Game analysis pt 2 – Analysing simple and complex games

A central interest in this project on game analysis concerns philosophy, and how good philosophy can get promoted. In order for this it can be relevant to reflect on how it works within other games. We will investigate games in general and examples of various games, and after this “practice” we can deal more with “game of philosophy” later on. In order to comprehend a complex game, it can be helpful to see how it works within simpler games.
The approach has similarities with the approach in Plato’s dialogue The Republic, where Socrates tries to find out what makes a just man.

Measurable aspects and ranking within games

Participants within a game can be ranked in different ways, for example:
*who is best/most skilful
*who is the most famous
*who is the most popular
*who has the highest official ranking
*who earns the most money
*who has been given the best practice

In many games we may assume that there is a close correlation between these different aspects. Consider for example a contest in long jumping. We may assume that the one who leaps furthest is the best long jumper. By winning the competition he also gets the most prize money, which makes him earn the most. His name is written on the headlines which makes him famous, and as a winner he is likely to hold the highest status among fans and other jumpers. Since he is recognized as the best long jumper we may assume that he is offered the best practice by the best coach.

Within other games though, there is no clear correlation between the different aspects. I.e. Take a look at the game of politics. Here one can expect that the best politician also should be the one highest in rank. Though looking at history, most would agree that this hasn’t always been the case. Consider Adolf Hitler, he was famous politician and top ranked in his country, but was he the best? Most would reply ”no” to that question. Thus we have a lack of correlation.

One can point out that it is easier to determine who is the better long jumper, than who is the better politician. The long jumper has a clear goal, which is always the same, and easy to measure. For a politician it is different, the methods may be different, the conditions always changing, a short term success may lead to a long term failure etc – and there is no simple measurement. We make the conclusion that politics is a more complex game than long jump.

Examples of how one can analyse simple and more complex games

1. Who is tallest
This is easily determined by measurement from head to toe.

2. Who jumps furthest
This is also a simple measurement, however there are sources of error that may cause the one who is best to not always get full recognition. In order to be recognized as best in long jump it is only official contests that counts. The one who jumps further when no one is watching gets no recognition. During a contest the measurement is always from the same point. The one who takes off before that point will have to subtract that from the total length, and the one who treads will not have his jump counted. However these are minor sources of error.

3. Who is the better soccer player
Who is tallest, and who jumps furthest, is easy to measure, and can be documented in Guinness book of world records. But you cannot read who is the greatest soccer player in this book. Why? One can claim that who jumps furthest is possible to measure objectively, while who is the best football player is only a subjective judgement. Yet, there are objective goals within football. The goal is to make goals, and to not let in any goals. Or in the larger perspective; the goal is to win games, win championships etc. This applies for teams though, and nothing that is achieved by individual players.

The skill of a soccer player may be judged in two criteria, skill offensively and skill defensively. To what extent the player helps to produce goals forward and to what extent he prevents goals from being let in back. We may imagine an appraisal of these two criteria gives us a ratio that tells us how skilful the player is. Since the goalkeeper has the most important position, with the special privilege to touch the ball with his hands, it is probable that he will receive the highest ratio. In order to avoid the conclusion that this makes the goalkeeper the best player, it is reasonable to judge the ratio in comparison with competitors in corresponding position. The goalkeeper may be assessed in relation to an average goalkeeper ratio, and the outfield players may be assessed in relation to an average outfield player ratio (which may be further divided into different ratios for different positions in the field).
Also further criteria may be added; for example if the player is able to put an extra effort in more important games; if he has a tendency to fail when it really matters; if he plays good consistently; if he has potential of getting better, etc. This may sound complicated, but coaches and agents have pretty good grasp of this (though they may rely more on their instinct rather than careful calculation of ratio’s).

In conclusion, we may say that it is sure possible to distinguish between better and worse soccer players. Further on we may add that the ones who are best at soccer, usually gets recognized for being the best. Even though certain approximation has to be made which may result in somewhat deviant judgements. We may not agree fully on that Messi is the greatest soccer player, but at least we can agree that he is among the better.

4. Who is the better musician or what is the best piece of music
What distinguishes this category from the above three, is that music is a game where there is no clearly set goal. There is no simple way of measuring who is the better. Yet we agree that one can distinguish a better artist from a worse artist. We agree that a famous concert pianist is a better musician than the completely uninterested teenager who was forced by her mother to take piano lessons.

There are several technical ways of measuring who is the better and who is the worse musician. A singer may be measured according too “pitch”, and how high or how low tones he can sing. However most people would would agree on that pitch and capacity to sing high and low tones, isn’t all what determines the better singer. One may also speak of more vague aspects such as “feeling”.
We may assume that who is the better artist is determined by subjective preferences. But even then there are many possible alternatives on how to measure subjective preferences objectively. For example:
*What music gets most attention or listeners? In this case we can measure who has sold the most CD’s, who gathers the largest audience at concert, or who has the most views on YouTube. For example, Justin Bieber’s song “Baby”, has over 700 million views on YouTube and would thus be a hot candidate.
*What music gets the most positive reviews. Here we may note that Bieber’s song Baby has more than 70% dislikes on YouTube, while for example Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven has less than 2% dislikes.
*What music would people prefer to listen to, if they knew the alternatives.
*What music is best according to “experts”.
*What music evokes the most sublime feelings.
*What music makes people become most non-violent.
(last two aspects are more difficult to measure objectively)

The problem doesn’t seem to be that it’s not possible to measure who is better and who is worse within music. The problem seems to be that there are so many possible ways of measuring it.


About Dandre

Former student of philosophy, maths and literature. Now studying master program in sociology. Some thinkers of central interest include Ludwig Wittgenstein, C. G. Jung and Pierre Bourdieu.
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