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Games Science

The Science of Game Strategy 136

First time accepted submitter JacobAlexander writes "Writing in PNAS, a University of Manchester physicist has discovered that some games are simply impossible to fully learn, or too complex for the human mind to understand. Dr Tobias Galla from The University of Manchester and Professor Doyne Farmer from Oxford University and the Santa Fe Institute, ran thousands of simulations of two-player games to see how human behavior affects their decision-making. From the article: 'In simple games with a small number of moves, such as Noughts and Crosses the optimal strategy is easy to guess, and the game quickly becomes uninteresting. However, when games became more complex and when there are a lot of moves, such as in chess, the board game Go or complex card games, the academics argue that players' actions become less rational and that it is hard to find optimal strategies.'"
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The Science of Game Strategy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:39PM (#42583903)

    Isn't that the whole point?

  • by DaemonDan ( 2773445 ) <dan@demonarchives.com> on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:42PM (#42583945) Homepage
    Not being able to "solve" games like chess like you can with Tic-Tac-Toe (http://xkcd.com/832/) is what makes them fun and playable. Otherwise it quickly gets boring. It's also why it isn't always as fun to play against the computer on really high levels. They can cheat and solve the next bajillion moves.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:47PM (#42584005) Journal

    I'm pretty sure that the optimal strategy with Magic is just to wait until Wizards of the Coast is feeling a bit pinched and decides to release a new, more powerful, bunch of cards that you just can't stay competitive without buying and then go buy those...

  • by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:48PM (#42584015)
    I think it is a matter of taste, but a game that purposely allows for unfair circumstances based on the cards you own or not does not seem to be a good game for me. I am also not very found of the idea that complex (and in Magic's case Encyclopedic) rules are a good thing for a game.

    Great games, in my opinion, would be Chess or Go, for example. Games that have incredibly simple rules and still lead to incredibly complex situations and strategies.
  • Makes sense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:49PM (#42584027)

    That's why they're fun. With a solvable game, you play the game. With an unsolvable game, you play the player.

    Of course, it's a lot less fun once you're playing the stock market or global thermonuclear war, but no less rewarding.
    And of course of course, they're neglecting that any attempt at predicting the behavior of a market will affect the behavior of that market such that the predictions no longer hold true.

    Kudos to anyone who can pull off the ultimate hack: invest your money based on your -unpublished- theory of how the market will respond the theory that you ARE about to publish.

  • by gauauu ( 649169 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:50PM (#42584041)

    As in Magic the Gathering? The card game with 12,000+ individual cards? In my honest opinion, it's the greatest game ever made.

    In my opinion, any game where a higher budget gives players more strategic options, is immediately disqualified from being the "greatest game ever made." I might be able to play the game with a $10 investment in a starter pack, but I will lose 100% of the time against players with a bigger budget, no matter what my skill level is.

    That's great in terms of profit for the game producer, but pretty weak in terms of actual gameplay.

    (That's not to say I don't think Magic is a decent game. It is. But the collectible nature weakens the game in terms of pure gameplay.)

  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @02:54PM (#42584077)

    Well, M:tG has both 'resource complexity', there are a vast number of possible cards you can play with and they do an equally vast number of slightly different things, and it also has what you are calling 'strategic' (though I would say most of these games have strategy AND tactics) complexity. That is even if you play the same 2 M:tG decks against each other many many times the players are likely to be able to make a number of different tactical choices in each game. Actually I think the tactical depth and strategic depth of chess are a good bit higher than with M:tG, but its a fairly complex game with a huge number of setup options (IE how you make your deck). The tactical consequences of a move or the strategic consequences of learning certain lines or aspects of the game in chess are however more significant than the individual moves in M:tG, which can often be quite insignificant.

    Go of course occupies the uttermost extreme in terms of being utterly simple in form and yet so immensely complex in both strategic and tactical depth that no software yet written even approaches the better human players.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler