When you Break It Down it becomes clear that there are a handful of shared game vectors that make good games good and bad games boring: Learnability, Playablity, Newness…etc. These all propagate or not the emergence of fun.

Hopscotch, COD, Draughts, Poker… they all share these. But they share them differently.

Hopscotch lacks something that Patience has. Perhaps more than one thing. Even without investigating we can imagine that whatever is lacking from Hopscotch is an aspect that continues to contribute to the playability of Patience over time.

I think the ninety year old would affirm that “I play patience for fun” just as much as the nine year old player would.

One game attribute is Winability. This is distinct from Challenge, I think. Winability it is about the pure competitive aspect of the game, internally and externally and how that aspect needs a sweet balance to maintain fun over time.

Winnability is a key concept in CGP.

Tic-Tack-Toe, like its identical twin,  Naught’s and Crosses, and also like battleships and Connect 4  and Hangman are all examples of games with an decreasing winability profile.  There might be a bit of a jump at the start, but after that it is a pretty accelerating drop.

For example: If you think about the opening tactics of Connect 4 you can see the key structures that cause the jump in Winability. But after this and, say,  the value of diagonals, and so on, the winnability plummets. It lacks Depth and Complexity and it has a small possibility space.

Connect 4 is a good game. I have played it much and will play it again. But I could never play it always.

Winnability can be seen as the learning the harmonies between wining, loosing and neither. It is about how this harmony evolves as a player’s game evolves.

If you win every game then that game is not going to be fun. If you loose every game, the same.

In the middle, somewhere, is the harmonic  where the lasting fun can happen.I continue with with chess and uniwar. It may stop one day.

Winability needs to self optimise. We see this often in Backgammon. New tactics entail new strategies and victories.

I havent got much better at Chess over the years. But my winability has been balanced.

If winability isn’t balanced then the player’s engagement will fade. It will either have become too easy or too hard and with too little variance from this.

The potential for online games means that Winability can be normalised. Is this good? You could have it so that players always played demonstrably equally skilled players.

I think that  Imbalanced Winability is one of the key reasons gamers stop playing a certain game, especially because it is hard to maintain over time.; Diminishing Returns on all Parameters.

If you look at any ongoing tournament, in any game, you will see self organisation in action. The players by and large settle at the level of their comparable players.

In order to balance winability the game and the opponents(s) must interact in a way that requires an increase in the game smarts and skills.

It is not just about the wining the game it is about understanding the win, whoever wins. If you can see why you have lost then there is a level at which you have won.

Should you continue playing a game you know you will loose?

I think Winability cannot be maintained without a big enough possibility space. I guess it needs depth and complexity, but I am not sure. A game like Bejeweled is shallow and simple but because of the hand/brain/eye aspects Winability emerges outside the rules. It is external to the game, from the player’s body and mind. This doesn’t happen with chess, does it?

Winability is ones ability and interest to see the game in full. It has to be fun.

What is a Computer Game?

Using the Cartesian method we could enumerate this question as:

  1. What is a computer game?
    1. What is a computer?
      1. A system designed to logically process information.
        1. System: an causal structure
          1. Structure: A consistent arrangement of elements.
          2. Causal: Making something happen or not.
            1. A causes B if…
            2. “If the engine hadn’t stopped there would have been an accident.”
          3. Designed: Made with intent for purpose.
          4. Logically: principles that flow without contradiction from:
            1. The law of The Excluded Middle
              1. X is either true or not true.
            2. These principles are AND, NOT and OR.
              1. There are principles derived from these like XOR.
    2. What is a game?:
      1. An activity that satisfies the following:
        1. It has rules
        2. It has objectives
        3. It is done for fun
          1. What is Fun?
            1. A fun activity increases positivity without there necessarily being a corresponding external effect.
            2. An activity is fun if someone says they do it for enjoyment.

The New No Go Game

More than a couple of times in my life I’ve tried to learn the Game Of Go.

This is the ancient Chinese game that is harder to solve (AI or heuristics) than Chess, or, I think,  any other game.  Only in 2016 was the best player properly beaten by a computer. One with the multiple  brains and yadabyte memories driven by the vastness of The Google. It was a big moment for Humanity, I think.


