Smarter Than You looks like emotional, deceptive warfare

Luca Redwood is no stranger to emotional violence. His previous work, 10000000, presented the Herculean task of freeing a trapped dungeon crawler by scoring 10 million points. 10 million points. Most people, like me, gave up pretty early.

So it’s not surprising that Redwood’s next game Smarter Than You would share some of the same dispiriting mechanics. At first blush, the iOS game appears to be a simple permutation on rock-paper-scissors, wherein one move deftly defeats another. But then there’s the strange introduction of an AI named M.E.T.I.S. that’s employing the same Twitter-busting “anonymous noise” of Crshtxt.

And there’s the open-faced lying of the game itself that allows you to broadcast what you’re doing. It’s innocuous enough, but it’s important to remember that type of bluffing creates paranoia and a general air of distrust. Smarter Than You is actually an example of an “expression game” where a participant spars to discover the value of information given openly or unwittingly by another. Sociologist Erving Goffman writes:

“The more the observer relies on seeking out foolproof cues, the more vulnerable he should appreciate he has become to the exploitation of his efforts. For, after all, the most reliance-inspiring conduct on the subject’s part is exactly the conduct that it would be most advantageous for him to fake if he wanted to hoodwink the observer. The very fact that the observer finds himself looking to a particular bit of evidence as an incorruptible check on what is or might be corrupted is the very reason why he should be suspicious of this evidence; for the best evidence for him is also the best evidence for the subject to tamper with.” 

You know what I know what you know what I know and so on. I’m sure you’ll be thinking of Goffman when you pick up Smarter Than You when it releases later this year. But probably not.