Author Topic: The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling  (Read 2507 times)

Offline jcompton

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The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling
« on: December 09, 2009, 02:41:04 PM »
You may have heard about a huge snowstorm in the American Midwest. I am in the middle of it.

When one is shoveling snow for hours, one has a lot of time to think. Early this morning, I pondered the Game Theory of Snow Shoveling.

This game has two actors: the Shoveler (me), and the Neighbor With the Big Snowblower.


- There are three important zones in this game: the Sidewalk, the Driveway, and the Driveway Base.

- The Neighbor is under no obligation to help the Shoveler, but for reasons of altruism and societal pressures, there is a percentage chance that he will help the Shoveler at some point in the game.

- The most difficult snow to remove is Base snow--it has been piled up by snowplows, making it very tall and very dense. The easiest snow to remove is Sidewalk--there is less of it than there is regular Driveway snow.

- I am selfishly most interested in the condition of my driveway. Since the Base snow is the most difficult to remove, and only gets harder the longer I wait (it gets denser and denser as it piles up and solidifies under its own weight), I am inclined to attack it first, when I am freshest and the Base is as easy as it's ever going to get.

- However, as the Base snow is really difficult for a Shoveler to attack, it's the one I would most like the Neighbor to help with. On the other hand, if I delay it and the Neighbor opts not to help me in this stage of the game, I will be worse off in later stages (since the Base will get more and more difficult.)

- Although my personal interest is in the Driveway and Base, societally (and in most municipalities, legally) I am obligated to clear the Sidewalk.

- But because the sidewalk is a common good, Neighbor is relatively more likely to help me with that than with Driveway or Base.

- By extension, if I am a good citizen, I will clear my sidewalk first. But in so doing, I make it much less likely that I will actually get any aid whatsoever from Neighbor.

End result: I focused on the base of my driveway and left the sidewalk for later. When I came back out after a much-needed break, about 60% of my sidewalk had been cleared by neighbor snowblowers. Another victory for game theory!
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Offline berelinde

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Re: The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2009, 05:10:56 PM »
You forgot that Snow Shoveling can be a multiplayer game. The teenager down the street is often willing to act as a hireling in exchange for a small portion of your treasure.

Offline Macready

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Re: The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2009, 06:59:05 PM »
The Shoveler's class is berserker.  In an occasional fit of impatience and frustration, the Shoveler becomes "enraged," at which point s/he bursts into a short-lived flurry of productivity.  Sadly, when this enraged state wears off, the Shoveler suffers 20 points of damage, all in the form of lower back pain.
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Offline cmorgan

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Re: The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2009, 02:56:49 PM »
Or the ultimate use of a well developed in-game AI...

the condo association hired clearing crew :)

(Or would that be the "demonstration play loop mode"?)

Offline Kulyok

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Re: The Game Theory of Snow Shoveling
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2009, 12:31:59 AM »
Awww. :)

Loved it. (And we only got real snow like three or four days ago!)