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In bounds, out of bounds

By suspendedreason2021-05-22 20:20:24.402Z

One major source of conflict involves the bounds of a given game.

Different individuals, depending on their status in the game, have different opinions on what is "in" or "out" of bounds. Some might call these opinions justifications of their preferences, of their positions and strengths and players. An "is" from an "ought." If you excel at a certain strategy, you're certainly incentivized to call that strategy fair play. Likewise, if you excel at a rival strategy, you're incentivized to call the first player's approach out of bounds.

Lebron James: frequently accused by fans of selling the story, of strategically sweetening narratives to bolster his legacy. So: exaggerating injuries, exaggerating obstacles. Gassing up rival players so that his victory over them looks all the more impressive. Coasting to ensure the big comeback.

Let's assume these accusations are true. One angle is to say: James is a performer, an entertainer. He's playing "within bounds." Another angle is to be a basketball purist: it's not about appearances and optics, it's about the reality of skill. Purists might admit that narrative and storytelling ends up determining much of legacy and reputation, but they view this as an unfortunate flaw in our evaluative ability, rather than an integral part of "scoring." We see this problem pop up in "flopping"—when players deliberately exaggerate contact to sell a foul to the referees. Is deceiving refs in bounds or out of bounds? Part of the game, or degenerate?

Another example: some people think that wall text shouldn't prop up conceptual works, that the concept should "make itself known" through the work itself, without being propped up by supplementary text. Others counter that the wall text is now part of the artistic tradition, one tool among many to pull on, all equally fair game.

The same can be said of identity performance in the arts—cults of personality, the fashion games of Gaga or Bowie. Is this part of a "total artist package," or obfuscation of the Real Craft, composition and lyricism?

One problem is that these things can never be "pure surplus." Since games are competitive, allowing X move in addition to Y will always hurt players who excel at Y and not X. There's only room for so many rockstars, so many major visual artists, and if some of them got there by playing identitarian strategies, or fashion strategies, well, that's so many less slots for everyone else. I don't have a strong feeling whether identity or fashion should be part of the rock game, other than noting they obviously already are. But we shouldn't pretend there aren't tradeoffs, that allowing certain moves doesn't "hurt" players who play a different way.

The situation is complicated when some players view X approach as in-bounds, and others view it as out-of-bounds. Now, the latter group is actively avoiding strategies—e.g. flopping to sell fouls—that the former group feels comfortable using. The former group wins a strategic advantage. The latter group gets to cling to a sense of "honor" that is only partially recognized.

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    beiser2021-05-23 17:54:55.832Z

    some reasons to choose one X or Y:

    • one approach has negative externalities
    • and in particular, ones that endanger the game itself.
    • one approach is directly criminal or unethical, or puts the lives of participants at risk.
    • by convention, something has become part of the medium (plaques on art). therefore, including it in the game will encourage its artful use.
    • one approach leads to more interest, making the entire game larger and benefitting even those players who would naively appear to lose out.
    • over a long period, it becomes clear that one leads to better works than the other. (rare)
    • the game has been defined already in opposition to a certain aspect, and there exists a similar game nearby in which that is not the case
    • the game has been languishing, and it might not with the addition of a new aspect
    • the game has been languishing, and it might not with the removal of a tired aspect
    1. In reply tosuspendedreason:
      suspendedreason2021-05-28 22:02:29.595Z

      @beiser Yeah that's a great list. I'm slightly worried that some of them boil down to "choose good things over bad things," but many such cases. Do you think stuff like the progression of art from tightly bounded rules to less-bounded is a normal, healthy expansion that's necessary to keep a game's vitality up? (Perhaps the floodgates were opened too quickly and all at once, is the main problem?)

      In basketball, you do see people grounding certain moves/tactics in whether they are fun or not fun to watch—which I think is healthy honestly. E.g. Harden constantly drawing fouls is unfun to watch: you just get a bunch of free throws, the game rhythm is garbage.

      I also think people view games as having defining "spirits"—the thing the game is "about"—and that allowed play depends in part on alignment with that aboutness. This is partly covered by your "the game has been defined already in opposition to a certain aspect" but it might deserve outsized attention. Wanting to keep basketball "about" athletic excellence, and not mere entertainment, is part of why LeBron histrionics are frowned upon.