Strategy Gaming and the Ancient Game of Go

It was during my science fiction phase, specifically while consumed with the Culture civilisation authored by Iain M. Banks, that I read The Player of Games. Protagonist Jernau Morat Gurgeh is mildly obsessed with a tantalisingly complex computer game. I’ve disposed of the novel, my sci-fi phase long ended, so am unable to refresh my recollection. A strategy game revolving around politics and the intrigues of court, the concept appealed to my geeky nature, and lead me to play several incarnations of Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Superficially strategic, and undoubtedly a huge time-sink, Civilization lacked the depth and richness of Banks’s fictional game. As far as I can tell, and computer gaming isn’t a great interest of mine, the strategy genre is mislabeled. No computer games come close to the strategic depth of Go or chess.

In my late teens I was possessed my Trevanian’s Shibumi, a spy novel parody that wove into its narrative sufficient philosophy and condemnation of Western materialism to appeal to my suggestible nature. The ancient Chinese game of Go provides the structure for Shibumi and is integral to the storyline. My preoccupation with Go, which waxes and wanes with the availability of suitable opponents, started with Trevanian’s novel.

Unlike chess, no software version of Go has yet come close to challenging the professional dan-level Go players.

4 thoughts on “Strategy Gaming and the Ancient Game of Go

  1. Oh, I loved Shibumi!. Not sure I’d classify it as a parody, though — read straight up I think it’s still more literate and more thought-provoking than most spy novels. I still haven’t figured out Go — I recall several frustrating manuals leaving off in the middle of sample games stating something to the effect of “the rest is obvious”… Obvious to whom?

  2. Your post reminded me about Kawabata’s “The Master of Go” which I aim to read (even without knowledge of the game) at some point in time.

    • I know of that book, but haven’t got around to it. My Go guru is Toshiro Kageyama. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on The Master of Go.

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