Solitaire: Are we cheating?

Occasionally, players tell us they’re convinced that we deliberately stop them from winning. Is there any truth to this? Are we trying to beat you? Does Dogmelon Solitaire cheat?

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“…the cards play out in a frustrating routine that quickly ends a round … I have come to understand how easy it is for a computer to stack the cards in its favour”
— online review of Dogmelon’s Magic Solitaire.

Is this true? Do we stack the deck to make sure you lose?

The simple answer is no.

Computers are mindless. They follow instructions. But the human brain is wonderful at finding patterns. This is really useful most of the time. But sometimes, our brain becomes convinced that something is true, when in fact it’s not.

Of course, this doesn’t happen to you, but perhaps it happens to someone you know. Maybe even to someone you live with.

How To Entertain a Human

This reminds me of a story.

I once listened to a speaker who designed the computer opponents in a Football game.

This person’s entire job was to make little computer people run around as though they were being controlled by a real, live human.

A quick side-note: you might think that the aim here was to make the smartest possible computer opponent. But that’s absolutely not what you want to do. A perfect opponent who thrashes you every time is actually really boring to play against. The aim is actually to make sure the human has fun. That’s it. After all — it’s a game!

Anyway, this designer spent months, using advanced, sophisticated techniques to develop a number of computer opponents.

Also, just for fun, he designed a completely random opponent. This opponent was ridiculously stupid. It simply “rolled a dice” to decide what to do next.

Next, he brought in human play-testers. Their job was to play against the different computer opponents, and rank them according to how much fun they were.

Anyway, the “stupid” opponent was supposed to come last, but you can probably guess what happened…

It won.

The testers decided it was the most fun to play against.

Taking Things Personally

Shocked, the designer interviewed the testers. He noticed that the testers described this opponent as though it were an actual person.

They would say things like “He went left every time, but just as I figured that out, it started to go right. It’s learnt how I play. It is so cunning.”

People became convinced that the computer was learning from them, adapting, and inventing devious new strategies especially to beat them.

In fact, it was just rolling a dice.

It seems our brains are wired to assign personality to inanimate things.

Whether it’s your car that won’t start, the rain at your picnic, a slot machine, your stubbornly wilting pot-plant, or a computer picking random numbers, we seem to be good at taking things personally.

All this is to say: a game might sometimes look unfair. You might get an unlucky streak. But is Dogmelon Solitaire trying to prevent you from winning? No way!

Truth is, we couldn’t even if we wanted to — it’s too hard.

So, next time you can’t catch a break, and every deal is a loser, don’t hate us – just deal again. A winning deal is surely around the corner.

Oh, but if you get on a hot winning streak: yes, that’s us. We did that because we love you.

You’re welcome.