a variation of.

    The class breaks up into groups. Each group is told that if they all make decision A, the entire class will win, say, 100 points each toward their grade. However, if even one group makes a decision other than A, everyone who chose A gets nothing, and the group choosing the highest value gets 110 points each.

    If everybody trusts everyone else and does what they promised, the whole class walks away with 100 points each. But what always happens is that some asshole will ruin it for the rest of the group, which is the whole point of the excercise.

    It's a pretty twisted lesson, really.
  • Calvin and Hobbes had it all figured out :-)
  • Not to pick nits, but Monopoly isn't zero sum. Every time you pass Go, you collect $200.

    ...which you will probably use to buy property, unmortgage property, or buy houses, which is a disadvantage for all the other players. In monopoly, anything that is good for you, is bad for me. Likewise, when you land on Income Tax, I am going to smile, because what is bad for you, is good for me. Sure it's not zero sum?

  • The price isn't because Kiyosaki is particularly greedy, and it isn't because he's doing customers a favor by forcing them to value what they're purchasing.

    It's simple: when you sell a product like this that's not a mass market product, dropping the price, on its own, doesn't necessarily increase sales enough to compensate. There's a sweet spot on the price vs. demand curve, and almost invariably, for "niche" products, that spot is going to be at a higher price than it is for similar consumer-level products, for the simple reason that the product itself is never going to sell as well as say, Quake.

  • Most video games (I'm talking arcade standups, not PC games) that let multiple people play at the same time are non-zero-sum. Gauntlet is probably the most well-known one (I saw it mentioned already at least once), but it's certainly not the only one.

    There's a difference in types, though-- most such games are just individuals in the same space that can either help each other or not. Others, though are like Space Duel, a color vector sequel to Asteroids, which had a mode where two players played at the same time with two ships that were connected-- if you thrusted the wrong way, you'd end up with the two ships spinning around each other wildly. The final score that was put on the scoreboard was the combined score of the two players. Other examples are the old vector game Ripoff, or Cyberball 2084, where two players can play on the same team against the computer (or on opposite teams against each other), now taken up by more modern games like NBA Jam and the like. I've even seen pinball machines that had a built-in mode where two players' scores were combined for scoreboard and high score purposes.

    I'd classify these as strong cooperative, whereas Gauntlet and Mario Bros (not Super Mario Bros) and the other multiplayer games are weak cooperative, where the players can cooperate but don't necessarily have to. I'm sure there are tons of more examples, but those are the first ones I can think of off the top of my head.

  • Announce that you are going to auction a dollar bill to the highest bidder with the proviso that both the higest bidder and the next highest bidder need to pay their bids, but only the highest bidder actually gets the dollar.

    Once the bidding gets going, it's difficult to stop. Whatever I bid, you can outbid me by a penny. Eventually, I'll bid $1 and you'll still be better off bidding $1.01 because you're only out 0.01 compared to being out 0.99.

    From the point of view of the bidders, it is a non-zero sum game.
  • I've been working on an idea for a game I've titled, Kovas, where it would have a few things that keep it from being zero-sum. It's a standard "conquer the universe" type game, but it has a couple additional aspects that make it different:

    1) the universe is a persistent and theoretically limitless space
    2) rankings in the game are based on "fealty points". Each planet in the game is worth one fealty point if you control it. Each planet is worth two fealty points if somebody else controls it, but pledges their loyalty to you. So there's an incentive to not just go out and kill everybody.

    I do intend for the game to have resource limitations, but as the game goes on and your technology develops, you become more efficient in your use of resources. Furthermore, the limitations on resources are planet by planet, so as the universe expands and players are added, more planets and more resources appear.

    Another thing is that technology can be shared in the game, so it encourages players to collaborate with eachother. So, you can develop powerful weapons while another develops powerful armor and combined you can put together some pretty nasty ships.


  • It's nice that someone like you wants other people to give away their stuff. Why limit it to the richest 1%? Why doesn't everyone just give half of what they earn to some central distribution agency? Perhaps this agency could provide food for the hungy, social programs for the poor, education for the young, roads, hospitals...

    Oh, wait, I already give half of my money to an organization that does that. I like to call it Uncle Sam.


  • The problem with Monopoly is that it's a highly crappy model of how capitalism actually works. The guy who created the game (Charles Darrow, IIRC) didn't believe in credit, so you couldn't borrow money from the bank or have to pay interest. You just get magic money from the heavens every time you move around the board.

    I've been thinking about better Monopoly rules. Here's what I've got:

    1. You can borrow money from the bank to buy the properties or houses, but you have to pay it back, plus interest.

    2. Every time you pass Go, rather than collect money, you need to make a loan interest payment on your outstanding balance.

    3. Every time you pass Income Tax, rather than just when you land on it, you need to pay.

    It's be interesting to play-test these rules and see how they work.


  • The biggest problem that I would want to fix in Monopoly is the "Magic Money" aspect of it. Other things I suggested just fall out of that.

    Getting $200 for passing Go is the real problem. Putting money on Free Parking (I know, not an official rule) makes the game more of a lottery than anything else.

    If you want to eliminate the automatic $200 from GO and Free Parking, you need money to develop properties from somewhere, and that somewhere is the bank.

    Furthermore, if you need to keep on borrowing to improve lots, you can't rely on mortgages alone. So interest-based loans come in.

    Like I said, I've never played this way, and I don't know if it would be more fun. But it would make it possible to develop properties quickly and without hitting the jackpot which is Free Parking. My guess is that it would make for a quicker, more skill-based game, if anything. Whether that's good or bad is up to the people playing.

    Regardless of who invented it, it is a fun game. In fact, removing the anti-monopoly rule that was in the original game is the secret to making it fun. We all might hate Bill Gates, but we love owning Park Place and Boardwalk with hotels...


  • is probably the best example of a non-zero-sum arcade game.

    Kevin Fox
  • I was thinking of the fact that you can make moves that are good for you but not bad for your opponents (e.g. move the robber away from someone's field, trade at a harbor on behalf of another player). Ultimately there is one winner, but there is a lot of mutual benefit during the game.


  • by magic ( 19621 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:15AM (#461068) Homepage
    ...is not zero-sum. It also has the neat property that typically everyone is collaborating, not competing. WOTC just released a very nice 3rd edition of D&D at http://www.wizards.com/dnd/main.asp?x=dnd/brand,3 [wizards.com]

    I think the card game Settlers of Catan is a more traditional board/card game that is also not zero-sum.


  • The interesting thing about this conversation is that, NO GAME IS INNATELY ZERO SUM OR NON-ZERO SUM. Whether or not a game is zero sum has as much to do with the utility functions of the players as it does with the structure of the game.

    The formal definition of a zero-sum game is that it must have the property that the aggregate utility received by all participants remains constant, regardless of the outcome of the game (although the allocation of this utility may, of course, vary.)

    So, take the game of Charades, suggested by the original poster. If the participants derive enjoyment from the activity rather than from the outcome, then of course the game is non-zero sum. However, if the people playing the game only care about performing better than the other team then the game may be zero sum (IFF the utility team A gets from winning plus the disutility team B gets from loosing is equal to the utility team B gets from winning plus the disutility team B gets from loosing).

    So this argument could go on all day, as any game (even Chess and Monopoly) can be legitimately viewed as zero-sum or non-zero sum, depending on the poster's assesment of the typical player's preferences.

    Perhaps a better phrase for this conversation would be mutualistic, which is used by sociologists to mean "non-competitive"...

  • by Krimsen ( 26685 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:50AM (#461081) Homepage
    Here's a game that a few friends and I made up one night while sitting around the campfire late at night. It also consists of changing the rules as you go (actually, it is more like you are more like 'deciding' the rules as you go.) We called it "The DaisyChain Game" for lack of a better name. Basically, someone starts out by saying a common phrase, sentence, proper name, etc... Then the next person in the circle takes either the last word or last part of the word in the previous person's phrase and uses it to start off another common phrase, sentence, etc... For example, a standard round might sound like this:

    Person1: daisy chain
    Person2: chain smoking
    Person3: king of the hill
    etc, etc...

    One of the best things about the game is that you will start to realize what kinds of phrases you will accept as a group and what kinds of phrases or sentences are just not common enough to be accepted. For example, we decided that if someone ends a phrase with a weird word (for example, Beef-A-Roni) we would accept a "morph" of that word, or word part, in order to start the next phrase. For example, we'd use "A-Roni" from Beef-A-Roni to start the phrase "Our only way out" ('A-Roni' was morphed into 'our only').

