Thinking of games simply in terms of skill vs. luck is an oversimplification. With the help of my kind commentors, I have made the chart below to illustrate some of the many components of games that belie the image of a monolithic component called “skill”. Below the table I will describe each of the categories.
Games differ in complexity due to the permutations of possible moves and outcomes. In the left-hand orange column are two scales to mathematically rank a game’s complexity. The purple numbers are the GameTree (GT) complexity – which I arbitrarily used to sort this list. The yellow numbers are the State Space (SS) complexity — I barely understand the math, so read the wiki article if you are interested). The numbers represent the log to base 10.
Luck – Skill Spectrum
The red-blue blurred spectrum bar is meant to imperfectly illustrate the fact that luck and skill blur. Adjusting for luck in a game is a skill in itself.
In the white columns are 7 components of the game which I feel illustrate the variety of skill involved in playing various games. The sum of these components add up to 100%. Only the first column would be considered “pure” luck, the rest I would consider skills of different types. The numbers in these boxes is totally fabricated by me in an intuitive way — thus error laden. But I hope they illustrate the theme of this post. Here is a brief elaboration of the categories I invented:
- Random Elements: roll of the dice, deal of the cards and such
- Hidden Information: For instance, your opponent holds a set of card which you can not see.
- Bluffing Skills: Some games involve bluffing, face reading and such
- Memorizing Skills: During the game, how much use of memory is needed.
- System Particulars: The idiosyncrasies of the games rules will generate particulars that a player needs time and experience to understand and remember. They are not apparent simply by understanding the rules.
- Pattern Recognition: This is looking at the big picture of the game and weighting your moves appropriately. It can involve seeing familiar patterns that are difficult to calculate.
- Calculations: In Weiqi we call this “reading”. It means playing out as many possible moves you can in the game tree to make the best calculated move.
After setting out this table, I see that I tend not to like games with random elements or memorizing (a weakness of mine). Looking at the complex set of skills in games helps make it clear why different folks like different games.
Important Caveat: Any given player, will change the game to match their skill sets. So, for example, in my WéiQí game I may only do 30% calculating and increase my pattern recognition to 50%. However, if I did more calculating, I would be better. Nonetheless, but of “style” is how we all compensate our skill sets in response to our opponents. Thus these percentages are artificial in yet this sense too.
Any corrections, additions, insights?