According to this article in Wikipedia, there are only seven Mindball game sets in all of North America. (A Mindball game set is a medium-sized contraption consisting of a table, a small magnetized ping-pong type ball, and some electronic sensors capable of measuring one’s brainwaves. Check out the above video for a demonstration of this cool game.) My wife and I recently played a match of Mindball at one of these seven tables on the third floor of the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida.
As you can see from the video, Mindball is fun and interactive, but it is also by far one of the strangest games I have ever played, for here is how it works: there are two players, one on each end of a table. Each player wears an electronic headband that is able to monitor the electrical activity in one’s brain. The player who produces the least amount of brainwaves (i.e. the player that is the “most relaxed”) wins the game!
What is so fascinating about this particular game is that it totally inverts the traditional emotional logic of most competitive or “zero sum” games, i.e. games where there is one winner for every loser. Most such zero-sum games tend to be do or die, adversarial and combative, generating intense negative emotions, which is not surprising considering the zero-sum nature of such games. (This is especially true, by the way, in civil and criminal litigation, or what I have referred to in my previous work as litigation games.)
In Mindball, by contrast, it is the most calm or relaxed player who wins, not the most aggressive or eager one, as is usually the case. This feature totally freaked me out as I was playing Mindball “against” my wife, creating a dizzy feeling of cognitive dissonance as I played.
Where does a game like Chess fit in this emotional spectrum?