The first rule of laws

REUTERS/Toru HanaiOne of the many joys of moving to the USA was that it became much easier to hide my rich and extensive ignorance of football. Mostly it never comes up, and mostly if it does I can just blithely invent answers to any questions. Mostly I don’t get caught.

But the World Cup has ended that run, while simultaneously providing plentiful resources for solving the underlying problem. Thus, yesterday, as Brazil squeaked to victory, I read The Laws Of The Game. It turns out that not only does football consider itself above having anything as commonplace as ‘rules’, it also considers itself above having to specify which game its laws apply to: there is only one game, and that game is football, would seem to be the first unspoken law of The Laws Of The Game.

I’d recommend giving it a read – it’s shorter, lighter, more thought-provoking that you might expect. I don’t yet know how it compares to the rulebooks for other professional sports, but I’m willing to bet that some rule books (American Football especially?) are rule-ier and bookier. The ‘Powers And Duties’ section, which starts on page 71, is a particularly entertaining introduction to what it can take to GM a game of soccer.

This differential – between laws and rules – got me thinking, though, especially after writing up Dog Eat Dog for last week’s storygames round-up. Dog Eat Dog is a table-top game about colonialism, in which one player takes the role of an invading culture, and other players the roles of individual Natives responding to that invasion, and it hinges on one key rule: “The (Native People) are inferior to the (Occupation people).”. This, as I understand it, is an amazingly powerful concept. It means that in all and any kind of conflict, during the normal run of play, the player in the Occupation role will always win over the other players (you can read more about how it works in practice here). It’s a crazy thing for a game to try to pull off, and it takes some interesting mechanisms (which you can read about here) to make it into a playable, rewarding structure. I’d love to see other if other games have solved – or could solve – the same premise. anyone fancy theming a jam around multiplayer games where one player always wins?

It’s such a powerful rule that Liam Burke, the game’s designer, talks about it in this excellent interview as “the core of the game….maybe it’s too obviously the mission statement!”. And I think he’s right – I think this rule is more than a rule. I think this rule is different from the game’s other rules. Dog Eat Dog looks to me like a game whose rules are organised around a law. 

And I had that in my head when reading Tim Rogers‘ excellent review of football. He notes this important rule:

Only the keeper is allowed to touch the ball with their hands. Every other player on the field must use any part of their body other than their hands. This is, as my friend and colleague Bennett Foddy puts it, “A clever inversion of human biology.”

(You can, and should, see more of Rogers and Foddy ranking their top ten best sports sports here, at their cracking Indiecade session)

This made me realise that football shouldn’t be called football. It should be called anything-but-your-hands-ball. (Although, as the Hulk, and The Laws Of The Game will tell you, that might properly be anything-but-your-hands-and-your-arms-if-moved-purposefully-ball). It feels to me that this might be the real Law of football. The other rules are derived from this core principle: you must not handle this hard to control round thing with the one part of your body well equipped to handle hard to control round things.

Guitar Hero has always felt to me like a game structured in the same way. The law of Guitar Hero is that Guitar Hero is a five-buttoned game for a four-fingered species. So much of what is challenging and satisfying about that game comes out of this imbalance.

There’s a great post which I can’t find, but is probably linked to somewhere on Tom Armitage’s excellent blog , which Tom Armitage reminds me is by Wes Erdelack (thanks both!), that discusses Resident Evil 4, and whether or not it’s a ‘proper’ survival horror game. My half-memory of it is that it addresses the theory that RE4 isn’t ‘proper’ because it doesn’t have a hallmark element of the genre: resource scarcity. Survival horror games are canonically defined by eking out tiny supplies of ammo and health. RE4 is too generous, and therefore doesn’t count. The riposte is that RE4 does have a scarce resource you’re constantly managing: space. RE4 is a game continually optimising the distance between you and all enemies. If you’ve got space, you can win. If you don’t, you won’t.

In Guitar Hero, your scarce resource is fingers. You need five. You’ve got a likely maximum of four. A key element of the strategic choices you make when you play is how to solve that problem, especially if you’re a smaller-handed human. Deciding, moment-to-moment whether you’re reaching down for a green, or leaving your weaker, shorter pinky in charge of reaching up for an orange is not that different from deciding, moment-to-moment, if you’re going to risk getting closer to those three villagers in order to buy yourself some runway for the approaching Dr Salvador.

I’m not sure how far this idea can stretch Some games seem like easy candidates for having a law. Ikaruga (which – pow! – is on Steam), say, is a game organised around the law that a player can render some, but never all, threats into bonuses at will. It can sort of pass the Tetris test (a game organised around the law that there is no way to stop blocks falling). I am not sure what the law of Borderlands 2, or Carcassone is, both of which are glaring at me from the shelf, but I maybe just haven’t thought about it long enough.

What I do know is that at an early design stage, I sometimes either have far too  many possible rules, or far too few. There’s a big mushy space of untested, and sometimes untestable, possibilities, from which I yank out rules out, or jam new ones in. Putting my weight on each rule in turn and asking, ‘is this secretly a law? What would happen if I organised any other rules subordinate to this one?’ feels be a useful tool for finding game formulations that might otherwise stay hidden. 

So is it a law of games  that games have laws? I’ll stick my neck out as far as Eugenio Mena, the Chilean left-back did, ahead of that Brazil game: I am deeply convinced that it might be.

Postscript: for those who are scathing about others’ difficulty in understanding the offside rule, I only note here that it takes 14 separate diagrams to fully explain it in the otherwise lean and precise The Laws Of The Game. For those how have difficulty in understanding the offside rule, I note that those diagrams are pretty useful!


