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Who's got game?

Your Humble Blogger plays a lot of videogames on the computer. I don’t write about them much, partly because I am embarrassed about how often I play videogames on the computer, and partly because I figure that the kind of videogames I play are not terribly interesting to talk about. Although I do think about them a lot. Overthink them. There is, presumably, a limit to the tactics available in any given one-button game.

One game I have been playing a lot over the last year is Little Master Cricket. Little Master Cricket is a simple swing-and-hit game: your batsman can’t move his feet, and you use the mouse (or trackpad) (or finger, I suppose; it’s available for the whatsitphone) to drag his body around by the wrists in order to swing. You score runs depending on where you hit the ball; near the ground for one run, higher up for two, higher yet for four, even higher for six, and then if you hit it too high, you are out. Or if you fail to protect the wicket, of course. Anyway, on each ball, you can get from one to six runs or be out (or leave the ball on the field, because of some odd and entertaining aspects of the game that I won’t go in to here).

Those are runs, by the way; your score is your total runs multiplied by your strike rate; that is, if you score N runs off K balls, your score is N * (N/K), rounded to a whole number. The game helpfully keeps track of your strike rate as you go, only not actually all that helpfully, because there are some odd bits of hinkiness that go along with the strike rate, mostly that of course your last ball will add zero runs while still counting as a ball, which brings down your strike rate and thus your score quite a bit. F’r’ex, if you hit five sixes and then are out on the sixth ball, your strike rate is five and your score is 150.

Generally, though, I ignore the score and go for runs. That isn’t quite true—I like to get a score over a hundred, so I aim for that, and if I make it (which I often do), I try to get a hundred runs. Getting a hundred runs (or a century) is a Big Deal in cricket. And while of course Little Master Cricket is nothing like cricket (even less like cricket than my other videogame, the one that taught me the rules at least, which this one doesn’t), I think I have learned more of an appreciation for a century by aiming for it in my little videogame.

See, even ignoring the strike rate multiplier for the score, the strike rate is still important. While theoretically, I could block every ball and get a hundred runs in a hundred and four balls, in practice I would miss one eventually, or the wonky virtual physics would get me out, in either case long before I picked up a hundred. Hm. Let me try it… yes, I was out for seven on one off the handle. Second try I had more than a dozen balls lying inert on the field before an incoming bounced off one of them and over my avatar’s head. And the third try I got to a dozen or so before getting out. So, no, as I suspected the purely defensive game is not an easy way to a hundred runs.

Of course, a very aggressive game is not an easy way to a hundred, either. Taking a big swing at every ball is a good way to make quite outs for a handful of runs (although a decent way to get to a score of a hundred in a short time, if you don’t mind making some quite outs along the way). Even a deliberate attempt to put every ball squarely in the four is hard to accomplish, and at least for me leads to trying to dig out a ball coming in low and lift it, and if I get too much wrist into it, it’ll pop up for an easy out.

No, the way to get a hundred runs is to watch each ball as it comes in, judge its potential, and then try to block it, smash it for six, or line it out for four based on that judgment. You have to decide quickly, as the ball is coming in, and you have to act on that judgment immediately, holding back for a big swing or setting up to block or whatever is called for at the moment. You can’t go in to each ball with a prepared and prejudged plan; you have to react to the ball as it comes in.

And yet, I can’t go in to each ball without a prepared and prejudged plan; I can’t just react to the ball as it comes in. I don’t have time. And when I say I am going for runs, what I really mean is that I am trying to maximize my chances to get a hundred, which isn’t quite the same thing. A score of 102 makes me much, much happier than a score of 98, while a score of 98 doesn’t actually make me happier than a score of 94. The ton line may be arbitrary, but that’s where it is, and that’s what I am aiming for. Which means that I tend to keep an eye on the score, and adjust my aggressiveness accordingly. But which way? If I get to around 75 runs, it’s too early to start blocking and making my way by ones and twos, because something bad will happen within fifteen balls, right? But can I really risk my score by trying to swat a couple of sixes? If I do, and I’m just about up to ninety, then it’s time to block—but if I block my way to 97 in another six balls and then pop one up to end it, I’ll be kicking my virtual self all virtual day. With just one more four, I could have had my century!

All of which, of course, is on a computer, sliding my mouse around with only my children to watch. For actual cricketers, facing actual bowlers who are varying their speed and angle and spin by volition, rather than randomly, and who also face changes in the light, the wind, the heat, and who are getting physically tired from running between the wickets, with thousands of fans watching them and rooting for or against them, and who have to keep their minds on the outcome of the match, not just their own statistics (but making centuries, rather than eighties, will have a huge effect on their careers and opportunities and finances)— I’m not saying that I know what it’s like. I’m just saying that I have a little bit better of a grasp, I think, on some of the aspects of it, to make it seem even more impressive than it seemed before.

So that’s all right.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


It strikes me (hah) that you might enjoy Joseph O'Neill's Neverland. Because I know you're just dying for more books to read.

It was our previous-but-one book club book, in this very literary-minded book club that I somehow ended up in, ye gods, how did that happen? -- and yet, I liked it quite a bit.

I keep waiting for my employer to get Neverland; after the reviews and awards piqued my interest, a peek in the bookstore made me think I didn't want to spend money on it. But an odd thing about academic libraries is that they often (it seems) will not spend money on this year's or last year's award-winning literary novels, and by the time somebody has had time to include a recent book in a syllabus, many of them have already faded out of study-worthiness. Which means we have many more trashy novels from 1908 than 2008. But it also means that we have more detective fiction and specfic from 2008 than litchrachoor, because that comes from a separate fund and from people tossing us their once-read copies.


And, argh, it's Netherland -- bad typist, no biscuit.

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