zero player game

1: What is a zero player game?

2: A game with no players. For example Conway’s Game of Life.

3: Sometimes people use the term to refer to game with two computers facing off. Such as in the end of the movie WarGames a computer plays Tic Tac Toe with itself.

4: Why is it the case that if I play myself in Tic Tac Toe, it’s me playing myself, but computer playing itself is zero players. Are zero-player games with two computers facing off actually zero player?

5: So Is a computer a player?

6: to answer 5 it’s more complicated than yes, or no.

7: See how in when three people are sitting down on a coach playing Super Smash Bros and they decide that they want to play teams. A team of two humans versus a team of a human and a CPU. In my experience the CPU and human team is still a two player team. So the answer to 5 can be yes.

8: In some competitive games designed for two players you can insert a CPU instead of a second player.

9: In 8 the CPU may or may not be second player though. The human may just be “playing against the computer”. 5 can be no.

10: Games like Undertale, or the Portal games obviously just have one player. You are not even “playing against the computer”, your just playing the game which is against nothing in particular. The computer fascilatates the game.

11: When is the CPU a second player and when is it a mere computer?

12: On the wikipedia pages for computer chess and computer shogi, computers are referred to as being players, but usually only in the context of a game. For example saying “either player”or the “2 players”. Though they are also referred to independently as being “computer players, this is not the primary way of referring to chess engines. Usually you just say chess engine for chess computers.

13: There are two senses of the word player in the context of games. One is involving a player who is inside of a game currently. For example “there was a chess game and the players were May and Maya”. The other is someone who plays a game often, competitively, and/or professionally. For example “Hikaru Nakamura is a chess player”. Usually you don’t call someone who can play chess a chess player unless they are either playing a game currently, or play often/well/competitivly/professionally or maybe just enjoy it. So there are present players who are presently playing and habitual players who may often play. These categories obviously overlap.

14: in 12 chess computers are only called players presently. They are not called player habitually.

15: 2 is a correct definition of a zero player game, but it is not specific about which type of player.

16: Sometimes computers are not even given the status of present player. For example in 9 the computer can be a present player, but does not have to be.

17: Why do chess and shogi get present players for there computers as shown in 14 and 12, but other games don’t? For example I may be playing Super Smash Bros against a CPU. I might not called it a player.

18: Chess computers can consistently beat the best chess Grandmasters today. In Super Smash Bros the CPU is considered easy to beat. Chess also has a culture of intellectualizing itself.

19: Chess computers are when playing and in the context of a game players because of 18. My central claim here is that chess players don’t want to be beat by mere machines. They are fine with being beat by players though. So what they did was that they made computers become players. Inhuman, removed players, but still players in database records. Super Smash Bros players have no need for this, because they can’t be beat by CPUs.

20: 15 is misleading in a sense. It is correct that the definition in 2 does not specify, but it does not necessarily need too. There is ambiguity. Two chess engines playing one another is a two player game, as shown in 12 but two tic tac toe computers playing are a zero player game because there is no need for Tic Tac Toe computers to become players. Tic Tac Toe is already mastered by humans.

21: It also should be noted that chess engines may move toward being non-players again. The wikipedia page computer chess says “Players today are inclined to treat chess engines as analysis tools rather than opponents”. This is true and may mark chess moving toward engines being non-players. This is uncertain though.

22: A zero player game is a game with zero players. Though what a player is depends partially on the game. Though players are generally similar in most games, there are outliers that are outliers for specific reasons.