    Conversely, we decided not to accept very flimsy sentences. For example, if someone's phrase ends with "close", we would accept "close call" from the next person, but not "close the door" (it was just too flimsy.)

    I suppose you could score the game, but it'd be highly subjective as to how original each new phrase was and how many points each one should get. We always played for the fun of it and we'd pass hours just going around and around.
  • I'll give 5,000 points to whoever creates a computer-based version of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" [hat-trick.co.uk].
  • Maximising your own score (usually by playing long words) often increases your opponents chances of playing a long word, and thus increasing their score, too.

    Admittedly, some people make part of their strategy not to leave helpful letters dangling where they're useful, but when I play (usually with my mother) that sort of negativism is frowned on. We generally consider a 2-player game with total points less than 600 "bad", whereas greater than 700 points between us is "good". We don't concentrate too much on the individual scores (except when Mum wins!).

  • ... would be to look at the league system.
    There is a finite amount of points available, and for someone to gain points, someone else has to drop them.

    Soccer, in the european stage, is even worse in this respect.
    This is because matches ending in a draw, actually makes BOTH loose.
    This is because it is 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw.
    The reasons are obvious for anyone having watched soccer. It is to prevent teams from playing very defensively to secure a draw.

    However. Both these sports are positive sum on another level, because they create entertainment and income for lots of parties.. not only for the successful ones.
  • Just about any game can become a zero-sum game if the correct atmosphere is set. For instance, when playing basketball make sure that all players have had at least 5 shots of good liquor. A shot must be taken for every 10 points scored. Trust me, it doesn't take long before no one has any idea what the score is.

    As for me, wrestling is a zero-sum game. I wrestle Stan, our clubs head coach, and he can beat me into the mat any time he chooses. But, every once in a while I score, or pull off some really slick move. He didn't lose, but I won.

    If that didn't make sense, read it again until it does. Any game becomes zero-sum as soon as you choose to ignore the score and concentrate on the play and allow the score to worry about itself. Once you can reach that state, then regardless of whether you had more points or not, you rate yourself a winner/loser on how well you performed against your own criteria and you enjoy the game while it last.

  • The Hollywood Stock Exchange [hsx.com] is an online game where you trade Movie Stocks and Star Bonds. Lots of fun, and while the game is "technically" scored, there is never a winner, as the game never ends. It's a psuedo-real life simulation, mimicking the stock market with the movie industry as a basis.
  • Zero-sum or not has as much to do with the way people play as with the game itself. For example, some have suggested that RPGs are zero-sum but it's still entirely possible for people to compete and declare a winner based on gold or experience points. That will always be true as long as there's any kind of score involved, and if there's not then people can invent their own scoring methods. On the other side of the coin, zero-sum games can often be played cooperatively or just playfully if some or all participants simply decide they don't care about the score. I've messed up many games of Scrabble just so I could play cool (or rude) words, I've spent my time in racing simulations going backwards and trying for a spectacular collision, and so on. Some games - e.g. frisbee - or puzzles or market simulations can be approached either competitively or cooperatively according to players' wishes. Whether some computer games are cooperative or competitive depends on whether you consider the computer to be a player.

    The point is that you can almost always decide whether there are "winners" or "losers" in any game, regardless of the game's internal definitions. IMO it's as important for people to know they can keep their own score as it is to know that not all games are zero-sum.

  • by johnnie ( 33967 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:34AM (#461103) Homepage
    RL example:

    it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
    'course, it don't hurt to have an imaginary tiger to play with.
  • by Monte ( 48723 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:38AM (#461127)
    Isn't chess non-zero-sum.
    If you lose a pawn, the opponent actually gains nothing.

    Chess is zero-sum in that there are only three possible outcomes to a game:

    1) White wins, black loses.
    2) Black wins, white loses.
    3) It's a tie or stalemate.

    The total score of all players at the end of any chess game is always "1".

    However, you could consider the concept of pawn promotion to make the argument that you can come out of a game with more materiel then you went in with: in theory you could promote all 8 pawns to queens.

    Umm, what was the question again?
  • by bconway ( 63464 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:05AM (#461149) Homepage
    Remember back in the day when games were fun and you played them cause they were enjoyable, not cause they were so difficult that you got satisfaction from accomplishing some amazingly difficult task? It's pretty much the same point, and that why I'm never giving up my Super Nintendo. As much as I love Mario Kart 64, I've found very few N64 or PS2 games that are actually fun anymore.
  • by frankie ( 91710 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:43AM (#461201) Journal
    Pointless game. One can never lose if he/she/it always chooses to compete.

