Game optimization
Posted by aogThursday, 24 April 2003 at 13:25 TrackBack Ping URL
I was shopping for a birthday present for a classmate of Boy One the other day and a number of the items on the list had to do with Yu Gi Oh, a trading card game. Part of the paraphenalia were guide books that contained reams of statistics and probability analysises. I thought to myself, “this is intended for pre-teen boys?”. I certainly don't remember devoting that kind of effort to mastering the optimal strategies for my childhood games. When I was older, in high school, and playing combat simulation board games I would read that kind of thing. But that marked me as a geek, sometimes even among my fellow gamers. But now Joe Average pre-teen kid is reading about how to weigh the probabilities of multi-card combos. I find this significant, because the attitude required to appreciate that is the same as that which makes our troops so capable in the field — given a particular situation and a set of rules, how can I maximize my odds of success, both by preparing properly and adapting my strategy?

These kids are also being taught about the meta-game which is also fundamental to a 21st century military or indeed any organization. For most of these trading card games (which are very popular) one must construct a playing deck. This is very different from previous card games where everyone has the same set of potential hands. With playing decks the opponents may well have no cards in common at all. So selecting the set of cards to play with is a key part of success. The meta-game is that superior playing decks depend on the playing decks of the other players. One can win with a technically inferior deck if it exploits a weakness the dominant style of deck. Of course if such a deck starts winning the other players will adapt. This constant shifting of the “best” style of deck is the meta-game. To succeed one must

  • Be aware of what decks styles are popular
  • Be able to develop and play counter strategies to popular deck styles
  • Be willing to abandon one's preferred style if someone else develops a counter
What a very interesting set of principles to be teaching.