Ought From Is

Can we say what games ought to be and what players ought to do?

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GPT-3, AI Dungeon, and The Best Board Game Ever

Dan Laursen
United States
Fort Myers
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Microbadge: Parent of a Boy and a GirlMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia fanMicrobadge: BayesianMicrobadge: Philosophy enthusiastMicrobadge: Happily married for 5 years
After reading about OpenAI's GPT-3 recently, and seeing Martin use GPT-2 to generate some hilarious board game taglines, I decided to give AI Dungeon a try, as it's been updated to use GPT-3.

It's like playing Zork, an old text adventure game, but it's an open-ended narrative driven by an AI that has been trained on a corpus of a trillion words scraped from the web. For context, the English Wikipedia has about 3.5 billion words.

You can give AI Dungeon a small prompt to set the scene, then it responds to your input as though you were doing improv with a human gamemaster... almost.

Although AI Dungeon defaults to a fantasy setting, I decided to set the scene in a board game discussion forum and see where it would go.

I included my session below because it's humorous, but the other things GPT-3 can do, like translate languages, generate programming code or guitar tabs from English descriptions, create poetry, Tom Swifty puns, parodies, answer questions, summarize movie plots with emoji... are all much more impressive than my silly attempt.

The things I typed are in bold. AI Dungeon did the rest. I did not edit the conversation or try multiple times until I got a particular result.


You are a novice board game player entering a board game discussion forum. You ask the experts there to recommend a board game based on the board games you've already played and enjoyed. One expert, George, has a reputation for being helpful and making recommendations.

> You say "Hi, George. I like playing Ticket to Ride. What other board games are similar?"

George is an older man with a beard who looks like he's been working in the board gaming industry longer than most people have been alive.

> You say "I also like to play The Quest for El Dorado. Do you know any other games like that, George?"

George shakes his head, saying that you have way too much fun with a board games to pick the obscure games he has worked on in his years.

> You leave the recommendations forum and enter the rules questions forum.

You are now in Rules Questions, which is filled with people asking questions on the rules of various board games. It appears that many people post here first before entering any other forum.

> You say "When my pawn makes it to the other side of the chessboard in chess, what happens to it?"

The response is slow in coming, as many of the people here are likely to be asleep. In fact, you begin to worry whether or not the Ask a Question forum is even being checked anymore.

> You leave the Rules Questions forum and enter the board game design forum. You find there a veteran designer named Matt Leacock.

You are now in the forums for designing board games. You find a discussion on how to improve Ticket to Ride.

> You say "Hi, Matt. Can you tell me any secrets to board game design that you learned while making Pandemic?"

Matt, a 24 year old wunderkind who has been published several times is the first to respond. He begins to give tips on making a board game that is easy to learn and fun for all players involved.

> You give Matt 100 GeekGold for his helpful response.

"Thanks!" Matt says.

> You leave the forum and visit the page that shows the hottest board games being played right now. You examine the list.

"Pandemic: Rising Tide" is the top board game among geeks.
That settles it. You need to get your hands on a copy of this board game!

> You as you don't have enough money to afford it, you decide to sell an old board game. You look on your shelves and pick a game that you haven't played in a while.

Going through your old games, you remember that you haven't played your copy of Galaxy Defenders in a long time. In fact, you think it's time to give the game a try.

> You take the game out and read the rules. Then you send email to your friends to invite them to play the game online, as there is not yet a vaccine for the coronavirus and it's too dangerous to play in person.

You and your friends start to play Galaxy Defenders and have a great time.
Before you know it, it's 3am and you look at the time.
"Dad!" you yell.

> You say "Bring me a soda. I'm thirsty!"

Your dad walks into the room and hands you a soda.
"Thanks, Dad," you say.
You take a drink, then suddenly feel something in your mouth.

> You take it out. It's a component from your favorite game. You thought you'd never find it again!

You look at the part, it's from Galaxy Defenders, the best board game you've ever played.

> You're relieved. You finish your game, say thanks to your friends, go to bed, and dream about the next game you'll play.

