a journal of play.

Hiatus:

Sorry to leave everybody in suspense!  I successfully defended my Master’s thesis on Play & Justice in League of Legends in September… and then started a JD/PhD program at Northwestern the next day!  Plus I went to GDC a few weeks ago, and LAZA KNITEZ!! has been released on OUYA!

I’m planning on a major revamp to this website; I’ve been working on Python so I think I’ll be transitioning to Django.  I also have to get a new host—the glacial sloth of this website was one of the main reasons I abandoned it.  Plenty of applications and plans in the works for the rest of the school year; hope to have lots to report on a new website!

Procedural Justice as Procedural Rhetoric

In May, I inadvertently sparked a lengthy conversation about the role of Rawls in game design with 140 characters: “Magic: the Gathering Rawlsian veil of ignorance draft format: draft as normal, all players randomly given a deck at each round of play.”1 It’s hardly a perfect analogue to Rawls’ veil of ignorance: decisions are made by the individuals who are to play the game, not a set of beings endowed with perfect rationality but ignorant of their demographic characteristics that might determine their place in society.  The fiction of outrageously powerful wizards magicking each other to the death is also not a great fit with a thought experiment proposed to create a model of a just society.  Nevertheless, I find the core concept of putting game balance in the hands of players intriguing.  It’s an opportunity for players to express their ideas of fairness; that their conceptions of a just game might turn out to be quite unfair in practice is a fairly valuable fail-state.  Just as Race for the Galaxy is a brilliant exploration of opportunity cost (hat tip to Michael Brough), there’s a notional game out there that will allow players to experience the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, or at least procedural justice.  I hazard that such a game might even be fun.  But the Rawlsian veil-game is work for a game jam, not a journal entry.

Instead, I would like to briefly explain Bogost’s concept of procedural rhetoric and Rawls’ categories of pure, imperfect, and perfect procedural justice, apply the latter to games, and explore how Max Weber’s understanding of authority can help us find the procedural rhetoric in procedural justice.

Procedural Rhetoric

“Procedural rhetoric is a general name for the practice of authoring arguments through processes.  Following the classical model, procedural rhetoric entails persuasion—to change opinion or action.  Following the contemporary model, procedural rhetoric entails expression—to convey ideas effectively.  Procedural rhetoric is a subdomain of procedural authorship; its arguments are not made through the construction of words or images, but through the authorship of rules of behavior, the construction of dynamic models.”

—Ian Bogost

Persuasive Games (2007)  p. 29.

It’s difficult to distill the context of Bogost’s argument in a few sentences; he carefully places procedural rhetoric in context with other work on rhetoric in Persuasive Games.  Because almost all processes are conveyed to participants through audiovisual or verbal means, it’s easy to confuse those rhetorics with what Bogost calls “procedural rhetoric.”

Bogost is careful to distinguish between procedural rhetoric and other forms of audiovisual, verbal or “digital” rhetoric.  While those elements certainly contribute to a game’s persuasiveness, Bogost highlights games as a mass medium which are capable of mounting an argument through process.  To borrow Juul’s terms “fiction” and “rules,” we might say that procedural rhetoric is conveyed primarily by experiencing the process of a game, whereby the abstract rule system is given larger meaning through the game’s fiction.  The fiction of a game gives us some context as to what we’re to make of the abstract mechanical system’s relationship to our reality and world-at-large, but the persuasive force of the argument primarily derives through the user experiencing the process of the rules system in action.  To give an example, Jason Rohrer’s game Passage has a procedural rhetoric conveyed through gameplay, and is accompanied by a creator’s statement which attempts to transform the game’s procedural rhetoric into a statement of verbal rhetoric, much as the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution provides a verbal statement of what the procedural system verbally described by that document seeks to achieve.  Rohrer explicitly privileges the procedural rhetoric of the game over his own verbal rhetoric: “Your interpretation of the game is more important than my intentions. Please play the game before you read this. ”

Procedural rhetoric is difficult if not impossible to divorce from verbal and audiovisual rhetorics, as abstract mechanics must ultimately be conveyed through some semiotic system(s), which are meaningful synchronically (at any moment, we can arrest the process and draw meaning from its current position with perfect information about the rules) but procedurally experienced diachronically (over time, experiencing the process allows for the communication of a rhetoric).

I hereby submit that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to keeping a journal entry of a manageable reading length, and leave my thoughts on procedural arguments as second order semiosis for another day.

Procedural Justice

During the discussion of the Rawlsian draft, Frank Lantz brought up the “cake game,” a process of resource division meant to ensure fairness.  Rawls himself used the same example:

“The intuitive idea is to design the social system so that the outcome is just whatever it happens to be, at least so long as it is within a certain range. The notion of pure procedural justice is best understood by a comparison with perfect and imperfect procedural justice. To illustrate the former, consider the simplest case of fair division. A number of men are to divide a cake: assuming that the fair division is an equal one, which procedure, if any, will give this outcome? Technicalities aside, the obvious solution is to have one man divide the cake and get the last piece, the others being allowed their pick before him. He will divide the cake equally, since in this way he assures for himself the largest share possible. This example illustrates the two characteristic features of perfect procedural justice. First, there is an independent criterion for what is a fair division, a criterion defined separately from and prior to the procedure which is to be followed. And second, it is possible to devise a procedure that is sure to give the desired outcome. Of course, certain assumptions are made here, such as that the man selected can divide the cake equally, wants as large a piece as he can get, and so on. But we can ignore these details. The essential thing is that there is an independent standard for deciding which outcome is just and a procedure guaranteed to lead to it. Pretty clearly, perfect procedural justice is rare, if not impossible, in cases of much practical interest.”

—John Rawls

 A Theory of Justice: Original Edition (Kindle Locations 1510-1520).

Pure procedural justice

In pure procedural justice, there is no standard for what is just outside of the process itself, but the result of the  process is just; thus, an accused party is not guilty a priori but by the process of the trial court and the decision of the jury it produces (admittedly subject to appeal).  Most games are procedurally pure: they are processes designed to give all opponents a reasonably fair chance at winning, and the justice of their victory is proven by their performance in the game.  Compare this open contest to the ritualized Trobriand version of cricket, where the contest has no bearing on the result of the game and the hometeam always wins.  In Roger Caillois’ division of games into four primary elements, games of agon, or competition, strive for procedural purity, with the contest itself to decide who among the competitors is best (Man, Play & Games, p. 14).

Thus, in a procedurally pure game, the rules are agnostic as to which competitor should win, and the just winner is discovered through gameplay.

Perfect and imperfect procedural justice

In cases of perfect and imperfect procedural justice, there is a criteria for justice independent of the process itself, and the value of the process (i.e. its perfection) can be judged by comparing its result to this independent criteria.  If the result of the process is always the same as the a priori just result, it is perfectly procedurally just, and imperfect if not.

Because processes as complex as electronic games often rely on many layers of procedures and subprocedures, we might say that computers (assuming they have been properly programmed) are very good at executing rule systems with perfect procedural justice.  While humans might introduce imperfection to game systems by fudging dice-rolls or miscalculating hit-points, videogames deliver the impartial result of their algorithms consistently.  Thus on the micro(processor) level, we might say that a competitive videogame (assuming no programmer error) provides perfect procedural justice in the execution of the subprocesses which ultimately constitute the purely procedural just contest on the macro level.

Procedural Justice as Procedural Rhetoric

While procedural rhetoric is commonly applied to videogames, and in particular the subcategory dubbed “persuasive games,”2 Bogost argues that procedural rhetoric applies to all media based on process, and expresses hope that his framework will be applied to media beyond games (Persuasive Games, p. 46.)  Bogost himself acknowledges the procedural nature of the justice system (Persuasive Games, p. 3), while Huizinga’s comparison between game-as-agon and trial-as-agon does the same in practice if not in terminology.  Rawls’ model of procedural justice is a fair candidate for an analysis based on procedural rhetoric.

To bring some clarity to our thought experiment, we might ask: what is the persuasive goal for procedural justice?  Let’s borrow a bit of terminology and theory from pioneering political economist Max Weber to frame our discussion, as discussed in “The Three Types of Legitimate Authority.”  Put simply, Weber sought to distinguish between different systems of rule via authority by identifying three categories: charismatic authority, traditional authority, and rational-legal authority (also known as bureaucracy).  For the purposes of our discussion, Weber’s pure type of  rational-legal authority fits well with our investigation of procedural justice.  In a bureaucracy, legitimacy derives not from the individuals who hold power, as in a traditional feudal system or authority based on a cult of personality, but from the offices they hold and the system of laws applied impartially.  In short, the legitimacy of a rational-legal authority is “of laws and not of men,” to crib a phrase from John Adams & the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.  Those laws are executed procedurally; Bogost identifies bureaucracy as one of the primary connotations of “process” in contemporary discourse (Persuasive Games, p. 3).

To understand why procedural rhetoric might be important to procedural justice, we need to delve slightly deeper into Weberian terminology.  For Weber, rule by authority is distinct from rule by power.  Rule by power is enforced punitively, and maintained only by the exercise of punishment.  Rule by authority is distinguished by legitimacythose ruled accept the authority of the rulers without need for constant coercion (though coercion might very well be an element of that authority, as demonstrated by Weber’s attribution of state monopoly on violence as a fundamental characteristic of modern rule).  We might say then that the persuasive goal of procedural rhetoric is legitimacy, that is to have rational-legal authority freely accepted by the ruled without the need for coercive domination.  In the Weberian system, authority is power exercised with legitimacy.

Thus, the persuasive goal of procedural justice is legitimacy— the basic acceptance of the social contract by the citizenry in modern legal systems.  More specifically, it lends legitimacy not through the flowery language inserted into state constitutions, as Adams’ aforementioned pithy declaration that the government should be “of laws and not of men,” but by the processes described within those constitutions, such as the checks and balances imposed on the three branches of government Adams is discussing, or the process of deliberation and judgment by a jury of one’s peers in the American justice system.  Thus, citizens in a rational-legal system can read a description of the processes meant to provide justice and draw legitimacy from that description (consider the discussion of the U.S. Constitution in American classrooms) or experience the process firsthand by participating in the legal system.

cmykbar

This journal entry is part of a series written for an independent study project at the IT Univeristy of Copenhagen under the supervision of Mark J. Nelson.

  1. See the sprawling twitter conversation collected as parts I, II, & III.
  2. A  subjective category, insofar as Bogost admits that all games have some procedural rhetoric, but only those which are “effective” are included in the genre of persuasive games.

THR-JSjoustFOREVER

The Pleasures of Objectification

or

LAZA KNITEZ!! as Carpentry, Pt. II

 buttfighterresize

 

“An obvious question, then: must scholarly productivity take written form? Is writing the most efficient and appropriate material for judging academic work? If the answer is yes, it is so only by convention.”

“When we spend all of our time reading and writing words— or plotting to do so— we miss opportunities to visit the great outdoors.”

“Let’s draw a distinction: unlike tools and art, philosophical carpentry is built with philosophy in mind: it may serve myriad other productive and aesthetic purposes, breaking with its origins and entering into dissemination like anything else, but it’s first constructed as a theory, or an experiment, or a question— one that can be operated. Carpentry is philosophical lab equipment.”

—Ian Bogost, “Carpentry”
Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing

I don’t have any particular allegiance to philosophy per se, being a long-confirmed interdisciplinary mongrel of the worst sort, but I can’t help but return to Ian Bogost’s call for academics to engage in the world in ways other than writing.  It must be said that I can’t exactly deride the written word, either: I shudder to think of the thousands of keytaps, the miles of ink and graphite I’ve put away. It seems obvious that many questions are not best investigated, answered, evaluated or communicated by the written word yet it is clearly the hegemon — projects which are not the written report (with the proper margins and citation style, naturally) are the exceptions, frequently the preserve of teachers of the hip/too-lazy-to-read-hundreds-of-pages variety.  In my time at ITU, I’ve spent far more time working on projects with an output where the written report was ancillary to the work of creation and design, and that approach has taught me much.  Even more helpfully, it has helped me translate some pretty esoteric ideas about videogames into concrete projects fit for consumption by a much wider audience. At Extending Play and just recently at Free to Play in Antwerp, I had the chance to talk about excessive games by letting an audience see LAZA KNITEZ!! played, to see not just an excerpt of the game but to be able to see the players and experience spectatorship. Free to Play, in particular, was not an academic conference but a celebration of playful culture— inviting the audience not just to listen, but also to play, let me get away with a short lecture on play theory written sixty or seventy-odd years ago.

How’d we end up putting LAZA KNITEZ!! in an arcade cabinet in the first place?  Joon and I worked together with a couple of people to turn a defunct arcade cabinet, Scollbar’s Barcade, into a Winnitron.  With no budget, broken hardware, few tools, and cabinet owners that were more interested in a warez-based emulator of   classic arcade games than an indie gaming platform, we ended up abandoning the Barcade renovation.  But along the way, problem solving and prying apart wooden hardware, even cleaning the gunked-up Coke spilled all over the arcade controllers, we learned a lot about what it feels like to get inside the guts of an arcade cabinet, gathering up the obscure materials required for its resurrection, and how to transfer our minimal handiness into useful work.

When we were seeking user feedback in our alpha jam, we were hesitant to ask people to come up to a stuffy room somewhere with the lure of some dry cookies.  We’d been in those smelly little rooms, with a team of developers watching your progress with bated breath, too many times to trust that method.  We wanted to attract people who weren’t going to try a game for a couple of dusty pastries, and we needed people to play against each other, even complete strangers.  With knowledge of wiring up the barcade to hand, we commandeered it for a day and set up shop on the main floor of ITU:

Putting up our shingle for the first time was electrifying.  We tested and developed simultaneously, which I think gave players a great chance to understand how integral their contribution is to game design.  We got to see people stake part of the cabinet as their own with some well-placed elbows, negotiate the appropriate noise & celebration levels of a public space and slip into a game unobtrusively to do some “testing” of our own.  A huge part of our success was the hulking weight of the arcade cabinet, something that lent a facade of substance to four first-semester Master’s students who had never made a game before.  It solidified our interest in building arcade installations and games that suited them.

We built our first arcade installation, the Buttfighter (top photo), after being accepted to the Nordic Game Indie Night Summit— something we were awfully surprised by in the first place.  We were up against some pretty amazing games, and worse, we needed to figure out a way to show off LAZA KNITEZ!!  We hatched a wild idea to build a cocktail cabinet out of IKEA parts, and with some help from Mads’ dad (and the generous use of his workshop) we put the Buttfighter together in about five hours.  It’s basically two IKEA tables, a door, four wheels, a screen and speakers.  We swap out our laptops when we show it.

I feel pretty confident in claiming that the Buttfighter won us Nordic Game Indie Night — even getting it there was an adventure in taking games into the Great Outdoors, as we had plenty of opportunities to explain to puzzled Metro stewards that we were transporting an arcade machine.  The LEDs on the side of the cabinet and the echoing BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM of the death ray got people interested in our game.  The cocktail format was great for letting people crowd around and see what was going on, and especially to see the players.  All weekend you could hear LAZA KNITEZ throughout the venue, and it felt pretty great.

Since then, we’ve shown LAZA KNITEZ!! all over the place, in the Buttfighter, on projectors, playing behind Chipzel, on a boat.  I’m still working on an arcade cabinet in the US of A, which has taught me a lot about the business of arcades — I’ve had a chance to talk to people who renovate machines, people who hoard & sell them, and bar owners looking for something to fill up an empty corner.  I’ve talked to engineers about manufacturing a custom button fitting, found out that the CRT era is coming to an end, and moved a goddamn 400 pound arcade machine from some dude’s garage into my parents’ house.  More than that, I got to see people enjoying the hell out of themselves playing a game that I helped make.  Marx, on non-alienated creation:

Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature.

Notes on Mill.

I’m not trying to downplay what I’ve learned by reading outstanding histories of the arcade era, like Tristan Donovan’s Replay or ethnographic accounts of arcade spaces.  At the same time, there’s something to be learned by pulling apart controllers, dragging machines to another country, and beer-proofing an arcade cabinet.  Even as home consoles become ever more amazing, there’s still plenty to create and learn from games as a common physical gathering point for people to come together and play.  Creating a game allowed me to intervene in social situations.  I was able to see how games create a community in ways that would have been fairly impossible as an outside researcher. It also gave me access to communities I didn’t even know existed.  I didn’t come to ITU to get involved in game design, but it’s been the most academically and personally rewarding part of my time here.  If you get a chance, fellow writers, turn in your pen and keyboard for a little while, and pick up a hammer, drill or paintbrush and see if you can’t learn something by crafting something besides the written word.

This journal entry is part of a series written for an independent study project at the IT Univeristy of Copenhagen under the supervision of Mark J. Nelson.

cmykbar

Flirting with Excess

or

LAZA KNITEZ!! as Carpentry, Pt. I

“In the first place, it is clear that vertigo cannot be associated with regulated rivalry, which immediately dilutes it.  The paralysis it provokes, like the blind fury it causes in other cases, is a strict negation of controlled effort.  It destroys the conditions that define agôn, i.e. the efficacious resort to skill, power, and calculation, and self-control; respect for rules; the desire to test oneself under conditions of equality; prior submission to the decision of a referee; an obligation, agreed to in advance, to circumscribe the conflict within set limits, etc.  Nothing is left.”