    Aha! You've fallen into the trap of deceptive simplicity. The point is when you play this game multiple times in a row -- the iterative Prisoner's Dilemma.

    I did this once as a bonus problem with a roomfull of math kids [jhu.edu]. For points I used Skittles [skittles.com]. I carefully explained the rules, divided the whole class into pairs and they played for 10 rounds.

    Most of the class followed your strategy. If their opponent cooperated on the first round then defected the other nine, they got 14 Skittles and their "opponent" got 9. I asked the class "how do you win this game", and most of the replied "by getting more candy than your opponent". BZZT!

    Exactly one pair of kids cooperated the entire way through. They each got 30 Skittles. I pointed this out, and figurative light bulbs flashed on all around the room. It was freaking perfect.

  • When playing non-zero sum games, kids will often still try to see who gets "more." So effectively turning in a non-zero sum game into a zero sum game.

    I would think that most things that don't follow this pattern are typically called "play" rather than called "games."

    But there have been some good cooperative games written over the years for computers. My favorite is a very old game called bubble bobble (orginal nintento!)


  • by haystor ( 102186 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @11:56AM (#461219)
    Yes, but the loss of a pawn isn't a loss with respect to the game either. Chess is a zero sum game since each winner requires one loser.

    A mere pawn capture does not constitute a game of chess.

    If you kept score by material, both sides would be strongly negative. If you kept score by enjoyment, any range from both being winners to both being losers would be possible. But, if you keep score by wins draws and losses, it is a zero sum game.

  • by Nybbler ( 123556 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:16AM (#461248)
    I would recommend one of the games that I got from a childrens' theatre school.


    Everone stands in a circle. One person chosen as "It" approaches one of the circle-members and says either "Bippity" or "Boppity". If It says Bippity, then the circlemember must respond with Boppity. If It says Boppity, circlemember may not say anything. It may repeatedly say both words to anyone any number of times. i.e. you can go up to someone and say "bippity bippity boppity bippity" and the circlemember must make the proper response, then move on to someone else. When a circlemember either fails to say boppity when required, or says it out of place, they become It.

    Advanced rules for this game

    Elephant,"Charlie's Angels"

    It may approach someone and say "Elephant". After It says this, the person they spoke to plus their neighbouring friends must pose like an elephant(center person sticks their hand out like a trunk and the sides raise their far hand to their head to imitate an ear. If this is not successful (ie someone goofs), that person is It. If more than one goofs, It selects someone to be It. Same thing with Charlie's Angels, except that the trio must pose in the manner of this show. (three gun pose, outer members turned to the side)

  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:17AM (#461261) Homepage Journal

    The gamemaster's ultimate goal is neither coincident with the players' (if, above all else, he wanted the players to reach their goal, he could make it insanely easy for them to do so) nor opposed to it (if he wanted to stop them from achieving their goal, he could do that as well). The gamemaster's goal is to create an interesting game

    Think dissociative identity disorder. A gamemaster can also be analyzed as two separate players; one represents Team Evil (who engages in zero-sum gaming against Team Good), and the other is the referee (who engages in non-zero-sum activity with both Team Good and Team Evil).

    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • by Platonic1 ( 126290 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:15AM (#461265) Homepage
    There's a game called 1000 Blank White Cards [trouserarousal.net] that's pretty interesting. Basically you take a stack of blank cards, draw pictures on them and then away you go. It definitely blurs the line between "games" and "play" since the object of the game is entirely up to the players. It might work very well with children because they are so attuned to the concept of "pretend".

    I'll bet / with my Net / I can get / those things yet.
  • by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @12:52PM (#461282) Homepage
    Sex is a non-zero sum game. Though I don't recommend playing it with children.
  • The reason that Zero Sum Games are so popular is that there is a point to them. In a day and age where people are without direction and have no idea what they are here for, it's nice to be able to sit back and blow crap up.

    Of course, compare this to ages past, where life defintly did have a set purpose and a set goal (get X amount of wheat farmed in X amount of time, or else you starve) the idea of playing a game WITHOUT purpose was a nice thought, since every minute of every day of their lives was setout by directions, people liked the idea of an occasional break from working to get stuff, and enjoyed None Zero Sum Games (should that be cap'd?) for the sake of the leisure they allowed.

