A recreational pastime where players must compete for fun and/or challenging tasks while following a certain set of rules. Historically used to describe sports events and other meatspace activities, since the 1970s it also encompasses purely computer-based games.
Electronic and Computer Games
Computer games may feature art, graphics, animations, cinematic sequences, music, sound-effects, and often also a plot. This differentiates them from more traditional games, in that as well as the “open” rules systems, they also include intellectual property. For this reason games are made and sold for profit and have become a multi-million dollar industry.
Pong from Atari was the first mainstream computer game released in 1972 and soon after in 1975 they started entering homes. Early computer games were often just text based, and rarely had a pause feature or the ability to load and save games. By the early to mid 80’s, with the expanding processor graphical capacity games spread on the handheld devies, the major computer platforms and into pinball arcades and local malls and shops. Very early hits included Pacman, Pitfall, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Legends of Zelda, Tetris, Frogger, Elevator Action, 1942 and Robotron. Now the number of gaming platforms and emulators is vast and the electronic gaming community is huge.
Crackers and cheaters can break the rules of computer games, for example by allowing a player to look through walls or have an infinite amount of health. Technically, such modifications are now illegal under the DMCA.
A zero-sum game is one which the winner receives a fixed, finite amount, while a loser goes without an equivalent and corresponding quantity. In such a game, the more one player or group of players has, the less others have. A zero-sum game can only have one winner and one loser. Collaboration is against the rules in a zero-sum game. Once collaboration occurs then the game is over.
Modern science has revealed that access to physical things is a zerosum game. Plainly this is the the case when it comes to the quantity of physical objects such as food and water but not information or knowledge which can be reproduced unlimited at marginal cost. The economic consequences of a communities interdependence on its environment for sustainabilty and the idea that life on Earth is approximate to a zero-sum game has failed to gain political momentum.
The term game also refers to an abstract theoretical construct within the context of game theory.
In game theory terms, a game is a formalized incentive structure governing the interaction of two or more agents (“players”). Zero-sum games are a class of such games.
The classic example of a non-zero sum game in game theory terms is the prisoner’s dilemma. Two players participate in this game. They each independently make a choice from one of two options, to defect or to cooperate. Each player’s score then depends not only on how the one player chooses, but also on how the other player chooses.
The highest indvidual score is obtained when a player defects but the other player cooperates. Conversely, the lowest individual score is obtained when a player cooperates, but the other player defects. Therefore, a player considering only the individual score has a strong incentive to defect and a strong disincentive to cooperate.
Yet, if both players defect, neither obtains the high possible individual score, since the highest individual score requires cooperation from the other player while the first player is defecting. In the case of mutual defection, an intermediate score is obtained by each.
Finally, if both players cooperate, each gets neither the highest possible score (which requires one defection), but neither do each get the lowest score.
Again, in this case, each gets an intermediate score, higher than that for mutual defection, but lower than that for being the only defector. The key to the Prisonner’s Dilemma, however, is that the cumulative score is highest among all outcomes for mutualcooperation. There is no optimal strategy for playing a single round of the Prisonner’s Dilemma. However, if multiple rounds of the game are played among the same participants, they can learn how the other player will play, and can adopt the tit for tat strategy, in which each player makes the move that the other player made in the previous round.
Another non-zero sum game is the so-called dollar auction. This requires at least three participants, but can in principle have more. There is a single auctioneer who offers a dollar for sale to the highest bidder, with the condition that the winning bidder will receive the dollar, but that the auctioneer will collect both the highest and the second highest bids. Bidding begins low, at, say, a penny.
In this game, each player has an incentive to play because they can, if successful before the bidding goes above a dollar, get a dollar for less than a dollar bid. The auctioneer has an incentive to play because two sub-dollar bids collected garners more than a dollar’s worth of income. Each player, once playing, has an incentive to continue bidding to avoid become the second-highest bidder, who loses his entire bid and gainsnothing.
The dollar auction is a model for exploring exit strategies in the case of increasingly diminishing returns in situations in which one has an investment that would be stranded by the exit. Such dilemmas are characterized by aphorisms like “throwing good money after bad” or “sticking with the devil you know”.
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