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Subject: Classic versus modern games rss

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Jeff Johnson
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Si Fei wrote:
I think the popularity of chess is purely historical. I also think that the popularity of Western (or International) Chess is purely political/historical.

There are technically better (i.e. not having problems that chess has) systems out there, but they do not have that big a following. You can find chess players nearly everywhere. You can find go players everywhere in East Asia. You can find xiangqi players everywhere in China, changgi players in Korea, shogi players in Japan.
Try to do that with any other abstract.

Purely historical. And the circle is impossible to break now. (And also unnecessary, since chess is not a bad game and replacing it is not necessary. It is well possible to also play other abstracts, some even have quite a following. No need to kill the chess scene.)

(I have zero interest in chess).

I think it's silly to say that the popularity of chess is strictly historical. History isn't necessarily kind to the vast majority of games. Something made chess spread from India through Arabia to Europe, and then most of the world. I think it's the incredible richness of strategy and tactics.

The massive popularity of soccer, on the other hand, is mostly historical. I prefer every other football code - American, Australian, Canadian, Gaelic, Rugby Union, Rugby League. Well, maybe not League.
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christian freeling
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TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
The massive popularity of soccer, on the other hand, is mostly historical.
Or maybe it is because they did apply rule innovations
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TPoG
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Buckersuk wrote:
I think Toğızqumalaq could probably be realistically seen as a 'sport weapon'.
For sure it could. And Toğızqumalaq is used as such in several Asian countries where it has replaced (or at least rival) Chess - as far as I understand partly due to neo-nationalistic movements torwards original pre-Soviet-era cultural values in former Soviet states such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan.
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However, I still find more depth in Go and the three big chess games.
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Bill Cook
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I suspect there are more people playing any one of the big traditional abstract games than the number playing all modern abstract games combined. We can either assume that these millions and millions of people are idiots only playing these games because people 100 years ago played them, or we can assume that these games are popular because people like to play them.

EDIT - Side note, based on a SUSD list of books for boardgamers, I just got "The Player of Games" to read. Hope it's good.
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Nick Bentley
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EMBison wrote:
I suspect there are more people playing any one of the big traditional abstract games than the number playing all modern abstract games combined. We can either assume that these millions and millions of people are idiots only playing these games because people 100 years ago played them, or we can assume that these games are popular because people like to play them.

I don't think anyone here is arguing any of the big traditional abstracts are bad games. For my part, I think they're *great* games. But I also suspect we can do better still.
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Andy Leighton
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TheGodsMustBeCrazy wrote:
Si Fei wrote:
I think the popularity of chess is purely historical. I also think that the popularity of Western (or International) Chess is purely political/historical.

There are technically better (i.e. not having problems that chess has) systems out there, but they do not have that big a following. You can find chess players nearly everywhere. You can find go players everywhere in East Asia. You can find xiangqi players everywhere in China, changgi players in Korea, shogi players in Japan.
Try to do that with any other abstract.

Purely historical. And the circle is impossible to break now. (And also unnecessary, since chess is not a bad game and replacing it is not necessary. It is well possible to also play other abstracts, some even have quite a following. No need to kill the chess scene.)

(I have zero interest in chess).

I think it's silly to say that the popularity of chess is strictly historical. History isn't necessarily kind to the vast majority of games. Something made chess spread from India through Arabia to Europe, and then most of the world. I think it's the incredible richness of strategy and tactics.

Although it spread before all the tweaks that make it the game it is today. Queens could only move one space diagonally. Bishops, two spaces but could also jump pieces.

I am not sure that Chess is as good with weaker queens and bishops. Also at that time it wasn't a unified game. There was lots of slight differences.
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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
I've seen a lot of posts on this site comparing advances in board game design to advances in technology. The comparison has never seemed apt. A better comparison would be with other art forms. Music for example. Do we consider that the music of today is notably better than the music of 10 years ago? 100 years ago? 1000 years ago? Or is it just different?
Good point, especially where recreational games are concerned. But 'sport weapons' rely on functionality and that characteristic is recognisable and to a degree measurable. Advances in playing strength may lead to an increased demand for functionality. I think the majority of sports have gone to upgrades and innovations in terms of material. In the case of 'abstract sport weapons' the material is a set of rules. On the one side these rules usually have an air of holiness about them, on the other hand, they're easy adaptable. The difficulty lies in showing the improvement. It's easy to see that a clap-skate beats a regular one. That's why they're now regular. It's less easy to show that Dameo beats Draughts.

I love this question. I often compare games to music so I can hardly deny the point. A couple of out-loud thoughts:

I'd argue our ability to create great music has expanded. The range of sound palettes we can now produce, and our understanding of how our brains process and respond to music, is more refined than ever.

However, whether we actually have created better music is a tough question.

There's a "looking backward" aspect in the judgement of music. Popular music of the day is rarely thought to be as sophisticated or as good as music which was once popular but now considered "classic" or "classical". Yet today's popular music will someday be just that, and in the future we'll have a reverence for it that those who lived through it have a hard time imagining.

I feel this is happening right now with the digital production of music. The production of popular music has become completely divorced from instrumentation and it's caused Cambrian-level explosion in new kinds of sound-production.

I'll bet my boots that someday we'll look back on the pioneers of this period and see some of them as geniuses. We'll see them as having "advanced" music (I have my bets here too). But right now, there's a widespread antagonism for synthetic sounds among people who feel that "proper" music is fundamentally instrumental.

I'm confident about it because the same thing has happened nearly every time there's been some major musical shift. Wide swaths of my grandparent's generation thought the Beatles were morons. My dad still doesn't think hip-hop qualifies as music even as the level of artistry involved has risen to sometimes breathtaking levels.

We're all trapped by our formative thoughts and experiences. This same problem has led to numerous periods in science during which various commentators decided this or that scientific discipline had gone as far as it possibly could. Surely Newton's mechanics are fully correct! They are so perfect! They have so much explanatory power!

This ubiquitous cognitive trap is the reason I'm instinctively, deeply suspicious of claims that our best is behind us. The bias toward thinking this way is so universal, and it has led us astray so many times in so many fields, that I think it's silly to assume that finally, at this time, in this field, things are different.
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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
I'm confident about it because the same thing has happened nearly every time there's been some major musical shift. Wide swaths of my grandparent's generation thought the Beatles were morons. My dad still doesn't think hip-hop qualifies as music even as the level of artistry involved has risen to sometimes breathtaking levels.
This is true, that people often dismiss revolutionary new music and don't appreciate it. New music does new different things, sometimes very well indeed!

But I wouldn't say that hiphop is thereby BETTER than the Beatles, or that the Beatles are BETTER than Bach, etc. To me, there's plenty of great new music and plenty of great old music; new sound/instrument technology or new ideas for singing/etc style enable more diverse new types of music to be made, but it's not clear to me that it enables or ensures better music to be made.
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Nick Bentley
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I'm confident about it because the same thing has happened nearly every time there's been some major musical shift. Wide swaths of my grandparent's generation thought the Beatles were morons. My dad still doesn't think hip-hop qualifies as music even as the level of artistry involved has risen to sometimes breathtaking levels.
This is true, that people often dismiss revolutionary new music and don't appreciate it. New music does new different things, sometimes very well indeed!

But I wouldn't say that hiphop is thereby BETTER than the Beatles, or that the Beatles are BETTER than Bach, etc. To me, there's plenty of great new music and plenty of great old music; new sound/instrument technology or new ideas for singing/etc style enable more diverse new types of music to be made, but it's not clear to me that it enables or ensures better music to be made.

I agree my line of argument here doesn't prove my claim that the best abstract games were invented recently, but I think it should cast suspicion on the opposite belief: that the classical abstracts are the best we can do.

I would also reiterate Christian's assertion that not all the qualities of abstract games for tournament play are as subjective as musical qualities, which leaves open room not just for "unmeasurable" improvements, but measurable ones too.

 
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milomilo122 wrote:
I would also reiterate Christian's assertion that not all the qualities of abstract games for tournament play are as subjective as musical qualities, which leaves open room not just for "unmeasurable" improvements, but measurable ones too.
Agreed; but what objectively measurable improvements are we talking about? As far as I can tell, we're basically talking about avoiding games being drawish at high level play, and we're talking about there being a clear big spread of skill levels and no ability for humans to max out at the top; and Go already does these; certainly no game can be more draw-free than a game which is already draw-free. What other objective measurements exist by which you think games can be measurably better than Go? I guess we could say that a game which has an even deeper harder game tree is measurably deeper, but does that translate to better in any practical sense, or is it wasted depth if no one plumbs that deeply anyway?
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I suspect there are more people playing any one of the big traditional abstract games than the number playing all modern abstract games combined. We can either assume that these millions and millions of people are idiots only playing these games because people 100 years ago played them, or we can assume that these games are popular because people like to play them.

I don't think anyone here is arguing any of the big traditional abstracts are bad games. For my part, I think they're *great* games. But I also suspect we can do better still.
I think we already have.
 
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I would also reiterate Christian's assertion that not all the qualities of abstract games for tournament play are as subjective as musical qualities, which leaves open room not just for "unmeasurable" improvements, but measurable ones too.
Agreed; but what objectively measurable improvements are we talking about? As far as I can tell, we're basically talking about avoiding games being drawish at high level play, and we're talking about there being a clear big spread of skill levels and no ability for humans to max out at the top; and Go already does these; certainly no game can be more draw-free than a game which is already draw-free. What other objective measurements exist by which you think games can be measurably better than Go? I guess we could say that a game which has an even deeper harder game tree is measurably deeper, but does that translate to better in any practical sense, or is it wasted depth if no one plumbs that deeply anyway?

I agree our discussions here are limited. We tend to discuss balance and decisiveness because they're easy to discuss.

I could imagine, however, in the future, consensus possibly building up around other measurable qualities.

For example (I'm not making predictions here but just giving examples), maybe future games players collectively decide that the ideal tournament game should fall in some range of coldness (supported by some convincing argument), which can be measured or at least approximated in various instances.

Or maybe we find ways of predicting how well the human mind can manipulate various visual patterns and we use such measures to evaluate games.

Or maybe we use future AlphaZeros to evaluate the depth of games from the human perspective and discover games that are even deeper than Go for us.

There are lots of things you could imagine measuring, even if we don't do much measuring now.
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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I suspect there are more people playing any one of the big traditional abstract games than the number playing all modern abstract games combined. We can either assume that these millions and millions of people are idiots only playing these games because people 100 years ago played them, or we can assume that these games are popular because people like to play them.

I don't think anyone here is arguing any of the big traditional abstracts are bad games. For my part, I think they're *great* games. But I also suspect we can do better still.
I think we already have.

You know I agree!
 
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I would also reiterate Christian's assertion that not all the qualities of abstract games for tournament play are as subjective as musical qualities, which leaves open room not just for "unmeasurable" improvements, but measurable ones too.
Agreed; but what objectively measurable improvements are we talking about? As far as I can tell, we're basically talking about avoiding games being drawish at high level play, and we're talking about there being a clear big spread of skill levels and no ability for humans to max out at the top; and Go already does these; certainly no game can be more draw-free than a game which is already draw-free. What other objective measurements exist by which you think games can be measurably better than Go? I guess we could say that a game which has an even deeper harder game tree is measurably deeper, but does that translate to better in any practical sense, or is it wasted depth if no one plumbs that deeply anyway?
I agree Go is about everything one could want a territorial abstract strategy game to be. But it has some issues such as cycles and turn order. Although Go 'solves' the cycles issue it can be bothersome, and komi is a rather blunt way to solve the turn order issue, although refinement of the number (AlphaZero comes to mind) apparently makes it fairly correct and allowing halve points makes the game decisive (for those who desperately want it).
What makes the game stand out is its stategic depth, its bewildering range of tactics and the enormous distance it creates between the bottom and the top. Not to mention its sheer beauty.