    Reversal of roles in life, reversal of what we define as fun.

  • by mliggett ( 144093 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @10:22AM (#461291) Homepage
    Before the days of Illuminati New World Order (a Magic The Gathering type card game), Steve Jackson made a mini-game and a full box sized game called Illuminati. It was possible to win alone or to produce a shared win by cooperation. The entire game focuses on cooperation and deception. It was a lot of fun, but I think it is now out of print. I highly recommend it, and I highly recommend cheating (which the rules encourage!).

    Whoops, I was wrong. This game is still in production [sjgames.com]! Go buy a copy, but be sure to leave your friendships at the door. Non-zero-sum does not mean no losers! ;-)

  • by geekpress ( 171549 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:57AM (#461337) Homepage
    But SimCity *is* all about statism. The user must manipulate and regulate the economy for "the public good." Leaving products and services to the free market simply isn't an option if you want to suceed.

    Check out this review by the Ludwig von Mises Institute for more details:

    http://www.mises.org/freemarket_detail.asp?control =280&sortorder=authorlast [mises.org]

    Such statism does imply a zero-sum picture of the world. The pie, after all, is never increased by government tax-and-spend.

    Personally, puzzle games are my favorite. The good ones are simple, easy-to-learn, and require a good grasp of logic. No hidden premises either!

    -- Diana Hsieh

  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:03AM (#461353)
    I've lately been thinking that most geo-political games (Risk, Diplomacy, etc) are not very realistic, because the goal of world conquest is not only within reach, but it is nearly a guarantee that one-world government will be the final outcome.

    Of all the great empires of history, only one (Rome) got big enough to fool itself into thinking it conquered the world, and all great expansionist powers seem to collapse shortly after their peak.

    It would be fun to put together a computer game where the goal is to run a nation (in a sort-of SimCity/Civilizaton style), and where success is measured according to the success of your nation, but where wiping out an enemy almost never serves your best interests, where a conquered nation can assemble an underground revolutionary movement and regain their sovereignty, and where the game simply continues to be played for as long as the participants are enjoying themselves.

    I would buy a game like that, if it was well done.

  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @03:43PM (#461365) Homepage Journal
    Something I wrote about SimCity a few years ago still applies:

    "Everyone notices the obvious built-in political bias, whatever that is. But everyone sees it from a different perspective, so nobody agrees what its real political agenda actually is. I don't think it's all that important, since SimCity's political agenda pales in comparison to the political agenda in the eye of the beholder."

    -Quoted from Designing User Interfaces to Simulation Games. A summary of Will Wright's talk, by Don Hopkins, at http://www.catalog.com/hopkins/simcity/WillWright. html

    In the context of that essay about SimCity:

    The anatomy of a simulation game:

    There are several tightly coupled parts of a simulation game that must be designed closely together: the simulation model, the game play, the user interface, and the user's model.

    In order for a game to be realizable, all of those different parts must be tractable. There are games that might have a great user interface, be fun to play, easy to understand, but involve processes that are currently impossible to simulate on a computer. There are also games that are possible to simulate, fun to play, easy to understand, but that don't afford a useable interface: Will has designed a great game called "Sim Thunder Storm", but he hasn't been able to think of a user interface that would make any sense.

    On the user model:

    The digital models running on a computer are only compilers for the mental models users construct in their heads. The actual end product of SimCity is not the shallow model of the city running in the computer. More importantly, it's the deeper model of the real world, and the intuitive understanding of complex dynamic systems, that people learn from playing it, in the context of everything else about a city that they already know. In that sense, SimCity, SimEarth, and SimAnt are quite educational, since they implant useful models in their users minds.

    On the simulation model:

    Many geeks have spent their time trying to reverse engineer the simulator by performing experiments to determine how it works, just for fun. This would be a great exercise for a programming class. When I first started playing SimCity, I constructed elaborate fantasies about how it was implemented, which turned out to be quite inaccurate. But the exercise of coming up with elaborate fantasies about how to simulate a city was very educational, because it's a hard problem!

    The actual simulation is much less idealisticly general purpose that I would have thought, epitomizing the Nike "just do it" slogan. In SimCity classic, the representation of the city is low level and distilled down compactly enough that a small home computer can push it around. The city is represented by tiles, indexed by numbers that are literally scattered throughout the code, which is hardly general purpose or modular, but runs fast. It sacrifices expandability and modularity for speed and size, just the right trade-off for the wonderful game that it is.

    Some educators have asked Maxis to make SimCity expose more about the actual simulation itself, instead of hiding its inner workings from the user. They want to see how it works and what it depends on, so it is less of a game, and more educational. But what's really going on inside is not as realistic as they would want to believe: because of its nature as a game, and the constraint that it must run on low end home computers, it tries to fool people into thinking it's doing more than it really is, by taking advantage of the knowledge and expectations people already have about how a city is supposed to work. Implication is more efficient than simulation.

    People naturally attribute cause and effect relationships to events in SimCity that Will as the programmer knows are not actually related. Perhaps it is more educational for SimCity players to integrate what they already know to fill in the gaps, than letting them in on the secret of how simple and discrete it really is. As an educational game, SimCity stimulates students to learn more about the real world, without revealing the internals of its artificial simulation. The implementation details of SimCity are quite interesting for a programmer or game designer to study, but not your average high school social studies class.

    Educators who want to expose the internals of SimCity to students may not realize how brittle and shallow it really is. I don't mean that as criticism of Will, SimCity, or the educators who are seeking open, realistic, general purpose simulators for use in teaching. SimCity does what it was designed to and much more, but it's not that. Their goals are noble, but the software's not there yet. Once kids master SimCity, they could learn Logo, or some high level visual programming language like KidSim, and write their own simulations and games!

    Other people wanted to use SimCity for the less noble goal of teaching people what to think, instead of just teaching them to think.

    Everyone notices the obvious built-in political bias, whatever that is. But everyone sees it from a different perspective, so nobody agrees what its real political agenda actually is. I don't think it's all that important, since SimCity's political agenda pales in comparison to the political agenda in the eye of the beholder.

    Some muckety-muck architecture magazine was interviewing Will Wright about SimCity, and they asked him a question something like "which ontological urban paridigm most influenced your design of the simulator, the Exo-Hamiltonian Pattern Language Movement, or the Intra-Urban Deconstructionist Sub-Culture Hypothesis?" He replied, "I just kind of optimized for game play."

    Then there was the oil company who wanted "Sim Refinery", so you could use it to lay out oil tanker ports and petrolium storage and piping systems, because they thought that it would give their employees useful experience in toxic waste disaster management, in the same way SimCity gives kids useful experience in being the mayor of a city. They didn't realize that the real lessons of SimCity are much more subtle than teaching people how to be good mayors. But the oil company hoped they could use it to teach any other lessons on their agenda just by plugging in a new set of graphics, a few rules, and a bunch of disasters.

    And there was the X-Terminal vendor who wanted to adapt the simulator in SimCity into a game called "Sim MIS", that they would distribute for free to Managers of Information Systems, whose job it is to decide what hardware to buy! The idea was that the poor overworked MIS would have fun playing this game in which they could build networks with PCs, X-Terminals, and servers (instead of roads with residential, commercial, and industrial buildings), that had disasters like "viruses" infecting the network of PC's, and "upgrades" forcing you to reinstall Windows on every PC, and business charts that would graphically highlight the high maintanence cost of PCs versus X-Terminals. Their idea was to use a fun game to subtly influence people into buying their product, by making them lose if they didn't. Unlike the oil company, they certainly realized the potential to exploit the indirect ways in which a game like SimCity can influence the user's mind, but they had no grip on the concept of subtlety or game design.

    Continued in context at:
    http://www.catalog.com/hopkins/simcity/WillWright. html [catalog.com]]

  • by Erasmus Darwin ( 183180 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:46AM (#461375)
    Trade usually benefits both, if you don't trade, you won't win.

    Ultimately, the trade only benefits the winner. As such, it's still a zero-sum game. However, it's still an interesting game and certainly qualifies in the category of "games where you scheme, trade, manipulate, negotiate, etc.", which (to me) are more interesting than something "straight-forward" like checkers. You really can't say, "If you don't jump me, I'll make it worth your while latter on."

    Monopoly used to be my favorite of these games. It's popular enough that it's easier to find players, but to really do well, you need to cook up a series of trades that're superficially beneficial to your trading partners but ultimately much more beneficial to you.

