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Nach / History Of Games And Relevance Here

What we know

Our knowledge of games that people played goes back several thousand years, although our knowledge of the precise rules for these games only goes back several hundred. Rules of a game are important in modern law, as a vague concept of a game cannot be patented, only a particular set of rules for it. The closer we come to the modern video game, the more precise and exacting we generally find rules to be. Modern video games which are based on electronics or computer code have the rules as part of the game itself, and are defined down to the last detail. In such games, the rules are part of the game itself, they can never be violated without making changes to the game itself, and players cannot invent their own ways to play. However, what a game's rules are perceived to be are different than what the game itself knows the rules are, and this is where TASing comes in. A TASer ignores what everyone believes about the game, what the instructions might claim, or what may make the most sense visually, they will follow the game's rules as actually implemented, and find the fastest and most entertaining way to complete the game.

Herein I will review various types of games through the ages, and how they relate towards TASing.

Earliest Games

No pieces required

The earliest games we know of are competitions of a physical nature. In prehistoric times, people wrestled with one another, or raced between two points, or competed to see who could perform more push-ups. Little needs to be said about such activity, as it spans all cultures, and predates anything which requires more than the humans themselves in order to play.

Pieces are invented

We know our ancestors played various games that involved pieces. One of the earliest is known as the Game of Ur, and its variants. The game and its relatives appear to be the forerunners of Backgammon. Such games were the games of the wealthy and powerful and made of wood, stone, and metal. When ambassadors went to other countries, it was common to bring a gift which included the national game of the visiting party. However, such games hardly remained the domain of the rich, as even children realized they can draw boards in the sand, and use fruit or other handy items for pieces. Such games were popular, yet we know little about them, and the rules for such are either non-existent, or written in dead languages where a clear unambiguous meaning cannot be deciphered.

In various ancient writings, we find talk of gambling games which involve animal races or some kind of dice. Yet again though, rules for such games and clear descriptions of them are unknown to us.

Common Era

The rise of Strategy

Earlier physical activity based games as well as luck based games started to be viewed as unrefined or temporal, the true measure of a man became his mind. The powerful and educated invented the forerunners of Go and Chess and other such grid based competitive board games. To be unskilled in the local strategy game would lead one to be considered nothing more than a simple barbarian. Some of these games exist till this day with the same or very similar rules as they once had.

Physical Competition

While the east focused on board games, and such games did appear in Europe, veneration of the body was on the rise. Physical competitions started becoming formalized, with the creations of teams, and stadiums to see them play. Variations of these game exist, and every few years, Olympics are held for worldwide competitions, and in commemoration of the Greeks who popularized the concept.


In the more recent centuries, luck based games made a comeback, and cards similar to those we know today were invented. This started in the east and spread to the west. It is unclear exactly all the different games played with cards, although the variety must have been as varied as we have today.


Dominoes for all intents and purposes can be viewed as nothing more than a type of card, although the history of dominoes for some reason revolves around the concept of pieces. In the early days of dominoes, many played domino games using bones. This may explain why the end to end connection game is the most well known game involving dominoes that is still played to this day. As most other types of games, this also originated in the east and spread to the west.

Modern Day

In today's day, all the above types of games are played, with well known rules, and broken into a variety of overarching genres.


Physical competitions in a variety of forms exist, as well as team based games involving the concept of a ball and particular goals. Such games include: Baseball, Basketball, Football, Soccer, Tennis, and Vollyball.

There is no official version of such games, and anyone can play them or turn them into a video game. These games are generally defined as multiple people making their own random decisions, using their own unlimited movement possibilities, and environmental conditions to compete against each other, typically as a group.

Video games try to provide this experience, but fails horribly, as there is no good way to have one person act as multiple, or bring the range of human possibilities into a finite fixed video game. Therefore, many companies try over and over in many variations to best create some part of this experience for someone sitting on the couch, or running around their living room. Electronic Arts is known for offering a new version of each of their sports games every year, with nearly imperceptible changes. Some of these sports game also become beloved to gamers as they offer something unique and fun not seen elsewhere.

Board Games


The Classic board games have well known rules, and have no element of luck. Each move is precise, and there is no variation as to doing a half or quarter movement as possible with Sports games. These games include: Chess, Shogi, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Go, Othello (Reversi), Connect Four, Twixt, and Quoridor.

In these games, the games are purely a battle of wits. There is no luck, no randomness outside of the players' precise decisions, and no environment to deal with. Explaining how a game was played is so limited to the extent that a game can be accurately described in simple notation, and not losing anything other than the players' mannerisms and temperament during the play.

These games generally lack an official version, and are created over and over again. Video games can faithfully bring such a game to a tabletop or console as they are so rigidly defined, with no free playing movement or external factors. Different versions compete with each other to provide a smarter AI which can provide the ultimate opponent to compete against.

Modern (Luck Based)

Along with the classic rigid board games, the modern era has seen a rise in luck based board games. Nearly every game which was invented in the past few decades involve dice of some nature. Such games include: Monopoly, Risk, Catan, Candyland, Snakes & Ladders, Trouble, Sorry, and Parcheesi (Ludo).