So I'm not trying to measure up the game. But I would nevertheless like to say that Sygo not only has no cycles, but that the move protocol it uses offers an embedded balancing mechanism that allows a considerable more refined trade off than komi or a pie. Not to mention that the move protocol is innovative in its own right.

So we solve things better sometimes. That the game that offers these solutions lacks the tactical richness of Go is a fact that is not really relevant to that statement.
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I would also reiterate Christian's assertion that not all the qualities of abstract games for tournament play are as subjective as musical qualities, which leaves open room not just for "unmeasurable" improvements, but measurable ones too.
Agreed; but what objectively measurable improvements are we talking about? As far as I can tell, we're basically talking about avoiding games being drawish at high level play, and we're talking about there being a clear big spread of skill levels and no ability for humans to max out at the top; and Go already does these; certainly no game can be more draw-free than a game which is already draw-free. What other objective measurements exist by which you think games can be measurably better than Go? I guess we could say that a game which has an even deeper harder game tree is measurably deeper, but does that translate to better in any practical sense, or is it wasted depth if no one plumbs that deeply anyway?
I agree Go is about everything one could want a territorial abstract strategy game to be. But it has some issues such as cycles and turn order. Although Go 'solves' the cycles issue it can be bothersome, and komi is a rather blunt way to solve the turn order issue, although refinement of the number (AlphaZero comes to mind) apparently makes it fairly correct and allowing halve points makes the game decisive (for those who desperately want it).
What makes the game stand out is its stategic depth, its bewildering range of tactics and the enormous distance it creates between the bottom and the top. Not to mention its sheer beauty.

So I'm not trying to measure up the game. But I would nevertheless like to say that Sygo not only has no cycles, but that the move protocol it uses offers an embedded balancing mechanism that allows a considerable more refined trade off than komi or a pie. Not to mention that the move protocol is innovative in its own right.

So we solve things better sometimes. That the game that offers these solutions lacks the tactical richness of Go is a fact that is not really relevant to that statement.
...except that when Nick said he thought we could "do better" it's not clear to me that solving issues better is an adequate approximation to what he meant. I'd like to hear his answer to that, anyway.

And then, to put you on the spot, what are the five greatest abstract strategy games in human history to date? (Please don't invoke issues of definition. Just give us the five you most wish you'd invented ... or are proudest that you did )
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mocko wrote:

...except that when Nick said he thought we could "do better" it's not clear to me that solving issues better is an adequate approximation to what he meant. I'd like to hear his answer to that, anyway.

You're correct about my intended meaning here, Richard.
 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
So we solve things better sometimes. That the game that offers these solutions lacks the tactical richness of Go is a fact that is not really relevant to that statement.
...except that when Nick said he thought we could "do better" it's not clear to me that solving issues better is an adequate approximation to what he meant. I'd like to hear his answer to that, anyway.
Insofar games are designed to be adequate sport weapons, they will have to fulfil certain criteria, like the material used in any major sport. To achieve that there will be issues to be solved. It's an integral part of any design process.

mocko wrote:
And then, to put you on the spot, what are the five greatest abstract strategy games in human history to date? (Please don't invoke issues of definition. Just give us the five you most wish you'd invented ... or are proudest that you did )
Checkers and Draughts are great games and once they were great sport weapons. But in that capacity Checkers died of old age and Draughts is terminal and in denial of it. Now here's the thing, they are still great games. But as sport weapons they are history. Shogi is great and to me it has a 'ever modern' quality. Very decisive and no questionable turn order issue. XianQi on the other hand is too archaic for my taste. Its quality must be in the playing because it certainly isn't in the structure.

