Architecting the next best sport

A lens for viewing the art of applied rationality is to recognize the contours and interfaces of system 1 and 2 to help achieve goals. How can this apply to a game? Could it become a sport for intellectual athletes? If it manifested as a video game, would it be doomed to a demographic of self-complacent hedonists, or could defying this be built into the game somehow? Hermann Hesse, in the Glass Bead Game, idolized an intellectual, disinterested culture that may swell around a game that captures all of the intellectual pursuits. This game is inherently unrealistic, but I think certain dimensions of current games can be deconstructed to create a framework for the next best sport.

I think the most prominent spectrum for analyzing the legitimacy of strategic games is to look at the response time of players to an event. Chess & Go can take a long time between moves: large demand on System 2. Whereas the decisions of players during football or boxing are made with snap-judgements: it requires more of an intuitive understanding of the system. This may be related to a ‘tactics vs strategy’ trade-off. In general, strategy refers to the use of a broad arsenal of abilities and options whereas tactics is more concerned with short-term goals such as winning an individual event.

What games lie between these two extremes of demand on System 1 and System 2? I think this could be found in a real time strategy game, slowed down to leverage the benefits of a turn-based game, along with an HCI that does not create a bottleneck on execution (overcoming the HCI bottleneck seems feasible if you extend the power of macros). I would bet that the result of an incentive to create this next best sport would draw a strong culture.

Why we should be skeptical when criticizing RTS games
In real-time strategy games, “players are required to manage a dizzying array of information and options. The game presents the player with a series of puzzles, and you can’t succeed at the game simply by solving the puzzles one at a time. You have to craft a longer-term strategy, in order to juggle and coordinate competing interests. In denigrating the video game, Johnson argues, we have confused it with other phenomena in teen-age life, like multitasking—simultaneously e-mailing and listening to music and talking on the telephone and surfing the Internet. Playing a video game is, in fact, an exercise in “constructing the proper hierarchy of tasks and moving through the tasks in the correct sequence,” he writes. “It’s about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order.” -Malcolm Gladwell


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