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Subject: An attempt at a philosophical discussion about lying/bluffing games rss

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Anna F.
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This is me trying to be deep or something.

Lately I've been reading the published diaries of my great-grandfather during WWI. In them, he keeps going on and on about what a great person he was and how he never told a lie (a bit pompous). Even under threat of deportation/execution, he would not even do such a thing as travel under a false name.

That made me think of board games (stay with me here...). I remember having a blast playing Hart an der Grenze so I ordered Sheriff of Nottingham recently. We also used to enjoy playing the card game "Bull$h!t" back in the day, which my parents were vaguely displeased with (though I was never sure if it was the sort-of-lying or almost-swearing that was the issue).

Given the overwhelming number of games that involve bluffing and/or hidden information, it got me thinking about how George Washington level truth-tellers would see bluffing games.

Generally many people with an ethical aversion to lying will either lie under extreme circumstances (eg Corrie Ten Boom) or never on threat of death (my ggf evidently).

So I can see this going two ways.
"I refuse to play a lying game because if I get used to lying for fake, I might want to lie for real."
"It's just a game with no real consequences."

This is kind of pertinent because I'm going to try to take Sheriff of Nottingham or Liar's Dice to a church thing and I have no idea how they will react.

So share your experiences and/or philosophical insights into bluffing games.

*No anti-religious trolling please, many faiths and ethical traditions have taboos against lying.*
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Jeff Wood
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I play a number of bluffing games. And I notice my ability to play has gotten to the point that I can say the absolute truth and others will believe I am lying.

This has been amusing to me, being able to state with confidence, "I don't need to lie."


Or, in one of the games, "I'm the werewolf, kill me." and then win.
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Lluluien
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I think this is an interesting question. If I think about how my grandmother might react, I'd say she wouldn't play it under the premise of your first thought ("I might get used to lying").

I have an additional question to add:

I would argue that if you're playing Coup "properly" prior to the last few turns of the game (in before any Coup noobs disagree with me about this: remember that poker adage about playing the players instead of playing the cards), you could do it almost equally effectively without ever looking at your cards in the first place. Under that premise, what would one of these no-lying people think about playing a lying game like Coup without information about what cards/roles they had at all? Is this still lying? Is it still taboo?
 
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Mark McGee
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I have been on multiple sides of this fence. I absolutely hate lying. I used to not be willing to play games that required lying (BS and poker among these games), because that was practicing dishonesty, which has no place in my life.

I still prefer being a good guy in games like Resistance, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica, to the point where I enjoy it much less if I am the traitor. But I do play these games. I can allow some level of dishonesty in the context of games without it being part of other aspects of my life.

As a parent, I know that there is a point at which children are developed enough to separate the game context from the rest of their life. That level of maturity comes at a different time for different kids, and I think it is wise to err on the side of not encouraging my kids to play lying games until I am confident they know the difference between game context and not. I was in my 20s when I could separate them.

If my kids were in the church group you are wanting to take these games to, I would find alternative games for them to play, but would not consider you a bad person for bringing those games. If my kids were at home, I would play those games with you.
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Lluluien
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meshnaster wrote:
I have been on multiple sides of this fence. I absolutely hate lying. I used to not be willing to play games that required lying (BS and poker among these games), because that was practicing dishonesty, which has no place in my life.

I still prefer being a good guy in games like Resistance, Shadows over Camelot, and Battlestar Galactica, to the point where I enjoy it much less if I am the traitor. But I do play these games. I can allow some level of dishonesty in the context of games without it being part of other aspects of my life.

As a parent, I know that there is a point at which children are developed enough to separate the game context from the rest of their life. That level of maturity comes at a different time for different kids, and I think it is wise to err on the side of not encouraging my kids to play lying games until I am confident they know the difference between game context and not. I was in my 20s when I could separate them.

If my kids were in the church group you are wanting to take these games to, I would find alternative games for them to play, but would not consider you a bad person for bringing those games. If my kids were at home, I would play those games with you.


I have an honest question for you that is tangential to the conversation. Do you think dishonesty and cunning necessarily have to be the same thing? I was surprised when I looked up cunning and a bunch of dictionary synonyms just now and saw that the dictionary appears to say these are the same thing. Maybe "craftiness" is the word I'm looking for?

While I don't think dishonesty is ethical (which I think is a more powerful statement than saying it isn't moral, but that's a different debate), I do think there's still room to say that I think "cunning" is an valuable life skill. For instance, I would say my son lacks the "cunning" to play Netrunner effectively right now. I don't see this as a reflection on any emotional/ethical maturity level; I see it as a reflection of an intellectual/strategic maturity level.

By way of example: did you know that the staircase in the Big Bang Theory TV show is only 7 stairs long?

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/showbiz/big-bang-theory-set/

The rest is camera tricks. Is this dishonesty or cunning or neither and why?
 
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Chris in Kansai
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Those games don't sound like the best choice for a church event. Why not take other games which don't make you a target for encouraging "dubious" behaviour?
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Alison Mandible
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I can agree to be dropped into the water in a dunk booth at a carnival, even though it would be wrong for someone to throw me into the water without that assent from me. It's not just that I'm likely to forgive them-- it's that if I'm participating in the dunk booth voluntarily, then they didn't do anything wrong.

Likewise I think if everybody knows the game involves lying and is playing happily, it's hard for me to see who is committing a wrong act. If that's wrong, so is the dunk tank, or a martial arts bout.

For that matter, driving a car at 65 miles an hour would show an immoral disregard for human life if you did it in a crowded park. But on the highway it's okay-- not just because the odds of you injuring someone are lower, but because we've agreed that's where you do that thing.

Now... I personally dislike most lying/bluffing games. And I think it's related to my commitment to honesty in my life. But I don't think that commitment *requires* me to avoid bluffing games. I just don't enjoy how it feels. Someone else who's committed to not deceiving others in significant matters might feel the opposite way, that lying in complex but harmless situations illuminates for them what it means to be honest. Or maybe they just enjoy it when it's mutually agreed upon as acceptable, but would never lie when it wasn't agreed on!
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Pete
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I have a player in my group that will not lie under any circumstances. We just can't play those games with him.

Pete (suspects there are some of those in any church group)
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Mark McGee
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lluluien wrote:
Do you think dishonesty and cunning necessarily have to be the same thing?


If they are not the same thing, I think they are close relatives. I think they both involve convincing other people to think or do something that they wouldn't otherwise do, by making things seem different than they actually are.

But a lot of this is also situational. Like the saying that politicians say things that are true in order to make you believe something that's false whereas an author says things that are false in order to teach you something that is true.
 
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McDog
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snapdragon23 wrote:
This is me trying to be deep or something.

Lately I've been reading the published diaries of my great-grandfather during WWI.


Heck, I want to hear more about great grandpa.
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Larry L
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I see it something like acting. If someone is up on stage, they say all sorts of things that are not actually true if the fiction around the actor is ignored. Now, some people are uncomfortable acting (I am) so I can sympathize that someone might be uncomfortable bluffing in a game, but I don't think it is a moral issue.
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Benj Davis
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Rastak wrote:
snapdragon23 wrote:
This is me trying to be deep or something.

Lately I've been reading the published diaries of my great-grandfather during WWI.


Heck, I want to hear more about great grandpa.


I dunno, he sounds like he was full of crap...
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Niall Smyth
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The taboo against lying is interesting, because it only covers verbal deception. Feints, bluffs, deceptive maneuvering in a wargame, or just plain lying by omission are apparently fine with people who would consider themselves honest. But isn't having a good hand and controlling your emotion dishonest? Of course, real life business and trading involves unequal information, and it would be honest to share that information.

Basically, I think all social interaction includes some dishonesty. For example, in this thread the OP explicitly asked for no attacks on religion - and the politeness she desires includes some dishonesty. Politeness is dishonest.

Dishonesty is a fundamental part of society. When someone says they're perfectly honest, they're lying to themselves.
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Candace Mercer
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I don't consider game play to be lying or dishonest in anyway because we all agree to the rules which are transparent. I do not see the ethical problem.

Now if you cheat at a game, or lie during a game where it is not sanctioned by rules, well, you are on your own cowboy. *Attempt at being tough and threatening.*

I just spent the summer studying how we can be wrong, cognitive bias and self deception. I am not certain that anyone can live in absolute truth. You can aspire to live w integrity/ethically but a lie free existence I do not think is possible.

My main point is that we are confabulating creatures. We do something, we don't know why, we make up a story to fill in the blanks. This psychological phenomenon is well tested - experiments involving jam and pantyhose come to mind. So when we say we like pantyhose #4 because they are the silkiest, and when all 4 pairs are exactly the same, are we telling the truth? When most likely we picked them because they are on the most right hand side? We don't even know the truth but we think we do.
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John Barton
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candio wrote:
I don't consider game play to be lying or dishonest in anyway because we all agree to the rules which are transparent. I do not see the ethical problem.

Now if you cheat at a game, or lie during a game where it is not sanctioned by rules, well, you are on your own cowboy.


This is exactly my stance on the question. I hate cheating, unless it's part of the ruleset of the game, in which case, go nuts! Likewise lying. It's not like anyone actively enjoys being lied to, but in a game situation where we're all aware that it's a situation that might happen (or almost certainly will happen at some point), then I don't see a problem there.
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Russ Williams
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RingelTree wrote:
I see it something like acting. If someone is up on stage, they say all sorts of things that are not actually true if the fiction around the actor is ignored. Now, some people are uncomfortable acting (I am) so I can sympathize that someone might be uncomfortable bluffing in a game, but I don't think it is a moral issue.


This is what immediately came to my mind as well. Do the people who think it's wrong to ever "lie" also think it's wrong for actors to play roles? (Not to mention role-playing games, heh...)

What about fiction authors who write in the first person? "I was born in a small Irish town in 1785." Is it wrong to write such a story?

What about telling a joke? "A genie gives a man a wish. The man says 'Make me a milkshake.' The genie says 'Poof! You're a milkshake!'" Clearly the joke-teller is not really telling the truth; the asserted event did not really happen. By the same reasoning, one should never tell such jokes.

This kind of absolutism ("it's always wrong to intentionally say something false, no matter what the context or situation") seems clearly misguided to me.

(In the extreme case it leads to nonsense like insisting that "If a murderer comes to your house and says 'Where is your friend Bob? I am looking for Bob to murder him', then you are morally obliged to tell the truth about where Bob is, because you should always tell the truth", as some philosopher (I can't recall who) proposed...) (Does anyone know which philosopher I'm talking about?)
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L S
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In my opinion, games like Sheriff of Nottingham do a pretty good job to highlight the problems of dishonesty.

Once you're ten minutes into the game, it becomes glaringly obvious that honest merchants get the same treatment as smugglers, the Sheriff can't cooperate with anybody because he always has to suspect getting the short end of the stick, and nobody can ever hope to be above suspicion, no matter if they are telling the truth or not. In other words, Nottingham is a completely dysfunctional community because nobody trusts anybody.

Which is precisely the reason why virtually every ethical system in history concludes that lying is evil: Humans are social by necessity, but in the long run, being social doesn't work with liars. That's why pretending to be in Nottingham is funny for half an hour - but nobody in their right mind would want to actually live there.

Frankly, whenever people try to shield children from these "liar games", I always ask myself how the parents could possibly have missed that there's this very obvious and compelling teachable moment right there in front of them?
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L S
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russ wrote:
(In the extreme case it leads to nonsense like insisting that "If a murderer comes to your house and says 'Where is your friend Bob? I am looking for Bob to murder him', then you are morally obliged to tell the truth about where Bob is, because you should always tell the truth", as some philosopher (I can't recall who) proposed...) (Does anyone know which philosopher I'm talking about?)

Immanuel Kant (1797) Über ein vermeintes Recht aus Menschenliebe zu lügen. AA VIII:423-430. https://korpora.zim.uni-duisburg-essen.de/Kant/aa08/423.html
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Adam L
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russ wrote:
(Does anyone know which philosopher I'm talking about?)


Yes, I do...

... or do I? whistle

On a more serious note, this is an issue that I have thought about on and off for quite a few years. I want to both uphold honesty as high as possible as an ethical principle, whilst also acknowledging that context can make big differences. Many games where one player wins inovlve competition rather than cooperation, and often include doing things in the game that you would never do in reality. However the context (of a game) would normally allow many people to "play the role" of a general, or spy, or assassin, or soldier, and do the "nasty thing" they wouldn't normally do in reality - because it is a fiction.

I have found genuine Christian friends to be on a spectrum with games their conscience allows them to play... for me, the loving thing to do is to know my friends well and suggest games I know they will be happy to play. If I'm not sure, I would err on the side of caution.

[Edit after reading LS above. I agree that often games provide a great context for learning, teaching, interaction, both for kids and adults. It's just that often, people don't really want to discuss the moral implications of a game AT THE TIME - because they just want to have fun. Of course, there may be opportunity later to reflect on a game and the moral issues it raises. ]
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Russ Williams
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madad07 wrote:
russ wrote:
(Does anyone know which philosopher I'm talking about?)


Yes, I do...

... or do I? whistle

Ha!


Quote:
On a more serious note, this is an issue that I have thought about on and off for quite a few years. I want to both uphold honesty as high as possible as an ethical principle, whilst also acknowledging that context can make big differences. Many games where one player wins inovlve competition rather than cooperation,


Um... shouldn't that be "All games where one player wins involve competition"?