    Of course, after I repeatedly kicked ass and took names, all the other players wised up and started refusing to trade with me under any and all circumstances, which more or less made the game pointless.

  • by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:24AM (#461406)
    Don't confuse "Prisoner's Dilemma" with "Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma." Although the rules are very similar, the strategies are quite different. In a true Prisoner's Dilemma, it's one round only, so if you lose you have no chance for retaliation--there is no tit-for-tat.

    Prisoner's Dilemma and Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma are both interesting in their own ways, so there's a lot written about both.

  • by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @11:31AM (#461407)
    Does this include the rule that all rules are subject to change? Because if it does, then you could make is so that not all rules are subject to change....

    Yes, it does, and yes, you're absolutely right, the game could change so that in the future it's no longer true that all the rules are changeable. Nomic could turn into a game of chess, even.

    It's related to an interesting philosophical question: can an omnipotent being revoke his own omnipotence? That is, is he condemned to remain "omnipotent" forever, in which case he is not truly omnipotent? Or can he will himself to no longer be omnipotent--in which case, perhaps he truly is omnipotent at the moment, but there is no guarantee he will be so in the future.

    If you're interested in this sort of question, I recommend The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Law, Logic, Omnipotence, and Change [earlham.edu] by Peter Suber, inventor of Nomic.

  • by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:03AM (#461408)
    See Nomic [nomic.net], a game about changing the Rules. Actually, Nomic typically begins as a zero-sum game (the stated goal is to reach a certain number of points), but since the rules can be changed, it often develops into a non-zero sum game.

    Agora [dfw.net], one of the longest running nomics on the net, has had for long periods of its history no defined way to win the game at all. (Currently, it does, but most of its players seem supremely unconcerned about winning the game.)

    (Note: if you've played other rule-changing games, Nomic is different from most of them in a subtle way. Most rule-changing games have a central unchangeable core of rules, which typically include the rules about how other rules are changed. In Nomic, all the rules, including those about how the rules are changed, are subject to change.)

  • by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:19AM (#461409)
    I've seen a lot of posts here by people who are apparently confused about the meaning of zero-sum. "Basketball isn't zero-sum," they say, "because the sum of both team's points is not zero." Or "Diplomacy isn't zero-sum, because players can cooperate and help each other out."

    Neither is correct. A zero-sum game is one where an improvement in the standing (which I'll deliberately leave vague, but you can think of it as "chance to win") of one player necessarily results in a worsening of the standing of another player. Even though, when one team scores two points in basketball, the other team does not lose two points, it is still zero-sum because that score reduces the chances of the other team. And even though two players can cooperate in Diplomacy to improve the position of both, they can do so only at the cost of another player.

    OTOH, all those people pointing out that RPGs are non-zero sum are entirely correct. It is possible to perform actions which improve the position of all players in the game simultaneously. Even if you count the gamemaster as a player, it's still non-zero sum. The gamemaster's ultimate goal is neither coincident with the players' (if, above all else, he wanted the players to reach their goal, he could make it insanely easy for them to do so) nor opposed to it (if he wanted to stop them from achieving their goal, he could do that as well). The gamemaster's goal is to create an interesting game, and that is neither directly coincident with nor directly opposed to the players' goal.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:36AM (#461413) Journal
    Karma whoring (karma, um, competition for the little ones) is a great noncompetitive game. Think about it:

    - gaining karma doesn't hurt others
    - moderators increase your karma if your story amuses them, and only reduce it if it annoys them - so nobody is happy to make you lose
    - you can always try again if you reach +50 or get bitchslapped
    - anyone can play! it's free and fun for the whole family!

    I challenge The Community to come up with something better...

  • by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrio@nOspAm.yahoo.com> on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:34AM (#461426) Homepage Journal
    I know it's not a video game, but I always cite it in discussions like this. It's totally cooperative; everyone playing wants to help everyone else who is playing keep the sack in the air. If there is an opponent, it's the floor- and once beaten, the game simply begins again. This is a positive-sum game.


  • by patco15 ( 213842 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @12:16PM (#461446)

    I am an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin. Last semester, the students in my econ class (intermediate microeconomic theory) were given the oppertunity to participate in a "research study." We were told that we would play a network based game against (with?) other players, and we could earn as much as $40 based on our and others good economic decisions.

    Needing beer money, I thought 'what the hell'. They'd give me $5 just for showing up, so I went. There were spots for 40 people to participate. We had our pictures taken with a digital camera, and were assigned to computers.

    The game itself was web-based. The rules were simple. The game was divided into 40 rounds; and every 8 rounds you were placed onto a new "team" of 5. In each round, each player had 20 units to "invest" and all 20 units needed to be invested. There were two possible investments, red and blue. The red investment always paid you 2 cents per unit and the blue investment always paid 1 cent per unit to every player on your team.

    Before you choose your investment for a given round, you could see the faces of your teammates. Also, unless it was the first round of a given team, you could see how much each teammate had invested in blue (either 0-15 or 16+, not the exact amount) the previous round.

    If everyone on all of your teams cooporated (blue investment) throughout the game, you'd all make $40 over the game. Of course, the dominant stratgey for any particular round is to invest all of your money in red (regardless of what your team mates do, you're better off). If, through out the entire game, your team mates choose all blue, but you always choose red, you could make $48. Investing in red, however, gives you're team mates the impression that you're 'screwing' them (profiting off their blue investment, but not returning the favor).

    At the end of the round, you could see who had invested in blue (same as before, not the exact amount) and how much you had earned during the round.

    It was a really interesting experiment for a few reasons. I was suprised how easily everyone co-operated during the start of the game. As the rounds went by, though, co-operation became increasing unlikely. It was also interesting that you couldn't see the exact amount anyone invested, just if they put more than 16 in blue. This probably led to players investing 'just enough' (16) to appear that they were 'team players'.

    Also, we were not allowed to talk at all during the experiment. We were seperated into neighboring computer labs, so only half of the players were in the same room. The only way to identify your teammates was the little digital camera picture on the screen. Even with that little information, I began to form opinions about the various other players as the game progressed. It was interesting to remember someone who "screwed me" by taking advantage of my good faith blue investment and investing red. As players I recoginzed showed up on my later teams, I found myself trying to screw them on the assumption that they wouldn't be helping me anyway.

    All in all, a very interesting hour. I did all right, made it away with about $33 (enought for beer and then some), so it was worth the time.

  • by Rudeboy777 ( 214749 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:14AM (#461449)
    Remember this one from the old Calvin & Hobbes strips? I've never known a less zero-sum game in my life! The only rule is that there are no rules. Doesn't have to be strictly for children either, I think I'll go play a game right now with my beanie babies residing on top of my monitor.
  • Games like Apples to Apples [otb-games.com] and most trivia games are not zero-sum. Yes, there is a winner, but there aren't really losers, just people who failed to win.

    BTW, if you haven't played Apples to Apples, you have missed a treat. You can get it here [gamesandgizmos.com] (at my favorite online games store - Games and Gizmos [gamesandgizmos.com], or at many other locations.

    One more quick game review - if you haven't seen the card game Once Upon a Time [gamereport.com], you are missing another great game - and one that's good for children as well as adults.
  • by tethal91 ( 263165 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @08:56AM (#461520) Homepage
    Sim-city, sim-tower, etc are good computer-based games that do not focus on beating someone, but rather developing for 'the greater good.' Lots of puzzle solving games exists on and off the computer as well. But, if you want any kind of game with a winner, you will necessarily have losers.
  • by PhilipMckrack ( 311145 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @09:05AM (#461557)
    Our current favorite is drinking yahtzee. My vote is still in on drinking twister, but I don't think it will fly with them. And would a drinking game be considered non-zero-sum if there is plenty of beer and zero-sum if there is a limited supply?
  • by coliva ( 311680 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @08:56AM (#461564)
    Sim City is a good example of a non-zero sum game. The idea is to build something new, not defeat others.
  • by Yoshi Have Big Tail ( 312184 ) on Friday February 02, 2001 @08:59AM (#461569)
    I'm sorry if I'm a traditionalist, but aren't games about having fun?

    Why do they have to teach us about zero sum?

    They shouldn't teach us anything.

    I think that's the most important lesson. Games are about escapism - tell your kids that the best thing to do in life is to go out and enjoy it, and they'll be doing pretty well. If you stopped trying to teach them things they'd be a lot happier.

    Think like that.

    Don't try and take the fun out of it for them. Kids who grow up thinking about game theory and who are taught that life is depressing and unfair (non-zero) will not be happy.

    Just play cards with them.

    Read them a book.

    Take them to the movies - anything but depressing games.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.