I wish I'd invented Go and Hex and Ayu and Pente maybe and probably a couple of others (Trax, there you are), but most of all Go.

I'm not proud of any game but I commented on the five I consider most significant (for people who consider abstract games significant) in 'Moving forward looking back'.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades. Just as strongly, I believe even better games are yet to come.

This discussion is fascinating. I think Nick is surely right that designers today are able to deliberately home in on whatever it is about game geometries that pleases our brains. Even though they don't know *exactly* what they're doing, as there is no algorithm for producing a good game. It's still trial and error, but a far more directed one than the historic accidents that gave us traditional abstracts.

But what I wonder: Can designers keep improving games in perpetuity? Is the "goodness" scale infinite, or is there some upper bound? If there is, then "better games are yet to come" will stop being true at some point, and some games will be the absolute pinnacle, beyond which you cannot go. And we might as well stop there. But if we ever reach that point, will we ever realize that we're there? Humans are naturally so enamored of the idea that we can do better.

This ties in too with David's point about whether the "goodness" scale is more like technology, or more like art. One feels more likely to be infinite, the other not. The problem is that a game is both art and technology. It's a technology for pleasing our brains.
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christian freeling
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althus wrote:
... and some games will be the absolute pinnacle, beyond which you cannot Go.
Couldn't resist
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christianF wrote:
althus wrote:
... and some games will be the absolute pinnacle, beyond which you cannot Go.
Couldn't resist

You might well be right
 
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althus wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades. Just as strongly, I believe even better games are yet to come.

This discussion is fascinating. I think Nick is surely right that designers today are able to deliberately home in on whatever it is about game geometries that pleases our brains. Even though they don't know *exactly* what they're doing, as there is no algorithm for producing a good game. It's still trial and error, but a far more directed one than the historic accidents that gave us traditional abstracts.

But what I wonder: Can designers keep improving games in perpetuity? Is the "goodness" scale infinite, or is there some upper bound? If there is, then "better games are yet to come" will stop being true at some point, and some games will be the absolute pinnacle, beyond which you cannot go. And we might as well stop there. But if we ever reach that point, will we ever realize that we're there? Humans are naturally so enamored of the idea that we can do better.

This ties in too with David's point about whether the "goodness" scale is more like technology, or more like art. One feels more likely to be infinite, the other not. The problem is that a game is both art and technology. It's a technology for pleasing our brains.

My favorite analogy here is human athletic performance. There are probably firm limits on what a human body can do, and yet there are very few realms of athletic performance curves where we've "topped out".

Such curves tend to be logarithmic over time: performance keeps improving, but increments get smaller and improvement progressively more difficult. I'll bet it's the same here. But instead of "how fast can our legs go?", it's "how much can we light the brain up like a christmas tree?"
 
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christian freeling
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althus wrote:
christianF wrote:
althus wrote:
... and some games will be the absolute pinnacle, beyond which you cannot Go.
Couldn't resist

You might well be right
I think it would be hard to say which is the better 'weapon', Go or Shogi. Or which is richer in strategies or tactics. Or which gives the more pleasure. Or which is more resistant to the test of time (in which Shogi beats Chess). But, all things being equal, Go is organic and almost self explanatory, Shogi is assembled and arbitrary (like all chess variants).
So as a player I might value both equally, but as an inventor I've drifted away from chess variants long ago, in favour of more organic and self explanatory designs. But that may be as much a matter of challenge as it is a matter of taste.
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Bill Cook
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A lot of this discussion presumes that games have a singular innate quality of goodness than can be measured and compared. Personally, I think that ridiculous
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EMBison wrote:
A lot of this discussion presumes that games have a singular innate quality of goodness than can be measured and compared. Personally, I think that ridiculous

I think I understand the point, but basically the game must be "fun" to play.
 
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