Many good games are easy to learn and  hard to master. The Game of Go isn’t like this. It is really hard to learn, and very few master it. They say it takes decades to become a mere “quite good”. 

This, to me, has an inevitable subtracting effect on my enjoyment of the game; it is just so hard to be quite good.

It would take so much time and, during that valuable T-Spend, mostly, it would not be fun. There would be few “yeahs!”

It would not have many of those moments of understanding a new tactic or strategy that are common in other exceptional games.

The reason for it’s hardness isn’t like in some games.

The problem isn’t the games complexity, that is , how many rules and parameters and interconnections are involved in it’s realisation, AKA, “playing”. 

Nor is it the game’s depth – that meaningful, relative measure of the structure of the hierarchy that represents the emergence of the tactics, strategy and fun experienced by the players.

Rather, perhaps uniquely with the Game Of Go, it is the game’s  vast possibility space that seeds the issues for me.

Possibility Space

A thing’s “possibility space” is the conceptual framework that the thing occupies. A puppy has a possibility space. So does a movie and an omelette.

The concept of “Castling A King” doesn’t exist in the possibility space of Naughts And Crosses. Nor does it exist in Hopscotch.  But it does exist in Chess.

 When you think about things in terms of their possibility space, you gain a new perspective.

Possibility space is useful to be seen as layered:

If CAK is in Chess and it is possible that Eastender’s might involve Chess (Eg in an episode. Which, of course, it is) then CAK is in the possibility space of Eastenders (Which, it is, isn’t it?).

This does not mean the same as the trivial “CAK is in the possibility space of all things, because, eg, Time-Travel.”

Possibility spaces are much easier to apprehend when they are seen as tied to shared frameworks. Think of how this influences the emergence of  “plausibility” as a property of a narrative.

To be meaningful possibility spaces should be internally consistent. It is for this reason that I would say we wouldn’t say that CAK was in the possibility space of Eastenders but not of a historically accurate soap opera set in The Stoneage.

Lastly, possibility space isn’t just about points of property possibilities, but also emergent phenomena that the game originates. The excitement of backgammoning someone is not contained in the necessary and sufficient game description of Backgammon, but it is clearly in the possibility space of the game. It is a foundational property of the gameplay. We can deconstruct the possibilities and we can abstract the possibilities.

The Game Of Go is not deep in its structure. Because the board is nineteen wide, as opposed to eight in chess, there is a computational explosion in the amount of information that needs to be broken down and abstracted in order to significantly understand the game. It is a huge and wide and shallow sea of choices but from this sea emerges game phenomena that I have no idea about. I can see they are going to be there, but I cannot conceive of them. I think if you try to learn Go you will soon understand this, if you don’t already.

Then the realisation is this: until you get good enough to meaningfully understand  these emergent game phenomena, then Go is going to remain a relatively shallow game. Shallow tactics and strategies compared to the big picture games of the Go-masters.

In my opinion Go is not very fun to learn because it is so very hard to average.

There is a time/cost/fun/potential/learnability/etc equation with any game.

Thought Experiment: The Glove Game

Close your eyes and imagine an ordinary, small, red ladies glove.

Imagine that in the wrist part of the glove is a slit and one side of this is a small red button. Imagine that on the other side of the slit is a small loop that can go around the button, to hold the glove in place on a hand.

You have just imagined a glove. Now imagine this glove floating in a void of nothingness. No other things, no time, no light, no observer. Just the glove. All there is is this glove. Imagine the Glove Universe.

In fact it seems that one cannot imagine a universe that’s just a small red ladie’s glove. It is not conceptually possible for a number of reasons:

You can’t imagine something being “small” if thats’ the only thing there is. Smallness is a relative property, it needs more things to be realised than just one.

You can’t imagine something as being red if there is no light and no observer. Colours don’t make sense in the glove universe. You can  imagine the surface of the Glove having properties that, were it on your left hand right now it would look red to you or I.

Perhaps the most interesting reason for why you cannot really imagine the glove universe is because a glove is a special kind of form called an “enatiomorph”. A donut shape is not. Nor is a cube. The letter L is enatiamorphic in two dimensions. A glove is a three dimensional enatiomorph. 

It must be right or left hand, it cannot be neither, but it cannot be either without a counterpart. If we had two gloves, and they were incongruent (didn’t fit together) then we would be able to say of one, This is Left and of the other This is Right. But with just one, we cannot.

Things are enatiomorphic in terms of the way they are placed within the world. Back to the glove…

Perhaps, even without the above three issues, we just cannot imagine a glove universe in anything like the same way we can imagine tomorrow’s weather or the things we can imagine.

Perhaps we really can’t imagine the unimaginable. Ponder that.

Luckily, we don’t need need to imagine the unimaginable to be able to think about it. We can discuss idealised worlds that are unimaginable. We can learn from them. They can be tools. This is what thougts experiments are. So now let me guide you through one that I think you will enjoy. I have done this many times face to face.

The Glove Game: Round One

Imagine the glove universe as best you can. It is glove shaped from your perspctive. If you can think of something to loose in the description you can just ditch it. Tru to get to the most idealised thought of a glove.

You are trying to describe something that is logically true of all things that are gloves.

You are trying to describe something that is logically not true in totality of any thing that is not a glove.

We can enumerate:

  1. It is a tube that ends in five points at the end of five smaller tubes.
  2. One of the tubes is shorter than the others.
    1. This tube also is joined to the main tube at a point closer to the main tube entrance and off to one side.
      1. It can Extend to the plane of the other four tubes.

What is the most minimal optimal definition of a glove?

When I asked you to imagine the glove at the start it had a small button and a loop etc… Take all that kind of detail out of your imagination. Break it down to the things that are essential to being a glove. Let us call this idealised glove, the simplest glove.


What statements are true of the simplest glove?

What does it mean to say something is True here?

Criticise this definition: “A statement is True about the Glove Universe if what it describes can be found within the Glove Universe.”


    • The Glove has four fingers and a thumb.
    • The little finger is not longer than the middle finger
    • The thumb is not between any fingers.
    • It is possible the tip of the thumb could touch the tip of the index finger if the rest of the glove remained the same.

Imagine a list of False statements about the glove:

  • The volume of the thumb is greater than the volumes of the other fingers combined.
  • The glove has symmetry.
  • It is possible to weave the thumb through the other fingers
  • The glove has the same topology as a doughnut.

What about this statement:

    • The Glove Is underneath a Hat.

Is that false? It isn’t true, but it isn’t clear if it is False or meaningless. These kinds of statements are a big issue in the Philosophy of Language.



A statement is Meaningless relative to the Glove Universe Game if it is nether True nor False about the Glove Universe. You might like to think of Meaningless statements as containing things that simply cannot be found in any possible Glove Universe.

  • True statements describe things that exist within the Glove Universe.
    • By “things” here we mean structures, relations, properties that are contingent upon the stipulation of the universe.
  • False statements describe things that do not exist within the Glove Universe but could exist within the Glove Universe.
  • Meaningless statements describe things that can not not exist in the Glove Universe.
    • These statements are meaningless in the glove universe
      • Paris is the Capital of France.
      • Mars is often called “The Red Planet”
      • The glove is larger than an elephant.
      • All gloves are smaller than houses.
      • The glove belonged to Audry Hepburn.
      • The Glove is left handed.
      • We understand this experiment.
      • All games are not fun.


This experiment has highlighted a number of things. Perhaps most importantly it’s shown what a Thought Experiment is, in case you didn’t already know. A thought experiment is simply a stipulated possible Universe that is created to be experimented on or questioned about.

We make Thought experiments all the time, “If I won the lottery I would..”, “Imagine all the people, living in Harmony…”

It’s also shown that thought experiments are about what’s relevant to them by stipulation, not by assumption. You can imagine things that are not really possible to exist or imagine and yet, you can see how still we can ask relevant questions about them.

The last thing we saw from this experiment is that all possible statements seem to fit into only one of three categories, True, False or Meaningless and that which list any statement belongs on depends on the stipulated nature of the relevant universe.