The information theory of Mysterium

A question that keeps me up at night is “What is the theoretical best you can do in Mysterium?” I’m exaggerating a bit, but it is a pointless question about a silly board game that I nonetheless spent too long thinking about. I went so far as to watch a series of lectures about information theory–listening to it in the background while in dance class, as one does. I never solved the problem, but let me at least explain what the problem is.

Mysterium

Mysterium is a cooperative board game where the players are trying to solve a murder mystery via psychic communication with the victim. One player takes the role of the ghost, and the rest take the role of psychic mediums. The ghost is not allowed to speak, and may only communicate through cryptic visions. The visions are represented by cards with surreal artwork. For example, one card has two people climbing into a giant fish mouth, another has a tarantula-like thing over a chandelier. After the mediums receive their visions, they discuss what they mean and make their guesses; and the whole time the ghost giggles about how wrong they are.

Example visions: two people climbing into a fish's mouth; a polar bear and spirit owl read a book; a chandelier hanging from strings from a tarantula's mouth

Examples of vision cards.  Source: Mysterium rulebook.

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Link Roundup: May 2024

This month, the Ace Community Survey published a report on sexual violence.

The real story of Gamergate 2 (conspiracy theories, crybullying, and a consumer revolt) | NeverKnowsBest (video, 1:38 hours) – I’ve been loosely following the story of antiwoke backlash currently going on in the gaming community, but it’s pretty hard to take seriously when it’s founded on something so ridiculous and petty.  NeverKnowsBest clearly explains the sequence of events and issues of concern, and persuaded me to take it more seriously.  After all, the Gamergate of a decade ago also started with something silly and petty, but it snowballed into something bigger by galvanizing the alt-right presence within gaming communities.  Also, the media environment is very different from how it was a decade ago, with traditional games journalism being far less influential.

What these neo-gamergaters want is games that cater more to their political tastes, i.e. centering straight white men, dropping black & queer characters, making women sex objects again, etc.  That’s already hard enough to sympathize with, but then they add all these conspiratorial claims involving a tiny consulting company, and ESG investment.  When it comes to progressive politics in games, they can’t accept the more basic explanation that some game devs are pretty progressive, so instead they believe that investors of all people, are the ones pushing the progressive agenda.  This is so obviously wrong, just look at all the indie games, which are less beholden to investors and publishers than ever.

How Does Fiction Affect Reality? | Thing of Things – Ozy discusses the evidence regarding the real world impact of fiction.  There’s surprisingly little, although fiction can impact social norms such as norms around family size.  As a critic, when I criticize a work of fiction, the purpose is rarely to say “this work of fiction is causing harm and should not exist”.  Often, criticism is just an intrinsically fun and valuable activity, in the same way that fiction itself is just an intrinsically fun and valuable activity, independent of whether it has an impact on society.  Yes, there is criticism, such as feminist criticism, that wants to push towards positive social change.  But I think it’s more important for people to engage with criticism than to avoid engaging in the material being criticized.

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Origami: Coffee

Coffee

Coffee, designed by Wang Shuo

A lot of origami paper is colored on the front, and white on the back, so you can make patterns by carefully exposing the front and back.  I’m vaguely aware of a subdiscipline within origami all about making shapes just with color change.  But I have very little experience with it, and don’t understand any of the design principles!  As far as I’m concerned, it’s basically magic.  Perhaps one day I’ll give a shot at designing something like this.

The instructions for this model are available on CFC.

I feel compelled to mention that I am not a coffee drinker.  I drink tea.

I don’t have a games backlog

In video games, there is the concept of a “backlog”—a list of games that you want to play, but haven’t gotten around to playing. This is commonly discussed as a source of anxiety, as people accumulate hundreds of games in a list that they have no hope of ever completing. There are lots of videos and articles giving tips on how to clear your backlog, or else chronicling a journey to clear a backlog.

Talk of backlogs is so ubiquitous that people seem to think every gamer has one. This isn’t true. There are myriad ways to approach the consumption of entertainment media, and the backlog is just one. I’d wager that many people would even consider the backlog to be counterintuitive. Would you have a backlog for books, movies, or TV shows? You could, but I think most people just check what movies are available in the moment, and then pick one out.

I recently watched a Transparency video in opposition to the idea of a backlog, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have one. Now, I also don’t have a backlog, but it struck me that Alicia’s approach is still different from mine. I think Alicia assumes that any list is a backlog, but I actually have a list that I don’t consider to be a backlog.

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Crazy about cat men

In one of those meatspace conversations, we were talking about crazy cat ladies, each of us trying to do cursory research on our phones. Why are crazy cat ladies a thing in the public imagination, despite none of us knowing anyone like that? Does the crazy cat lady archetype appear in other cultures? Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about the possibility of a distaff spear counterpart, the crazy cat man?

You can find plenty of popular and scholarly articles talking about the crazy cat lady archetype and its long history of association with witch trials, spinsterhood, women’s suffrage, and animal hoarding. On the other hand, to speak of crazy cat men is to speculate on an archetype that doesn’t truly exist.

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Link roundup: April 2024

Lots of articles to share this month.

Health in the Ace Community (2021 Survey) | Ace Community Survey – Full disclosure: I’m sharing this because I’m a director of the survey.  However, I do not personally perform analysis or write the articles anymore.  This month, the Ace Community Survey published an article discussing health statistics (drug usage, disabilities, suicide, and more) in the ace community.

The Great Sex Rescue: Marital Rape | Tell me why the world is weird (cw for anecdotes of rape) – This article is part of a series (that I’ve plugged before) going through The Great Sex Rescue, a book that aims to correct sexual attitudes in (Evangelical) Christian culture.  In the chapter covering marital rape, it’s not making any moral statements that aren’t obvious.  It’s still rather horrifying how prevalent these Christian attitudes are, and how women and men are deprived of the hermeneutical tools to really understand it.

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The Trump memestock

I don’t usually cover news, but I want to highlight some recent finance shenanigans. Much of what I’m doing here is recapping the Wikipedia article, with some additional context.

Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) is a company that owns Truth Social—Donald Trump’s alternative to X. TMTG recently merged with Digital World Acquisition Corp. (DWAC). DWAC is a type of company known as special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC). A SPAC is basically an empty shell company, whose entire purpose is to go public (meaning, publicly traded on the stock market), and then merge with a private company so that the private company can be public. SPACs are a method of skipping the usual bureaucracy required to take a company public. (See: educational video on SPACs.)

In other words, thanks to this merger, it’s now possible to buy and sell shares of Donald Trump’s Twitter clone.

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