Fun and Games

May 7, 2011

As you describe, the growth of analytics within sports and the growth of fantasy sports in society have grown hand in hand.  Of course this is not a surprise, since both are very much enabled by information technology.  Although it is definitely possible to run fantasy competitions on paper, it surely must be true that the only sports prediction competition most people competed in before the proliferation of the internet were NCAA Tournament pools.  Similarly, box scores have been available in newspapers for generations, but the use of statistics in game strategy is a new phenomenon.  Indeed, interesting new metrics have sprung up that better capture the so-called “business model” of sports teams.  I look forward to reading your magazine article about business analytics, once it is fully formatted.

At some point, perhaps you can also write a magazine article about the strategy of cricket and cricmetrics, since I don’t really get it.  Though of course, I haven’t really ever watched cricket as serious sports fan, either.

As previously mentioned, we had taken a family vacation to the Poconos at the end of last year, and there was some game-playing that happened: notably Connect Four.  The trip was very relaxing but as some people say, information workers are always stressed because they can’t turn off the tap of work like material workers.  That is to say, I kept thinking about an optimal strategy for Connect Four. 

It is self-evident to anyone that Tic Tac Toe has a pure dominant strategy, that always leads to a tie, but what about Connect Four?  It is pretty much the same game, just bigger and with a gravitational constraint on strategies.  Is there a dominant strategy for Connect Four?  Does the first player have an advantage?  As one might expect, a formal game-theoretic analysis is possible.  As it turns out, under optimal play on a standard 6 by 7 board, the first player should always be able to win.  In practice, though, bounded rationality leads to all kinds of outcomes.

As I’ve been learning recently, this game theory stuff is rather interesting, with uncertainty not just due to noise but also what competitors are going to do.  In ongoing work with Joong Bum Rhim, Vivek Goyal, and you, I’ve been looking at quantizer design games and a game-theoretic view of decision-making under limited information of various kinds.  I feel like there is good potential for this line of research, but we’ll see.

Something else I’ve been rather intrigued by is the use of games as a means of doing work, e.g. using the techniques that Luis von Ahn has mastered, but I need to learn more about it, especially in relation to crowdsourcing.  I wonder if games like Monopoly that have a positive probability of never ending are perceived as more fun or less fun, and whether a dashboard makes it too much like work.  Would you play Monopoly with a dashboard or against a computer?


One comment

  1. […] God’s Gift Achiuwa, you asked whether I would play Monopoly with a dashboard or against a computer.  I would play with the help […]

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