‘Newcomblike’ Video Game: Frozen Synapse

Dis­re­gard­ing for the mo­ment the ques­tion of whether video games are a ra­tio­nal use of one’s time:

Frozen Sy­napse is a turn based strat­egy com­bat game that ap­pears to be par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing from a ra­tio­nal­ist stand­point. I haven’t played it, but ac­cord­ing to the re­views, it’s ac­tu­ally a com­bi­na­tion of turn-based and real-time play. Each turn en­com­passes 5 sec­onds of re­al­time, but that 5 sec­onds of re­al­time doesn’t hap­pen un­til both play­ers have con­structed their moves, which they may take as long as they’d like to do. Con­struct­ing a move in­volves giv­ing your sev­eral units and your op­po­nent’s sev­eral units com­mands, watch­ing what hap­pens when the units play out those com­mands, and re­peat­ing that pro­cess un­til one has a set of com­mands for one’s units that one con­sid­ers op­ti­mal given what one pre­dicts one’s op­po­nent will do. This hap­pens on a pro­ce­du­rally-gen­er­ated bat­tlefield; there are re­ports of this oc­ca­sion­ally giv­ing one player or the other an in­sur­mountable ad­van­tage, but the re­views seem to in­di­cate that be­ing able to play on a fresh field each time and hav­ing to think about proper use of its lay­out on the fly out­weighs this is­sue.

Also, the game came to my at­ten­tion be­cause there’s a Hum­ble Bun­dle available for it now, which means that it can be ac­quired very nearly for free; just ig­nore the ‘beat the av­er­age to get more games’ hook.