PHASEgaming

Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Chess- Game Theory

 

Moving onto board games I played Chess. Chess is a two player strategy board game in which the objective is use your pieces to attack the opponent with the goal of placed the opponents king in checkmate. Check mate is when the king is in a position where it cannot be moved into a safe place or blocked by any other piece, you can put the king in ‘check’ at any point but its only check mate if the check cannot be stopped.

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to Chess as the tactical board game requires alot of planning, tactics and intelligence to dominate the board. In a game where both opponents are highly skilled that is when flow occurs, chess will always vary in the flow chart purely dependent on the opponents skill level. If the opponent or yourself is a beginner to the game and is unaware of the rules of the game and the individual piece rules then the requirement to teach them to play will have you or your opponent relaxed until they improve their abilities. My experience in chess is high as I have played it majority of my life and actually won a chess club tournament a few times at junior school, so when I came up against Brad who claimed to be also highly skilled in chess due to his strategies in the game it induced flow, this turned into control mid way through as he unknowingly was forced into a mistake costing him his queen and from that point I never let up and won. Flow continued into my next opponent which was my tutor Paul who is a experienced chess player, this was a much closer game but I eventually got him in check mate.

flow

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Chess would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, in Chess it is a 2 player game so you are competing against the other player at all times wanting to be more strategic than them to win the game.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, Chess can fall into chance dependent on if the opponent makes a mistake in the game. Rules of Chess state that one you have let go of your piece if its been moved that is the end of your turn, so if someone makes a move lets go then realises the mistake its too late. So chance can play a part but personally id say its all technical ability.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being strategy based board game is more an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win, in chess your aim is to place the opponent in check mate or force them into forfeit on impending defeat.

Killer can also apply, Chess is a strategy game to simulate a war field its your army of pieces against your opponents on a battlefield, the way to win is to be the more strategic player by defeating your opponents pieces then eventually the king. By taking an opponents piece to attack their ranks is an offensive strategy a killer would employ.

Socialiser can also apply due to the game being a 2 player activity. Chess is now also a sport hosting big tournaments and a world championship so social presence comes into it if you go professional, otherwise its a social experience between you and another player if challenged to a game of chess.

Chess for me immerses you in the chessboard, even when its not your turn your constantly thinking a few steps ahead planning how you can take your opponent down with various strategies. Personally I like to use my line of pawns as a line of defense but due to the movement of the Jacks and Knights they are available to get out from behind the line of pawns if I should so chose, this allows an offensive but still defensive method of play. I find chess mentally simulating as it tests me and my intelligence in one versus one basis through strategies, this passion for chess and being a constant game in my life since being young has had an effect on other games I enjoy today, like Sid Meier’s Civilisation series.

 


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Tetris- Game Theory

Tetris is a puzzle game originally designed and programmed in Russia by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, since then this has been a hugely successful game franchise spanning across most platforms.

To apply Game Theory I had to play Tetris and then make an analysis on its features and how you can apply game theory to the game.

 

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to tetris as the seemingly endless puzzle game requires the player to deal with each incoming block, the blocks vary in shape on a random basis and the goal on the game is to create as many ‘lines’ as possible to gain score and ultimately last longer. As the game progresses the longer you last the harder it gets, the blocks come down with more speed in each level requiring quick reactions and in some cases sacrifices to leave a gap in your lines in order to make a new line. Due to this focus at all times is a must to achieve anything in this game.

flow

Personally I can see Tetris being a game version of the flow diagram, in Csikzentmihalyi’s flow diagram (see above) you are determined in different states whilst playing a game dependent on challenge and skill level. With Tetris it starts really easy and slow so you get a grip of the game (relaxed) then as you progress through the challenge level increases slowly so you will gradually go through control into flow where you are so focused on the game whilst glancing at upcoming pieces to plot your next move. Then as it goes further it will ultimately get too hard for any player and create anxiety to then make the player fail and lose.

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Tetris would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, with Tetris you are playing to achieve as many lines as possible which will make you play for longer and have a high score. The replayability to make this a competition with others includes leader boards and also trying to beat your own personal best. An example of Agon would be when we was asked to play free online PC games to later analyse through game theory and in teams of 4 we was to also play against each other for score then rank through score before moving onto the next game.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, with Tetris the randomly generated shapes that the game presents you with is that chance, you could be waiting for a long time stacking up shapes on all sides for that long line piece so you get a combo of lines but it may never come and you ultimately reach the top with shapes and lose. So chance has a part to play with piece randomisation being kind or not to how you set up your blocks.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being puzzle based and score based would appeal more to an ‘achiever’ style of player rather than the others due to the achiever always wants to win, or reach that high score before anyone else so with Tetris and the points systems through collecting lines and survival of rounds will appeal much more to an achiever.

To give a personal experience of Tetris to apply to game theory, I have played Tetris nearly all my life from my Game Boy to on my phone to on my PC at school. Tetris has always been a game that has kept me engaged, switched on and immersed. No matter how well I do on my last play I always want to play again to beat my best score, this game has an addictive nature about it due to the complexity of the puzzles and feeling that “what if” whilst playing, what if that square shape had come down or that line piece I may have beaten my high score due to the line combo score it would have given me. That feature of the game will always have me coming back for more to try out achieve myself.

Tests from Dr Richard Haier suggest that by playing Tetris you are increasing your brain’s efficiency and have a thicker cortex. This research was determined by monitoring brain activity whilst subjects played the game, the images showed improved brain results. Here is the document.

Here is a humorous video titled “The Tetris God” by CollegeHumor claiming that there is an evil tetris god that calls out the shapes into the game to purposely torture players waiting for that one piece to get a high score of lines and progress: