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Subject: A funny joke about the Denisovans rss

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Phil Eklund
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Baden Würtenberg
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The game "Neanderthal" includes "brain maps", which you can see in the book "The Prehistory of the Mind" by Steven Mithen. This book is about "cognitive fluidity", the most important innovation in human history. This occurred during the brief period that Neanderthal and Sapiens humans shared Ice Age Europe. It is the time when the brain changed from a hard-wired "swiss army knife", with a different brain compartment for each purpose, to a "cognitively fluid" brain. Mithen identifies 3 compartments: Natural History, Social, Technological.

For a million years, humans had been expertly knapping stones into lethal points and knives. But strangely, this "technology" remained stagnant, no innovations on the the handaxe in all that time. Even stranger, no variations in raw material. Except for a short-lived innovative period in Africa, there is no evidence of bone or ivory ever being carved into useful tools, until the time of the human-Neanderthal meeting. Why not?

This is evidence that bones and stones were processed by humans in different areas of the brain, namely the natural history and technical areas respectively. When a human encountered bones, the find was processed for information about predators and prey, but this data never found its way into the area on "tool-making".

But somehow, perhaps in a human-Neanderthal hybrid, the brain switched to a new common software, the equivalent of hooking a computer to the internet. The software that enabled this upgrade is called "language", as the brain started to handle concepts and memories verbally.

A game example of cognitive fluidity is joke telling. An early joke may have been describing a mouse as if it had human characteristics. The ancestor of Mickey Mouse perhaps. Why would such a joke be funny?

Mickey Mouse bridges the social and natural history mental domains. Words for Mickey and humans got mixed in together, encouraging cognitive fluidity. And cognitive fluidity has enormous survival value: you can carve bone into hooks and needles that stones cannot duplicate. Jokes are amusing because they promote cognitive fluidity. To be funny was to survive. Art and Culture was perhaps born in a funny moment.

Part of the fun of designing "Neanderthal" was trying to identify what is uniquely human, and trying to figure out what game advantage these things ("jokes", "music", "swear words") could possibly give players. And then I assigned each cultural aspect to one of the 3 subspecies in the game: sapiens, neanderthal, heidelbergensis, based on what I know about them. Cave paintings are sapient, but the "Neanderthal flute" seems to indicate that they were musical.

That brings me to the proposal to make Neanderthal into a 4-player game, like Greenland. The idea was to introduce the Denisovans, a people about whom I know little, but might have been an Asian variant of Neanderthal. But I soon ran into implementation issues.

Mithen identified 3 brain domains in the swiss-army knife, and these resonated neatly with the 3 subspecies in the game. Sapiens is a noted social animal, Neanderthal a noted big game hunter requiring stone technology, and Heidelbergensis a small game hunter requiring natural history expertise. This last is based upon the wooden Schöningen spears, found in Lower Saxony Germany.

The problem is trying to fit a 4th subspecies into this scheme would disrupt the game's 3-way alpha specialization. In many games, an extra payer is just a few extra game tokens of a unique color, but in a tightly integrated game like "Neanderthal" it means disruptions of many 3-way integrations. Not only the 3 asymmetrical starting attributes of the alphas but also the daughters, who are now divided among the 3 species on culture evidence. I would have to come up with additional characteristics perhaps, and assign them to a subspecies about which I know nothing.

Another simulation problem, Denisovans are found outside of Europe, and all the events, animals and artifacts in the game are European. Finally, the event cards would need to be redone for starting 4 players instead of 3. I decided that that it would distort my early game decisions and hurt the simulation value too far to bring in an extra player.

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Franz Derphausen
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Not everything has to be forced - auf Teufel komm raus - into a 4-player compatible form. And besides, I played a 4 "player" game of Neanderthal, myself taking the role of the humble narrator and guide for the other three players, and it was not a bit less exciting as past gaming experinces.
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Samuel Argento
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It's a shame not to have a 4th player/Denisova for Neanderthal.
There is no way to integrate it, even if only to solo play?
 
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Martí Cabré

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So that's why witty people are more attractive: it's a signal of cognitive fluidity and capacity of adaptation to new situations.

I've looked up wit and it fits: "A natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humour."
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