Communing With Code

Communing With Code

The phrase in the title was applied to computer games by a friend of mine. As in, "You're not playing a game, you're communing with code."

I'm not going to say that computer games, or even solitaire, aren't games. They have rules and win conditions. Nevertheless, they are also in a very real sense algorithmically driven - even if randomized - puzzles without the variability or stakes or psychology that having a human opponent brings to the table. As I noted in my last post re: Battletech gripes, the limited ability of an AI to make decisions as the number of variables increases means that computer game designers often have to cheat when putting "bots" up against humans. This often involves outnumbering, or flat out skewing hit probabilities.

Sure, I know, we have AIs that beat humans, even masters of the game, at Chess and Go. These were also brute force victories, calculating the possible results of every possible future move, with some extremely clever weighing of the odds - and one-trick ponies. A human chess master would have a far easier time learning how to hand me my ass at Battletech, board or PC version, than getting someone to program Deep Blue or it's successors for the greater variability in moves and objectives and strategic goals.

Nevertheless, playing against an AI can be fun - Combat Mission has some very good scenarios relying on both the AI and scripted events to give players a reasonable challenge, at least on the first time through when the enemy disposition isn't known. It can also teach fundamentals and highlight basic errors (Always provide cover fire. Don't shoot through your own forces for you will often shoot through them in unwelcome ways) and provide an opportunity to work out timing and execution. Arcade games and platformers can be fun to play, and interesting puzzles to solve, with a dash, more or less, depending on the game, of dexterity required.

But it's not quite the same as playing another person, and the dimension that adds. Never mind the human connection.

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