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4:41pm on Monday, 2nd August, 2010:

What are the Rules?


When I was a teenager, I used to play games by post. I subscribed to a number of fanzines (which everyone called either zines or 'zines, depending on how conservative they felt about using leading apostrophes), mainly concerning the game Diplomacy. I eventually went on to run my own zine, but today I'm blogging about a game in my favourite zine, Clive Booth's Chimaera.

The game was quite simple: "You and I are playing a game. What are the rules?". You could send Clive a yes/no question about the rules, and he would answer it.

After a few issues, the winner of the game correctly got the rules as: "I send you a question about the rules, to which you answer yes if it has an even number of syllables and no if it has an odd number of syllables". So, a variation on a parlour game, then.

I played, but unfortunately my first question was: "are there any rules?". The reply came back, "no", so I figured I'd won and didn't ask any more. I was a bit miffed to discover that the answer was a lie.

That's the trouble with games-about-their-own-rules: they're either complete but inconsistent, incomplete but consistent, or neither.

Yes, I do know about Gödel's theorem...

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).