"Galaxy Defenders 2," you say, "The best board game ever!"


Edit: Note to anyone who wants to try this for themselves: due to the computing power expense, you have to sign up for a premium account (free for 7 days, then $10/month) and switch to the “Dragon” model in the settings to use GPT-3.
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Sat Aug 1, 2020 7:21 pm
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Monkeys, Captains, Unicorns, and Decisions

Dan Laursen
United States
Fort Myers
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Microbadge: Parent of a Boy and a GirlMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia fanMicrobadge: BayesianMicrobadge: Philosophy enthusiastMicrobadge: Happily married for 5 years
I may have been affected by reading through the titles and descriptions of 3,716 Knizia game versions in the last two months. I may have ordered a few Knizia games.

"If I can't play games in person with adults for a while, I could get some Knizia games to play with my two-year-old and six-year-old," I said with a straight face to myself.

Board Game: Grimaffen

Grimaffen (Manic Monkeys)

In this cross between Charades and Simon, you flip over tiles picturing silly monkey faces, animal sounds, vehicle sounds, or hand gestures on them. You have to act out all the gestures and sounds that have been revealed so far, in order, from memory. If you mess up, you're out.

My kids loved it. I did, too. We didn't bother with the player elimination. We used my favorite endgame trigger: "Play until everyone has had enough fun."

Okay, I'll admit it: I ordered more Knizia games than a few. A dozen, tops. "Some games contain multiple games in one box, or they're very small, so they're good values," I reasoned, slave to my passions. "And this one is educational." Who could argue against education? Certainly not me.

Board Game: Rechen-Kapitän

Rechen-Kapitän (Compute Captain)

This nautically-themed game compilation comes with boats and harbors featuring rectangular storage areas of different sizes. Each can be filled with cargo tiles in three colors with lengths from 1 to 9. What fits in a boat 13 units long? Cargo containing 7 + 2 + 4 bananas, perhaps.

In one game, you're flipping cargo tiles and drafting them to be the last one to fill boats in a game of chicken. In another game, you're rolling a die to draft cargo into your own boats in a race, and in yet another game, you're loading one boat to haul cargo to your harbors.

My six-year-old son was into the boats, and had fun guessing the sizes and colors of face-down cargo. But Knizia, Poseidon of this universe, fashioned one die face to capsize your boat and dump your cargo into the stochastic sea. My son was shocked when his boat first capsized, but his shock turned to giggles when my boat capsized three times in a row.

Did I say earlier that I ordered a dozen Knizia games? I should clarify. I ordered a dozen Knizia games that have arrived so far. There may be several dozen more Knizia games on the way. No more than 60 total. Okay, three more than 60. That is, if you count game compilations as one game. If you also count games within compilations, it's not that much more than 100 games. I mean, certainly not more than 20% more.

"Some of these games I'm finding are extremely out of print, yet cost only a few Euros," I exclaimed to my house's walls, which keep me safe from the coronavirus, but not from retail therapy.

"Plus, I'm doing very important research on every Knizia game ever," I assured myself. "And some of these games have little to no information on BGG! How could there exist perfectly good Knizia games relatively unknown on BGG that would bring joy to my family for the cost of a few Euros?" Some questions ought not to remain unanswered.

Board Game: Pummeleinhorn: Der Kekfe Marathon

Pummeleinhorn: Der Kekfe Marathon
(Chubby Unicorn: The Cookie Marathon)

For my 2-year-old daughter's first full board game session, I picked this Knizia game containing his signature blend of unicorns, rainbows, and cookies. In the game you roll a die, move a unicorn, and gobble up cookies while saying—and this is in the rules—"nom nom."

I'm sure you're thinking what I was first thinking. This is just a rethemed Tigris & Euphrates. Except that on your turn, there's a 33% chance you'll get to make a decision about removing or adding a cookie.

I'm not complaining; decisions in games are not as important to me as they might be to some. What's important is that the unicorn went around and around eating everyone's cookies, and there was always a chance that any player could win or lose, all the way down to the moment when each player was left with only one cookie. Then I lost and my kids tied for the win. It couldn't have been more perfect.

