Unless you really haven’t been paying attention, you know that I am a huge geek but not just about games. I am a music geek, an outdoors geek, a computer science geek, and geeky about a dozen or so other topic areas, too. When I can combine two or more geeky subject areas together, I all but jump for joy (if I am in public). The two I have recently been able to combine is my passion for board games and my passion for understanding systems through data analysis and metric collection.
Whoa! Did I lose you? If I did, data analysis and metric collection are all part of what is referred to as “data mining“. Data mining is all about finding patterns in the raw information and then putting them in a context that a human brain can use to make intelligent decisions. It’s a relatively new area of the computer industry and it’s really starting to take off. For example, one of my “jobs” when I am at the office is to review processes and determine where there is wasteful uses of resources. The only way I can do this is to collect data – lots of data – that I put into various spreadsheets and then run formulas against to find patterns. These patterns help me identify what is really going on and then help me make suggestions on how to improve.
What does this have to do with anything? Consider board and card games. Each game has a rule set that defines what a player can and cannot do. Within that rule set, game mechanisms are used to help facilitate play and further reinforce the rules. If you can see patterns in the way the game plays, the way players interact with the game, and the outcome, you can make very smart choices on your turn. You already do this, to a point, and its one of the important Geek Skills: Logical and Critical Thinking.
The company, DataGenetics, has done some very interesting data mining on a small number of commonly played games and their findings are terribly interesting. Through their research and data analysis, they have come up with better ways to play a few games and it won’t take you a degree in computer science to understand it! Well, most of it, anyway.
- A Better Strategy for Hangman
- Yahtzee Probability
- Analysis of Chutes and Ladders
- RISK Analysis
- Candy Land
- A Geek Plays Darts
It makes for some very interesting reading. The individual articles do a great job of breaking down the game into mathematics with values that can be tracked. For some, this is going to bore you so bad, you might just fall asleep at your keyboard. For others, these articles are going to get your brain revved up and thinking of ways you can data mine your favorite games to help provide you with a serious advantage at your next gaming session!
And for the record, it doesn’t matter how cool the data analysis for Candy Land is. The game is still not epic.