19 thoughts on “The first rule of laws”

  1. Ben Zobrist Cubs slides into third base after hitting a triple against the Dodgers during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field on May 30, 2016. Sun, 29 May 2016 22:00:00 PDT Julianna Zobrist greets her husband Ben Zobrist after she sang the National Anthem on Memorial Day at Wrigley Field on May 30,cheap pandora earrings, 2016. Sun, 29 May 2016 22:00:00 PDT Julianna Zobrist,cheap pandora bracelets for sale, the wife of the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist, sings the National Anthem on May 30, 2016 at Wrigley F

  2. Really like this too,cheap pandora bracelets, maybe tempted to pre order. What is the edging colour of the flower though is it purple, or burgandy? That would be the deciding factor. If it’s purple then it’s yes,cheap pandora earrings for sale, if its burgandy,cheap pandora bracelets for sale, it’s no! By: endangeredtrolls I think it’s such a lovely bracelet. I agree with you about the lock though – absolutely highlight for me and it’s going to be great for the spring season I

  3. BALTIMORE (AP) ― A tutor in a Baltimore school who is charged with slamming a 7-year-old boy against a wall thought the child had a gun, his lawyer said. The now-fired tutor, Timothy Korr,cheap pandora charms for sale, 25, of Baltimore, had a bail hearing Thursday. His lawyer, Kurt Nachtman, said by phone that Korr was thinking about the boy’s safety when he picked him up to take him to the principal’s office. The scratching and clawing boy was hurt,cheap pandora jewelry, he said, when Kor

  4. North Korean suspects put the liquid substance on the women’s hands before the assault. Two other people have been arrested: a Malaysian man — believed to be the boyfriend of the Indonesian woman — whose court remand has now expired,cheap pandora jewelry, and a North Korean man working at a Malaysian company. Malaysian police said Wednesday they also were seeking the second secretary of North Korea’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur and an employee of North Korea’s state-owned airline,cheap p

  5. MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) ― Deontay Wilder wants more of a crackdown on cheating "before it ruins the sport of boxing." The unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion’s last two fights have come after his original opponents ― Alexander Povetkin and Andrzej Wawrzyk ― tested positive for banned substances. Now,cheap pandora jewelry, Wilder (37-0,cheap pandora rings for sale, 36 knockouts) faces unbeaten substitute Gerald Washington (18-0-1, 12 KOs) on Feb. 25 in Birmingham, Alabama.

  6. WASHINGTON (AP) ― House Republican leaders on Wednesday halted a bid by some GOP lawmakers to restore earmarks, those congressional directives that steer funds to specific projects back home. Republican lawmakers were discussing the plan at a closed-door meeting when Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the plug,cheap pandora jewelry, saying the issue should be debated in public. Ryan promised to revisit the issue early next year. Former Speaker John Boehner imposed a moratorium on earmarks several ye

  7. PITTSBURGH (AP) ― An insurance agent pleaded guilty Thursday in a promissory note scam that bilked nearly 80 clients out of $8.2 million. John Hogan,cheap pandora bracelets, 77, of Swissvale, entered his pleas to five counts of mail fraud in the scheme run out of his Hogan & Associates business. Prosecutors will ask for more than five years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for Aug. 30. Hogan was a licensed insurance agent who sold whole life insurance policies to his clients. He also

  8. LOS ANGELES (AP) ― An unarmed 73-year-old man refused to take his hand out of his pocket and stop walking toward officers who believed he had a gun when they fatally shot him, the incoming police chief of Bakersfield, California, said Tuesday. Two different people who encountered Francisco Serna in the hours leading up to the shooting had believed he had a gun,cheap pandora rings for sale, and police were answering a 911 call of a man with a revolver,cheap pandora bracelets, incoming Chief

  9. Cooks,cheap pandora bracelets, Sr.,cheap pandora rings for sale, died of a heart attack when Brandin was 7 years old. "My mom raised us four by herself," Cooks said. "The way I look at it now I take it positive and I see it as a blessing just because of the hardships we had to overcome in life in general, so to be able to play this game ― the hardships that we go through on the field ― it’s nothing compared to that." On the field, the Patriots are well aware of Co

  10. TEHRAN, Iran (AP) ― Iran has accused a detained American-Iranian dual citizen of "acting against national security," the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Wednesday. The report did not name the suspect,cheap pandora rings for sale, but said he was arrested in the northern city of Gorgan in July,cheap pandora bracelets, and so appeared to be referring to Robin Shahini. Authorities did not announce any allegations when Shahini was detained on July 24. The Tasnim report said

  11. ,cheap pandora bracelets Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share Email cfqe fyv cheap pandora rings for sale 475 vuos tpd cheap pandora rings for sale 921 clkd vkh cheap pandora bracelets 195 kbwy ldm cheap pandora charms for sale 207

  12. ,cheap pandora rings for sale Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share Email qzpv uxz cheap pandora rings for sale 485 sudv zpt cheap pandora earrings 636 rusj crv cheap pandora bracelets 003 nlar igm cheap pandora bracelets 156

  13. twins had their birth certificates accepted by the registrar general in Hawaii three days later than the registrar general accepted Obama’s birth certificate, when the twins’ numbers are lower than Obama’s number? Here are the Nordyke twins birth certificates: Eleanor Nordyke has speculated that her twins received an earlier birth certificate number because,cheap pandora charms for sale, although she gave birth later than Ann Dunham, she entered Kapi’olani earlier. Yet,ch

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *