Bryan Caplan  

Why GenCon Should Be Tax Deductible

Tabarrok Corrects Rodrik (and ... Would a Truth-Seeker Ask?...

Tomorrow I'm flying to the world's greatest experimental game theory conference: GenCon. 25,000 people will play games of every description. If you believe in the project of experimental game theory, it's a data feast.

I'd probably get audited by the IRS if I tried to deduct this vacation, but we all know that the IRS makes mistakes. In truth, I'm more likely to learn more about the nature of man at GenCon than I am at the AEA meetings.

Like what? At least for me, one of the main lessons of GenCon is that people often act very differently in games than they do in "real life." For example, on Friday, I'm going to be role-playing a soldier in the Vietnam War. In all likelihood, I'll be heroically brave, repeatedly risking my life to save my buddies. But if I were actually a grunt in Vietnam, I'd probably be curled up in a fetal position.

Why the difference? Partly it's the stakes; I'm more willing to risk the life of a fictional character. But partly I'm just trying to be a good sport. I suspect that a lot of people in behavioral experiments do the same.

P.S. If you see me at GenCon, don't hesitate to say hi!

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The author at d-n-dblog in a related article titled Why Gen Con... writes:
    should be tax deductible.

    I don't really want to move directly to the do you dead guys have any ... [Tracked on August 15, 2007 6:58 AM]
COMMENTS (4 to date)
Arnold Williams writes:

Just as in theory most economists support the free market, but when asked may not (link to study), so the behavior of game pieces don't reflect real life that much. They reflect instead the drastically lowered cost of failure and the minor cost of correction.

It's all in the margins.

liberty writes:

then...what exactly is the point of the conference?

gabby domingo writes:

i'm not surprised at all that people act differently in these games, as opposed to real life.


Because they are role-playing games. You are not supposed to act like yourself, because you are playing a part.

Robert Link writes:

The low stakes are probably one reason why characters in RPGs are unrealistically brave, but I think RPG mechanics have something to do with it as well. In real life fortunes of war are mostly a matter of chance. When the bullet (or sword, or lightning bolt... you get the idea) with your number on it comes your way, no amount of skill or planning will save you. RPGs, by contrast, usually have a set of mechanics that allow experienced characters a better chance to survive through higher defense values, more hit points, better skill values, and so on. Also, the players controlling the characters are aware of those mechanics, and they can make an unrealistically accurate of just what a character can and can't handle.

In a way, RPG mechanics (apart from making for a more interesting game) represent a sort of post-hoc fallacy. If you take a large cohort of adventurers some of them will unluckily be felled by the first orc they meet, while others will have a long career of doing mighty deeds. These differences can arise through chance alone, and a career of success at bringing down dragons makes you no less susceptible to getting an arrow through the heart at the next ambush you are caught in. RPGs, however, normally assume that past deeds are strong predictors of future success. If you have a lot of campaigning under your belt you must have immense skill at arms and the mark of destiny to boot, so the game mechanics give you an edge against someone not similarly proven.


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