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What is a game?

Seems like a simple question, right? But when you really sit down and think about it – what’s the answer? Is there a universal definition? Or is it more a case of knowing it when you see it? And furthermore, there’s an even more fundamental query – why is a game?

It’s that last inquiry that seems to be at the center of Oliver Roeder’s new book “Seven Games: A Human History” (W.W. Norton & Company, $26.95). It’s an exploration of, well, seven games – checkers, backgammon, chess, Go, poker, Scrabble and bridge – and our connection to them.

With each entry, Roeder offers us a look at the game’s origins – its place of birth, its precursors, its evolution – as well as introducing us to a formidable practitioner. And perhaps most fascinating, he also takes us into the realm of artificial intelligence as we meet the people who have devoted their lives to teaching machines to play these games.

It’s a fascinating treatise on the importance of games and how they influence the people who play them, as well as a wonderful glimpse at some of the eccentric and idiosyncratic folks who have devoted their lives to achieving a kind of granular greatness. To Roeder and the people to whom he speaks, games are far more than mere entertainment – they are an opportunity to better understand the world, both around us and within us.

Published in Tekk
Friday, 02 September 2016 16:14

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