Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Close to the chess

In the past two weeks, I have had the privilege (?) of teaching chess to Taiwanese students at the camp. It has been a long time since I learned how to play the game (close to twenty years), and I was surprised at how difficult of a game it is. There are six different pieces, all of which move uniquely, and approximately a dozen additional rules to know in order to play. But even teaching card games like Go Fish or Crazy Eights is surprisingly difficult - you have to teach the cards, and basic conventions of the cards, and then you can teach the rules of the game. Of course, there is a language barrier with these students as well, but even without that difficulty they are not as easy to learn without understanding a number of hidden terms and conventions. As a result of teaching these simpler games as realizing how complex they are, I have begun to think about how amazing it is that our brain can remember the rules to so many different games. We own over 100 board games, and I can pick most of them up and play them without a refresher of the rules, plus I could probably do that with many other popular games we do not own. I imagine that most people have at least twenty games that they could play and not have to relearn the rules. It is also pretty amazing how quickly we can learn rules of new games and apply existing contexts to new situations; once we have played one trump card game, it is easier to learn new trump card games, even with variations. I wonder whether there is a limit to how many games we can know how to play, but I suppose that varies with how much time is spent playing board games. Just an interesting thought for the day.

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