—Roger Caillois, “Forbidden Relationships”
Les Jeux et les Hommes 1

LAZA KNITEZ!! doesn’t exactly scream “philosophical.”  It is, to be clear, a game about four ultranoble warriorz locked in eternal combat in the distant, absolutely radical, technofuture.  It was inspired by arcade classics like Joust, and in making it we accepted a minimalism that was consistent with our resources and experience. While LAZA KNITEZ!! seems like a fairly simple game, its free rotation of non-vector art, its pixel-perfect collision and its wacky pentatonic high-fidelity audio are far beyond the capacity of the early 80s games it mimics, and if we had really tried to replicate the medium itself in time-period hardware (as Ian Bogost does in A Slow Year), rather than a broader idea of the genre, the game as it exists would be essentially impossible.  We didn’t make LAZA KNITEZ!! to be kitschy or retro: the loose constraints of the 80s multiplayer arcade genre fit well with what we could do and what we had to do it with.  In six weeks, we knew we couldn’t make something that brought more to the game than the inherent pleasures of other players, so we spent our time-budget on making a tight, gleeful platform for player interaction, namely involving splattering pixel blood and guts of fellow players throughout the lazaverse.

zzLK

One of the motivations of our design was to explore the forbidden relationship discussed above, and to see if it might be not just theoretically possible but actually fun. High-level LAZA KNITEZ!! gameplay and especially the little-understood “craziness” modifier within the launch menu took Caillois’ forbidden relationship of agôn and ilinx as a design goal.  In its standard mode, the base-speed of the game increases with each kill, with victory set at first player to achieve {5 x # of players} kills. 2 In craziness mode, the speed factor is set by input from a microphone pointed at players, and the maximum and minimum speeds of the game (and pitches of the lazaz) open up to a much wider range.  With a sort of shocking regularity, players walk up to the cabinet and start shouting in the ecstasy of triumph and the ignominious groans of defeat: their yells, motivated by bursts of intense emotion, spawn a sharp jump in the playspeed, making the game more difficult to control and more dangerous for the players’ knitez, which loops back into cries and boasts.  It’s not long before the game is careening along at an incredible speed, knitez dissolving into blurs of color and a fine mist of pixelated blood.

Of course, the craziness mode of LAZA KNITEZ!! relies on an environment in which it is sonically dominant & which human voices aren’t drowned out— when housed in the mighty warhorse that is the Buttfighter arcade cabinet and given permission to let loose with the 8 in. subwoofer and surprisingly loud speakers on a conference floor, it works great.  But put us in a barroom or a dancefloor blasting dubstep3 and the game kind of transcends any traditional agonistic competition.  It’s turned up as fast as it can go the entire time.  The screen shakes constantly, explosions cover most of the screen, and games are over in a few minutes that seem like hours.  The competitive justice of agôn, overwhelmed by the sensual overload of ilinx, is partially replaced by the aloof fairness of aleatory chance.  One of the most intense gaming sessions of my life was an ultraspeed LAZA KNITEZ!! match with Simon Gustafsson, later crowned mightiest LAZA KNITE in the universe at Nordic Game, that left me physically dazed.

Through the process of making and modifying LAZA KNITEZ!! and watching players adopt and ultimately transcend my own play, I began to think more seriously about Caillois’ play-elements and a reconciliation between his division of paidia (free-wheeling anarchic play) and ludus (regimented rule-based play).  Caillois’ regimented rules-based play in ludus and the need for perfect balance in agôn are closely aligned, while ilinx has a natural affinity for the unregimented, embodied and system-less joys of paidia.  The paidia/ludus divide is played out in slightly different variations in some uses of play/game, W. Keating’s athletics/sportsmanship, or DeKoven’s well-played game v. David Sirlin’s playing to win— play theorists new and old, analog and digital, recognize the tension between games that instrumentally rationalize play in the name of victory (Huizinga in particular dedicates the majority of his study to the core competitiveness of multiplayer games) and games that exist for mutual, cooperative hedonistic maximization (a kind of ludic utilitarianism best represented by the New Games Foundation).  I think Doug Wilson’s writings on B.U.T.T.O.N. suggest an affinity between self-effacing games (basically a parody of ludus) and Caillois’ ilinx.

We wanted to avoid a purely agonistic game; as Caillois says, the perfectly balanced game relying only upon the player makes the victory particularly important, and defeat particularly personal.  By de-emphasizing skills like aiming and planning ahead, and putting an emphasis on managing a chaotic game-state, LAZA KNITEZ!! keeps the contest from being a fateful judgment on the player’s skill and self-worth.

While teaching the same material to IT University of Copenhagen game students as a teaching assistant for Espen Aarseth’s Foundations of Play and Games course, I realized that Caillois already describes a combination of ilinx and agônthe games of competitive disorientation (choking, spinning, “daring” each other into dangerous feats) which he dubs “ascetic games” and ignores Huizinga’s description of competitive (and fatal) drinking games in the court of Alexander the Great.  I started thinking more about taking away the negative normative judgment that Caillois applies to ascetic games and taking a more serious look at games of competitive excess.  That line of inquiry resulted in my presentation on “Excessive Play” as part of the Dark Play panel with Miguel Sicart, Jesper Juul, and Mathias Fuchs at Rutger’s Extending Play conference and the publication of “The Handbook of Excessive Games, Vol. 0″.  It was the process of designing and revising LAZA KNITEZ!! that was the core intellectual work of pushing back against Caillois’ “forbidden combination”— my experience has been very different from my friend Doug Wilson, who writes on B.U.T.T.O.N.:

I would like to stress that the game should not be viewed as an “experiment” or a research prototype. Developed as a project with the Copenhagen Game Collective, B.U.T.T.O.N. was not designed in an academic context. It is the product of a particular social milieu and reflects a particular set of agendas. I do not consider my design work as a “method,” because for me the term carries with it some unwelcome institutional baggage. When I am “in the moment” of design, it is crucial that my practice not be instrumentalized towards a context external to the collective. As such, I view the “research” component of my work as the theoretical reflection contained in this article – a kind of literature-grounded creator’s statement, written in a university context. My aim here is to provide an evocative conceptual framework that will inspire us to think about digital game design in a different way.

On Self-Effacing Games and Unachievements 

LAZA KNITEZ!! began in a very academic context: our “budget” was the 15 credits a piece that we were earning for Miguel Sicart’s Game Design course.  Coming into ITU, I never really imagined making a video game even managed to be fun, much less a game that has gone as improbably far as LAZA KNITEZ!!  But beginning design with several previous academic engagements with play theorists like Huizinga and Caillois profoundly influenced what areas of play I explored as we developed LAZA KNITEZ!!  It helped tremendously that my academic influence was mediated by three other developers working on the game, and a common commitment to putting gameplay first.

The second part of this essay will deals with Ian Bogost’s writings on carpentry and the relationship between game studies and game design practice, as part of an independent project at IT University of Copenhagen under the supervision of Mark Nelson.

cmykbar

  1. I keep the French title, rather than M. Barash’s translated “Man, Play & Games,” which  obscures the fact that Caillois is writing in a  language that does not distinguish between play and games as English does.
  2. By making the maximum speed of the game greater with each additional player, LAZA KNITEZ!! purposely reinforces the social interaction that makes games more intense with more players.
  3. I am still amazed that this happens on a regular enough basis for this to be a noted problem.

Pt. III

The Rawls discussion sparked a provoking line of inquiry on game designers turning their systems expertise to real world issues, and especially voting.

As the conversation grows more sprawling, I have a more difficult time keeping up with the different branches and simultaneous threads.


Rawls & Games Pt. 2

Continued from here.


Rawls & the Cake Game as Procedural Justice

“The intuitive idea is to design the social system so that the outcome is just whatever it happens to be, at least so long as it is within a certain range. The notion of pure procedural justice is best understood by a comparison with perfect and imperfect procedural justice. To illustrate the former, consider the simplest case of fair division. A number of men are to divide a cake: assuming that the fair division is an equal one, which procedure, if any, will give this outcome? Technicalities aside, the obvious solution is to have one man divide the cake and get the last piece, the others being allowed their pick before him. He will divide the cake equally, since in this way he assures for himself the largest share possible. This example illustrates the two characteristic features of perfect procedural justice. First, there is an independent criterion for what is a fair division, a criterion defined separately from and prior to the procedure which is to be followed. And second, it is possible to devise a procedure that is sure to give the desired outcome. Of course, certain assumptions are made here, such as that the man selected can divide the cake equally, wants as large a piece as he can get, and so on. But we can ignore these details. The essential thing is that there is an independent standard for deciding which outcome is just and a procedure guaranteed to lead to it. Pretty clearly, perfect procedural justice is rare, if not impossible, in cases of much practical interest.”

—John Rawls

 A Theory of Justice: Original Edition (Kindle Locations 1510-1520).

Rawlsian Game Design:


Speculation on VR Regulation After Seeing Disunion at Exile