The Game Theory of LinkedIn

I've been on LinkedIn a lot lately.

I've been wondering about the game theory of connection requests. I tend to mentally classify connection requests in terms of "people who I can help" vs. "people who can help me." I find myself eager to accept requests in the latter category, and reluctant to accept requests in the former category. I concede that this may be totally unfair. And it leaves me wondering what my optimal strategy ought to be.

So, assume you are optimizing for career success, which means you want to hire good people when you have a job, and find good jobs when you don't.

Given that, is a big network necessarily better? Are there "bad" connections? Are there "dilution" effects?

If bigger networks are better, then connection requests are just ultimatum games; someone else is asking for permission to raise your utility and theirs at the same time, and you have veto power.

But if larger networks aren't better, then what does the payoff matrix look like? Who should you try to link to? Whose connections should you ignore?

Jeux des Mois, partial catch up

So, it's been a while since I've posted. Here's a bunch of new games I've played since then. Note that most of this was written before my daughter was born, so if you are hoping to hear about how awesome fatherhood is or how my ongoing game of SpawnCraft is going, this is not that post. Collapse )

Board Game Geek: Why So Narrow?

So, as you probably know. is the go-to site for information about board games—the IMDB analogue, if you will.

Like many sites of this ilk, this site invites users to rate games on a scale of 0 to 10 stars, and shows the average rating for each game. Take a look at the most voted-on games published in 2010. Note that these are the games are not necessarily the best games; they are the games with the largest "rating sample size." Presumably "rating sample size" has a lot to do with popularity, so we would expect the ratings to skew high here.

But the thing that strikes me about this list is the density of the user ratings. The ratings for the first 10 range from 7.14 to 8.00. The first 100 range from 6.20 to 8.47. That seems like a pretty narrow band to me. It's also striking that the rankings don't get above 9.0. (A search of all games with 100 or more votes shows that the highest all-time average rating for a standalone game is 8.86.)



Jeu de Semaine, no. 7

StarCraft II

I was a little too busy getting married when this first came out, and finally had time to play just recently. What's striking about this game is the meticulous brand management going on. Making a sequel to Starcraft requires navigating the dire straits between the Scylla of hardcore eSports players and the Charybdis of casual gamers. The former group is not just a small vocal minority, they are aspirational role models; lots of players look up to these guys, the same way that many amateur poker players lose their shirts trying to become pros. So keeping both groups happy is vital to the longevity of Starcraft.

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Jeu de Semaine, no. 6

Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure

When we consider the graphic-adventure genre, we must concede that its fundamental vulnerability as a form lies in the incompleteness of emulation as a technique. The challenges comprising any particular oeuvre demand that the player bring to the simulacrum his own wordly understanding of the game-world's combinatorical semantics. No experimental framework—no opportunity for iterative construction of predictive models of the play environment—is offered. Play-patterns devolve into exhaustive search, in the form of either hunting for pixels or of capricious and arbitrary combination of objects.

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Floggin' some Steam

So a few years back, the Magic folks printed a bunch of "cards from the future," including this one:

Steamflogger Boss 3R Creature — Goblin Rigger Other Rigger creatures you control get +1/+0 and have haste. If a Rigger you control would assemble a Contraption, it assembles two Contraptions instead.
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This card is basically a prank. The rules of Magic don't say what a "Contraption" is, or what it means to "assemble" one. Wizards has since said that "Contraption" is a kind of artifact, but have not revealed the meaning of "assemble." They may never.

For armchair card designers, this does make a fun game out of imagining what kinds of riggers might exist, and what kinds of Contraptions they might assemble.

This leads me to an interesting design challenge: is it possible to design a card set that makes Steamflogger Boss a meaningful and relevant card, without changing the rules of Magic. Collapse )


Random Game Theory Question

Here's the setup:

You and another contestant are given a prize pool of $1000, and the two of you have one minute to come to an agreement as to how to divide the money between yourselves. If you come to an agreement within the time limit, you each get your agreed-upon share, plus, you get an extra prize of $X and the other contestant gets an extra prize of $Y. X and Y are known by both players at the start of the game. If no agreement is reached, neither of you gets any money.

How does your strategy change as the values of X and Y change?