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Game Theory: Let’s all play the Feud.. March 18, 2006

Posted by webofwebhead in Game Theory, Strategy.
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I’m a big fan of Game Theory…in an article I wrote on HeroClix I referenced the reality game show “Survivor”, and now another TV game show has caught my fancy…Family Feud?  In many ways, the show as a whole is sort of lame, especially reruns of the older version, but the core game mechanic is solid…and interesting. The interesting twist to Family Feud, the part you might not have given a second thought to, is the fact that you are not trying to come up with the right answer…you are trying to guess the most popular answer.  This is a huge difference, and a smart player that understands the game would have a huge advantage knowing this going in.  Let’s take the following example…let’s say the question is:

 “We’ve surveyed 100 people, and asked them to name a vegetable.”

Now, there are many “right” answers, but here is a wrong one: tomato.  Technically, a tomato is a fruit.  HOWEVER…most people thing of the tomato as a vegetable, and a popular one at that…so for the purposes of the Family Feud, tomato is a good answer to the name a vegetable question, even though it is a “wrong” answer!  I call this type of game “predicting the popular response”.

So how does this tidbit relate back to the games that I really love, ccgs and cmgs?  In many ways, predicting the popular response is what many people call meta-gaming.  Meta-gaming is essentially choosing a weapon (deck, squad or team) based on what you think the most popular weapon will be, and then choosing yours to beat it.  For example, imagine you are going to a big Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament, and everyone claims Rock is the best play to make.  So, “everyone” is going to be playing Rock, because it’s considered the best.  You, being a smart gamer, play the meta-game, and decide to bring Paper, because even though some will be playing Scissors, you will always beat the Rock players, and there should be more Rock players than anyone else. A simplified example, but it proves the point.

At high levels of competition, the meta-game IS the game in many ways.  If you are looking for ways to improve your game…I’d suggest that you work on your Family Feud skills and learn how to predict the popular response, and go from there. – Brett

 (p.s. Want another zany tomato fact?  LEGALLY, the tomato is a vegetable in the US according to an order by the supreme court, which had nothing to do with botany and everything to do with taxation…)

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Comments»

1. YodaBreaker - March 23, 2006

Another way of thinking about the “meta-game” concept is through the lens of the psychological construct of “theory of mind.” Basically, it’s a construct that encompasses our ability to know about what other people might be perceiving and thinking, rather than always perceiving and thinking about things only through our own experience. Intriguingly, the “theory of mind” is thought to be severely deficient in autism.


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