Games Give Us “A Peek At Something Infinite”
Interesting insights on the nature and appeal of games:
“What is it about games that draw people in? According to psychologist Alison Gopnik, it’s because the best games place us right into a sweet spot in the interaction between two poles—structure and creativity. Sometimes, structure stifles creativity. That’s why Tic-Tac-Toe gets so boring so quickly—because there’s no space for imagination.But for the most dynamic games, the rules can actually enhance our ability to be creative.
One of my favorite examples comes in a podcast from WNYC’s Radiolab, where co-hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich interview chess expert Fred Friedel. Friedel wrote a computer program listing every chess move that has ever been played in any tournament. It’s called ‘Fritz.’
Now, whenever you play a game of chess, your first move has probably been done millions of times. After all, just about everyone starts with one of their pawns moving forward. But as the game progresses, the number of previous times a board position has occurred gets fewer and fewer and fewer. It goes from the millions to the thousands to the hundreds to the tens to the single digits.
Eventually, there comes a moment in the game that has never happened in tournament history. As Friedel describes it, the board is ‘in a position that has never occurred in the universe.’ And when the game gets to that moment, as Abumrad and Krulwich tell us, it feels like ‘you get a peek at something infinite.’” Read more here.
I’ve confessed before that I really don’t like games—they seem like pointless time-wasters to me. Readers have been helping me understand why games are useful and yes, fun! This article goes some way for me toward explaining games’ appeal—but still, I feel I’m missing the game gene. How about you? Do you love games, or can you live without them?