What game where one player wins don't involve competition? If only one of us can win, then it seems by definition we are competing.

(But perhaps this is some question of semantic nuance...?)
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Christian K
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Interesting topic. I think it is reasonable to distinguish between games where you are trying to convince someone that you are their friend (The Resistance) and games where you are bluffing (Poker or Coup).


In the resistance you can really feel betrayed that someone lied to you. In Coup, you would never feel betrayed that you were lied to because you knew the person was not your friend. Thinking about it, in poker you don't even lie because you don't claim anything. You just bet on the fact that your hand is better and if the opponent choses to read into that that you have a good hand, that is on him or her

I think the two catagories are often lumped together but for this debate I think it is reasonable to treat the seperately. I would imagine that some people would be against the resistance lying but that poker or even coup would be morally okay.

(I highly enjoy all these games).
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Kathleen Nugent
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candio wrote:
I just spent the summer studying how we can be wrong, cognitive bias and self deception. I am not certain that anyone can live in absolute truth. You can aspire to live w integrity/ethically but a lie free existence I do not think is possible.

My main point is that we are confabulating creatures. We do something, we don't know why, we make up a story to fill in the blanks. This psychological phenomenon is well tested - experiments involving jam and pantyhose come to mind. So when we say we like pantyhose #4 because they are the silkiest, and when all 4 pairs are exactly the same, are we telling the truth? When most likely we picked them because they are on the most right hand side? We don't even know the truth but we think we do.


Candace:
When I read the first paragraph I thought, "this sounds very similar to the EdX course I watched online." And then, when you wrote about the silkiest pantyhose, I knew for sure that you'd been involved in that course. Did you do it through EdX or in "real life?" I thought it was an excellent course. The two teachers worked together so well, and the course covered absolutely everything about how we think.
 
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Gary Stephen
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lluluien wrote:
...I would argue that if you're playing Coup "properly" prior to the last few turns of the game (in before any Coup noobs disagree with me about this: remember that poker adage about playing the players instead of playing the cards), you could do it almost equally effectively without ever looking at your cards in the first place...


Blind Coup is the only way I play. I never look at my two cards and never look at replacements I draw.

Not everybody I play with does this, but some do.
 
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Adam L
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russ wrote:


Um... shouldn't that be "All games where one player wins involve competition"?

What game where one player wins don't involve competition? If only one of us can win, then it seems by definition we are competing.

(But perhaps this is some question of semantic nuance...?)


Yes, you're right. All games.
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Samo Oleami
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I'd start here:
Quote:
"It's just a game with no real consequences."

And go further.

A state of play is as-if state. It's a state with no real life repercussions, it has a special frame. But it's also a way most mammals (all) learn skills to use in "real life" - it's training, it's doing stuff with no real consequences to learn skills when it matters.

So:
1. Lying in a game as roleplaying.
If I understand lying as a part of behaviour that makes sense within the game, then it's a sort of roleplaying. I'm in a fictional space of a game and acting out this fictional persona, who lies.

My most common strategy with lying is that I don't try to pass a lie as the truth, I try to pass a truth as the lie. Idea is to confuse the reading of my behaviour, so people are never sure what I'm after. However a thing with this strategy is that it's basically acting (I tend to overdramatize) and has much lower real life application scope that the reverse approach...

Of all the games with lying the most interesting in this regard is Diplomacy. Because it's so personally involved and also because the metagame is really strong. In Diplomacy telling the truth is a common strategy between people who play the long game - build reputation with the same group or the same playing scene. In Diplomacy it's wise to leave everything that happens in Diplomacy in Diplomacy, but ... games of Diplomacy can be seen as one long campaign with metagame from previous plays creeping in.

2. Training lying as a skill.
Basically I couldn't lie worth a damn. I could omit the truth though (tee hee hee). But it was with games that I learned how to lie (Resistance mostly, Kakerlakenpoker as well), how to control my emotional responses that weren't in my conscious control. And I think that's a good thing as I've been able to widen my scope of behaviour and be more aware of myself.

The other interesting part of Diplomacy is that it's so open you basically negotiate with yourself how much of a bastard you want to be. I play with a bit more relaxed standards than in real life, but there's a limit of what I want to be able to get away with. And - this is basically training one's conscience. So - isn't this great? You don't train just lying, but also the response to lying, the safety checks.

let's just say there's a difference if you can do something, but choose not to, and choosing not to do something you can't do (well) anyhow.

My bottom line:
a game is a place of playfulness.
Please enter it with such attitude.
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