These games are well defined with limited moves, but there's an aspect of luck, which is a key factor to the game outside of anyone's control. For some of these games, such as Candyland and Snakes & Ladders, there is actually nothing in a player's control other than what luck has dealt them. Others such as Monopoly and Catan while strongly luck based, leave much in a player's hands, and a winning player is usually one who can hedge their bets, using statistics to gain an advantage.

These games are rarely computerized outside of larger multi-game bundles. Although those that are popular, more complex, and tightly owned by a particular company do end up becoming a video game. In these games, luck and statistics play the same role as the actual physical game, and AIs are little more than passive players going with the luck or running the odds. AI progress here is not seen as important, and there is usually one definitive version of a game which the same company ports over and over with minor cosmetic or UI improvements. While these games usually can be reduced to a move description, it is more complex to do so, and as such, you'll rarely see someone playing these games blindfolded.


There are some other kinds of board games which are somewhat luck and environment based, yet still rely on strategy, and cannot be easily grouped into one of the above categories. Some of these games also rely on secrecy, where unlike previously mentioned games, the various players are not playing with full information at their disposal. These games include: Battleship, Jenga, Stratego, and Carcassonne.

These games as played are usually more complex to define in a set of moves than other board games. Seeing them played is usually required to get the full picture. These games are also rarely computerized, but when are, usually exist in many variants where AI does play a more important role.

Card Games

Card games are many and varied. They are also typically played for gambling purposes. They are usually multi-player with each man for himself, although some of them can be played alone as well. These games include: Poker, Blackjack, Solitaire, Rummy, Memory, Bridge, War, and Crazy Eights.

These games are usually played with a standardized card set, although War has many variants using specialized cards, some of which hardly resemble the original game, such as Mille Bornes. Memory is usually played with non-standardized cards, but despite this carries the same rules. Poker while played with standardized cards is commonly played in a broad amount of variants. Crazy Eights is unusual that its specialized card variants are played more often than the original, these include: Uno and Taki.

The common versions of these games are commonly implemented as tabletop or video games. Often, one can find these games as part of a large card game bundle. These games blend luck and strategy, although with a stronger emphasis on the former. Again, since these rely so much on luck, the AI is rarely a crucial part of the video game.

Video Games

Finally, we have arrived at what we focus on, the video game. Although all the above exist as video games, they aren't video games proper. Video games like sports games generally rely on a variety of imprecise moves. There are half moves and quarter moves, and even more fine grained control. The pixel, or sub-pixel, is the key unit of granularity, providing games which can hardly be reduced to a well described set of activities without a visual. These games include: Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Mega Man.

These games are way more varied than any of the aforementioned genres. Upon seeing a new game, one can hardly know what to expect till they experience it for themselves. The large free amount of movement, environmental luck the game presents, and a multitude of enemies each with their own patterns create games with a nearly incalculable amount of variations to playing them.

Of each particular game, there generally is one definitive version of it. These may be ported with cosmetic improvements, but remain the same in the key areas. Subtle changes in the rules the game is built on sometimes occurs in ports.


TASing is the art of taking the perceived rules of a game, making a mockery of them, and finding the most clever routes to achieving goals. This is done by manipulating the environment the game provides, and working with the rules as they are, not as they are perceived. Games which have complicated internal rules, offer many imprecise movement options, and provide what is perceived as a random environment are good for TASing. When these qualities are lacking, runs of these games are less impressive, and show more often than not that you should be playing against a better variant, or with your human friends.

Comparison of game types for TASing purposes

This comparison is according to what usually occurs in these genres. Obviously there are exceptions.

Definitive version Best version Not single opponent Imprecise movement Unknown rules Escapes simple non-visual definition Environmental luck Score
Sports No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes 4/7
Classic Board No No No No No No No 0/7
Modern Board Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes 5/7
Other Board No No No No No Yes Yes 2/7
Card Game No Yes No No No Yes Yes 3/7
Video Game Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 7/7

  • The above breakdown shows which areas various genres usually hit, although the chart is not weighted, and certain components are more important for TASing than others.
  • Based on this chart, we can see that the typical video game hits all the key points, and is also the most popular type of TAS on this site.
    • The modern board game hits a few key points, and as such there are a few TASs of these games on the site, and they usually receive decent feedback.
    • Sports games have so many versions, it's hard to find that right version to play. Those needles in the haystack when played nicely are generally well received.
    • Card games are generally low in entertainment value. However, these games provide the exact same thing you expect when you play with friends, and manipulating the luck of the environment - the cards, can be fun to see. A few TASs for this exist here and there.
    • Other board games are rarely if ever implemented as video games. When they are, they're usually boring or very poorly implemented. I don't recall ever seeing a TAS for one of these.
    • Classic board games while simple to put in a video game rarely provides the kind of experience you expect with a human. There's many of these to choose from, and the decision in picking one is determining how strong your opponent is going to be. TASs for this pop up now and then, but they don't provide anything you cannot find of equal or greater value in a book, and they consist of showing why you're better off playing with a friend.

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Nach/HistoryOfGamesAndRelevanceHere last edited by Nach on 2015-07-30 12:24:58
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