Tigris & Euphrates isn't going to get played again for a while, but I'll play this again with my kids the next chance I get.


Here's the philosophical topic I'll end with: Why ought games to contain decisions? Why would a designer like Knizia, praised for the quality of decisionmaking in many of his games, publish at least a hundred games with little or no decisionmaking? (If you disagree, I want you to steel-man his position, not make a cynical jab.)
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Wed Jul 29, 2020 4:37 am
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I Fully Join Knizia

Dan Laursen
United States
Fort Myers
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Microbadge: Parent of a Boy and a GirlMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia fanMicrobadge: BayesianMicrobadge: Philosophy enthusiastMicrobadge: Happily married for 5 years
I’m interested in understanding the things that cause me to enjoy games.

My interest is not uncommon. Designers, publishers, reviewers, and players all have motivation to understand what causes game enjoyment. (Feel free to substitute a different word for “enjoyment” if you value something else.)

But determining what causes an effect, like enjoyment, can be difficult, and I think an appreciation of that difficulty is less common. Eliminating the things that don’t cause an effect is a major tenet in the philosophy of science, a discipline that exists because we humans aren’t always good at determining causes by intuition alone.

So I’m also interested in people who appreciate this difficulty and try to overcome it.


As a counterexample, consider George, a fictional player who believes that enjoyable games ought to contain dragons. George buys a new game from sophomore designer Norberta, whose first game containing dragons was popular. George plays the new game but doesn’t enjoy it, so he posts on BGG:
George, a fictional player, wrote:
I was so excited to play Norberta’s second game. I don’t know why, but I just don’t enjoy this game as much as her first one. Maybe it’s because the characters are lizards instead of dragons? I don’t know. I just feel like Norberta isn’t a good designer anymore. Everyone should just stick to her first game.
George doesn’t understand what causes a game to be enjoyable for him. He doesn’t understand the limits of the causal connection between a game designer and his own enjoyment of their games. He doesn’t understand how to translate his experience into causal reasons that might help him and other players predict whether they’ll enjoy a game. George is careless about causality.

I don’t want to be like George, and I don’t find it helpful to listen to George when I’m trying to understand games. My problem with George is not whether he agrees with me about what in games is enjoyable, but how he reasons about causality. (If your name is George or you like dragons, I hope you’ll take my fictional details as mere coincidence.)

Sometimes I need to evaluate the reasons why a game is or isn’t enjoyable. One way is to play games and see if my enjoyment is connected to reasons given by others, whom I then add as GeekBuddies. Another is to see if my enjoyment is connected to reasons not given by others, and to test whether those reasons are causes. In the process I might gain the pleasure of understanding for its own sake, and I might remember to avoid being a George when describing my experience to others.

So what has my analysis found so far? That the attribute of a game most correlated with my enjoyment is not its age, reviews, awards, ratings, components, artwork, theme, popularity, player count, publisher, or price. No, after 1,100 logged plays of 400 titles, the attribute most correlated with my enjoyment of a game is whether the name on the rules is Reiner Knizia’s.

I say “correlated with” instead of “causes” because I’m not done asking the question, “Why do I enjoy so many of Reiner Knizia’s games?” The answers I’m after are causes, whether or not they’re under Knizia’s control. To be clear: I don’t enjoy every Knizia game equally, and I don’t enjoy only Knizia games.

Knizia Game Variations

I want to understand—to see whether and why I enjoy—as many Knizia games, including variants and reimplementations, as possible. I’ll use the term “game variations” to include a game and all its published rule variations.

For example, if I wanted to understand Knizia’s Trendy, I’d need to examine the 2000 original, the 2004 Crazy Derby reprint, the two additional scoring systems and partnership mode in the 2007 Horse Fair Card Game reimplementation, and the additional round cards in the 2021 Whale Riders: The Card Game reimplementation.

In this case, BGG helpfully links these four game publications as versions or reimplementations. I was able to download the rules for three of them, which showed me that 2004’s Crazy Derby does not introduce changes to the rules. But as of this writing, I couldn’t find the rules for Horse Fair Card Game. I lucked into a copy of the game on eBay for $4, so now I have its rules, variants, and a Trendy implementation on my shelf.

Next, consider 2005’s Pickomino. Pickomino’s precursor appeared first in 1990’s New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards as a “running event” suggestion for Decathlon. It was given a title, Octo, with slightly different rules, in 1999’s Dice Games Properly Explained. Octo is listed on BGG as a separate game with no publication information, but Octo was published within two books and one magazine. If Octo has a BGG entry, should the hundreds of other games from Knizia’s compilations also have an entry? Currently they don’t.

Octo’s successor Pickomino became more widely known, and Knizia published several boxed games related to it. If I want to follow the ideas from the Decathlon running event to Octo to Pickomino and beyond, it’s not easy for me to chart a course if there’s no map connecting all the game variations. Thanks to Laszlo Molnar, a gentleman and a Knizia scholar, I can explore some game variation landscapes this way using helpful GeekLists like The Real Pickomino Family.

Because Knizia has a large ludography comprising many game variations, there’s a lot to explore. This wealth of data makes my causality study richer: I would find it more difficult if my favorite game designer had published, say, only five games. But with Knizia, I can find several variations on an idea, allowing me to ask, “Why the variation? What effects do these rule differences cause?”

To help me manage these variations, I need a list that allows me to group them. Since a list of boxed publications doesn’t address that need, I’m working on my own list populated from various sources:

• BGG, which lists 585 Knizia games including 1,802 versions as of May 2020
Knizia.de, which lists 1,955 publications (like versions on BGG) as of 2019
• Compilations like New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards, Allerley Spielerey, New Games in Old Rome, Blazing Aces!, Dice Games Properly Explained, Kartenschach, and The Ultimate Dice Game Compendium, which contain games not listed individually on BGG
• Variants suggested at the end of the rules for a game
• Changes in the rules (intentional or not, authorized by Knizia or not) between different versions of the same game

From these sources I’ve started creating a Knizia Game Variations list which I can sort, filter, de-duplicate, and annotate. I used the BGG API and some browser automation sorcery to download every Knizia game, reimplementation link, and version on BGG. I also converted three PDF ludographies on Knizia.de from word processor documents into rows and columns.

Then, I became a human-database cyborg for a couple of months to FULL OUTER JOIN the BGG list and the Knzia.de list. If you don’t speak SQL, that means I matched all the BGG versions to their corresponding Knizia.de game publications, despite alternate spellings, mismatched years, and languages I can’t read. What shone through were two crescents on the sides of a Venn diagram: all the games that appear on BGG but not Knizia.de, and vice versa.

I’m not the first to think along these lines. Laszlo posts yearly lists of Knizia.de releases, like Reiner Knizia’s 2019, that mention games from sources outside BGG. He also makes GeekLists like the aforementioned The Real Pickomino Family that group together game variations one might not discover from game titles or BGG reimplementation links. N/A was analyzing compilations and changes between game releases, as in Newer Games in Old Rome, years before I was a BGG user. I’ve also learned a lot from Doug Adams's Knizia challenge, Jonathan Takagi's Knizia challenge, comparative reviews from EndersGame like that of Gem Dealer, Knizia news and thoughtful reviews from W. Eric Martin, and many other helpful contributions I’ve forgotten.

I’m a relative newcomer to Knizia’s games, so I don’t claim to be an authority, a top player, or a comprehensive collector. I had no idea I even liked Knizia’s games until the 2015 Codito iOS app for Medici cast a mathemagical spell on me. The enchantment has only increased as I’ve continued to play over a hundred different Knizia games, and I still have more to learn.

Differences Between BGG and Knizia.de: 1985 to 2019

My comparison of the game versions on BGG to the ludography on Knizia.de, even though it’s still in process, has already yielded results indirectly related to my original purpose. Here’s a summary I thought worth sharing:

1,761 BGG Knizia game versions from 569 games
1,955 Knizia.de game publications
1,778 Successful matches of Knizia.de publications to 569 BGG games

343 Versions on BGG but not Knizia.de (19% of total):
• 272 Additional versions (languages, publishers, printings) of games on Knizia.de
• 30 Expansions and promos not on Knizia.de
• 14 Games or versions that were not published as announced
• 11 Games not on Knizia.de
• 10 Games not on Knizia.de yet, but may be in the next year
• 4 Game versions not designed by Knizia (a database denormalization artifact)
• 2 Game versions not authorized by Knizia (counterfeit editions)

496 Publications on Knizia.de, but not BGG (25% of total):
• 251 Game versions not listed within games already on BGG
• 58 Video game versions that reimplement board games on BGG
• 47 Games not on BGG that maybe should be (see below)
• 38 Video game versions that are unique or reimplement boxed puzzles
• 38 Games or versions not on BGG that were published in magazines
• 37 Versions of 18 boxed puzzles probably outside the scope of BGG (see below)
• 11 Games on BGG that are missing version database entries entirely
• 7 Play by mail games (see Knizia's Early Games not on BGG)
• 6 Game versions incorrectly listed as not designed by Knizia
• 3 Narrative books outside the scope of BGG

The numbers above don’t yet include games published only within compilations. I plan to fix that, because before I started this project I had already begun making my own lists of every game variation in books like New Tactical Games with Dice and Cards, Blazing Aces, and Dice Games Properly Explained. There are at least 309 game variations in these three books (I’m only partly done counting the ones in Dice Games Properly Explained). Most of these are not listed separately on BGG.

I intend to similarly expand Allerley Spielerey, New Games in Old Rome, Kartenschach, The Ultimate Dice Game Compendium, and others. These four compilations will add more than 79 game variations.

I should note that some dice games in Dice Games Properly Explained and The Ultimate Dice Game Compendium are in the public domain, but Knizia liked them well enough to curate them, so I’m betting they won’t be uncorrelated with my enjoyment.

This all adds up to hundreds of Knizia games that BGG doesn’t list as of this writing, yet I already know from playing at least a dozen of them that I can enjoy them as much as, or more than, games that BGG does list.

47 Games Not on BGG

An obvious side project is to add Knizia games to BGG that probably ought to be in its database. Here are the games listed on Knizia.de that have the best chance of also being within the scope of BGG—they’re not puzzles, not video games, not within compilations or books or magazines, and probably not just a different printing of another game, although that’s subject to change after closer inspection. If I found evidence of the game beyond the ludography on Knizia.de, I linked to it:

• Kopf & Zahl – Ibis Hotel, SpieleAgentur 1998
• Tabaluga – Wo sind die Freunde?, Schmidt 2000
• Der Kleine Eisbär spielt Versteck, Schmidt 2001
• Die Sendung mit der Maus – Kochen und Backen, Schmidt 2001
• Die Sendung mit der Maus – Was passt dazu?, Schmidt 2001
• Tabaluga – Kette durch Grünland, Schmidt 2001
• Tabaluga – Staffellauf durch Grünland, Schmidt 2001
Micky Maus – Photoralley, Schmidt 2002
Reversi – Solospiel, Ravensburger 2006 (solo variant of Othello)
• СуДоку (SuDoku), Zvezda 2006 (version of any Sudoku games?)
SuDoku Kids – Das rasante Kinderspiel, Kosmos 2007
Kannst du schon Formen ordnen?, Piatnik 2008
Was ist Was Junior – Feuerwehr, Tessloff 2008
Fit für die Schule – Das lustige Pinguinrennen, Tessloff 2009
Fit für die Schule – Die abenteuerliche Schatzsuche, Tessloff 2009
Fit für die Schule – Wettlauf um die Erde, Tessloff 2009
Fit für die Schule – Wettrennen auf dem Bauernhof, Tessloff 2009
• Minis – Herrscher der Drachen, Ravensburger 2009
Wer war’s? – Kinderschokolade – Mini-Version 1, Ravensburger 2009
Wer war’s? – Kinderschokolade – Mini-Version 2, Ravensburger 2009
Wer war’s? – Kinderschokolade – Mini-Version 3, Ravensburger 2009
Kikaboo! Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Upper Deck 2010
Kikaboo! Disney Princess, Upper Deck 2010
Ice Age 3, Zvezda 2011
Timmy das Schaf – Alle meine Schäfchen, Ravensburger 2011
משאית ההפתעות (Surprise Truck), Lemada KodKod 2012
• Minis – Kalle Kängu, Ravensburger 2012 (version of Kalle Kängu?)
• Minis – Arche Noah, Ravensburger 2013 (version of Noah's Ark?)
• Minis – Mosaik, Ravensburger 2013
• Minis – Quak, Ravensburger 2013
Peppa – Bitte lächeln, Ravensburger 2014
Снежная Олимпиада (Winter Olympics), Zvezda 2014
Expanders, SimplyFun 2015
• Lavish Feast, Zvezda 2015
Шерлок Холмс (Sherlock Holmes), Zvezda 2015
Don’t Mix It!, SimplyFun 2016
SpongeBob SquarePants Doppelpack, Ravensburger 2016
Tally On, SimplyFun 2016
Feats of Cheese, SimplyFun 2017
Froggy, Green Board Game 2018
Raise the Roofs, SimplyFun 2018
Thomas & Friends - Full Steam Ahead!, Ravensburger 2018
Uncle Beary’s Bedtime, SimplyFun 2018
Eagle Chase, SimplyFun 2019
Hands Up: Skurkne er los!, Alga 2019
Monkey Mischief, Green Board Game 2019
Wake Up Stars, SimplyFun 2019

Hundreds of Games within Compilations

Then, I need to talk to someone who is knowledgeable about whether it would be appropriate to individually list games on BGG that were published within a compilation or book. Some games have already been listed, somewhat incompletely, this way (e.g., Katego, 600, Card Hunt, Nugget, Sacramento, and Octo), but most haven’t.

18 Puzzle Misfits

I’ll close with the 18 solo puzzles designed by Knizia that come in a box just like a board game, are extremely similar to Einfach Genial Knobelspass, Domino Knobelspass, or Brains Family: Burgen & Drachen, but have no racing interaction. BGG lists two of these puzzles but not the other 16. It seems that BGG won’t list them, but since there is no PuzzleGeek, I’ll include them here in case they’re of interest to a curious connoisseur such as yourself:

SuDoku – Verdrehte Blöcke, Kosmos 2006 (listed on BGG)
SuDoku – Verflixte Streifen, Kosmos 2006 (listed on BGG)
SuDoku – Verhexte Quadrate, Kosmos 2006
Dr. Knizias Gehirn Jogging – Abenteuer-Safari, Kosmos 2009
Dr. Knizias Gehirn Jogging – Drachenlabyrinth, Kosmos 2009
Dr. Knizias Gehirn Jogging – Maulwurfsjagd, Kosmos 2009
City Skyline, Huch 2010
Penta Knobelspass, Schmidt 2010
Clue Investigator, Productief 2011
LogicBox - MatchMaker and SetCollector, Huch 2011
LogicBox - PathFinder and RockHopper, Huch 2011
Think – Denk-Pfade, Ravensburger 2011
Carrots, Huch 2014
Brains – Japanese Garden, Pegasus 2015
Brains – Make Me Smile, Pegasus 2016
Brains – Treasure Map (Schatzkarte), Pegasus 2016
Brains – Magic Potion (Zaubertrank), Pegasus 2017
Dr. Grips LogikPuzzle, Moses 2019

So that’s a bit of what I’ve been up to while stuck at home. I’ve also been playing more Knizia games with my six-year-old, who is starting to multiply in his head and reduce fractions using pieces of fruit at the dinner table. Sweet.
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Tue Jul 21, 2020 4:37 pm
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Welcome to Ought From Is

Dan Laursen
United States
Fort Myers
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Microbadge: Parent of a Boy and a GirlMicrobadge: Reiner Knizia fanMicrobadge: BayesianMicrobadge: Philosophy enthusiastMicrobadge: Happily married for 5 years
Welcome to my BoardGameGeek blog, Ought From Is.

The title refers to philosopher David Hume’s claim that you can’t make an argument about what people ought to do by using only statements about what is. For example, Hume would be unconvinced if you argued, “Children ought to be allowed to bite each other because children have teeth.”

I created this blog because I’m interested in exploring and discussing philosophical arguments about what games ought to be (but not taxonomically) and what players ought to do.

For example, when a game designer offers a game to others, they invoke multiple philosophical arguments, each concluding with an “ought”:

You ought to play this game.
Players ought to be constrained by these rules.
Players ought to strive for these goals.

The supporting reasons, or premises, of these arguments are often implicit, especially if they’re preferences that not everyone agrees on. When premises are missing, these arguments can appear to derive an “ought” from an “is.”

If I may paraphrase Hume: When you make an argument about what people ought to do, it must be supported by at least one “ought” premise—a preference, subjective value, desire, or goal which must be accepted without justification. If you try to support your conclusion with only objective facts about how the world “is,” your argument will be incomplete at best.

For example, consider the following “ought” argument with only one “is” premise:

A: That game is rated 9/10 with 30,000 reviews.
C: Therefore, everyone ought to play it at least once.

The conclusion isn’t forced to be true by logic as in a deductive argument, nor is it supported strongly by evidence as in an inductive argument. Because the argument is logically invalid and evidentially weak, as a reader, you could simply ignore it. Or you could try to strengthen it by inferring an additional premise containing an “ought,” such as:

B: Playing popular, highly-rated games helps everyone stay informed about the state of the art, and everyone ought to stay informed.


B: The more high reviews a game has, the more likely everyone is to enjoy it, and everyone ought to play games once that they might enjoy.

To put the problem more generally: arguers who make illogical or weakly-supported arguments risk being misunderstood or ignored. (However, there are situations in which someone might not want to make their premises explicit. Perhaps I can talk about those another time.)

And if I may extend Hume even further: All rational arguments, even those which seem to contain only statements about what “is,” rely on (or are undone by) axiomatic “ought” premises, including such modern classics as: (1) we ought to prefer knowledge to ignorance, (2) we ought to use knowledge to predict and shape the future, and (3) we ought to verify knowledge through reason, logic, and evidence. Note that you might not agree with these axioms if you’re not committed to arguing rationally.

I find Hume’s Law, as it’s sometimes called, intrinsically interesting, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time puzzling about whether it can be broken. (Perhaps I can talk about that another time.)

But I also put it to practical use here on BGG. When I encounter an “ought” argument from a game designer or player, I try to remember to ask myself: Which premises are implied? Why weren’t they explicit? Which premises could I infer to make the argument work better? Are my inferences the same as what the arguer intended? Do they need to be?

As I strive to become a more understanding and effective communicator, I’ve found these questions helpful, especially when I can give someone the benefit of the doubt in an online forum and it results in both of us understanding each other better.


What’s Next?

I don’t work in games or philosophy professionally, so my blog will be subject to some limits. One is that I’ve studied philosophy intermittently, so I know enough to know that I don’t know enough. Another is that I have a wife, young kids, family, friends, a job, and other luck in life. Until recently, my weekly free time was measured in minutes, sometimes using negative numbers.

Also, please expect me to zoom my blog’s lens out to capture more of the gaming landscape that I find photogenic. I may post about the math, psychology, science, history, design or review of games. I may even convert my blog into a fawning portrait gallery of Reiner Knizia’s ludography.

But before it devolves into that, let me ask where you might like to go next:

If you’re intrigued by someone who publishes philosophical content about games or play, please share a pointer with the reason for your intrigue.

If you have your own ideas about combining philosophy and gaming, and you want to float them in a friendly forum, I’d love to hear about them.

And if you’ve engaged with philosophy professionally or academically, and feel like sharing your expertise, I look forward to learning more.
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Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:07 pm
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