Saturday, February 19, 2022

In Theory Narrative

In a model game of Chicken,
The highest payoff outcome goes
To the player who does not swerve
But lets the other player swerve.

You survive, and you win the dare.
The worst outcome is to not swerve
When the other player doesn’t.
Mutual assured destruction—

That is if you play the version
Where you both drive at each other,
So to speak. In-between, chicken,
You lose. The other player wins.

But you live, at least. Modelers
Assign abstract outcome values,
Then behavioral researchers
Award monetary payouts,

Obviously not life or death.
But life has accidental games
As well that don’t model as well.
A student frustrated with games

And mathematical models
Erupted with a narrative
About his night drive through desert
And how one night a semi-truck

Was approaching him in the dark
On a high-speed two-lane highway,
Pitch-black world except for headlights,
And just as the truck was passing

Another pair of headlights popped
From behind and around the truck,
Attempting to overtake it.
There wasn’t a thing I could do!

The lights were coming right at me.
There wasn’t any time to brake.
The truck was flying right by me.
I knew I was about to die,

Then the lights coming straight at me
Went off the road and around me.
I shot right between the middle,
Gravel spraying me from the side

Where the other vehicle ripped
Right through the desert, just missing
Hitting me, the taillights rolling,
And then everything behind me,

The truck still roaring down its lane,
Disappearing, and I don’t know
What happened to the other one.
I didn’t look back. I just drove

On down the dark road, muttering
Something like, Well, that was fucked up.
So I won? I wasn’t trying.
Did the idiot who tried die?

And which player was the big truck?
In your model games, everyone
Either gets a decision or
Has no choice by definition,

But in that split-second Chicken
My non-decision wasn’t choice,
And who knows what those drivers chose.
How do we model my story?

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