In the Memory game, you are shown a rectangular grid of cards, all face down. On the face of each card (the side you can’t see), is a picture. For any given picture, a pair cards will have that picture on its face — so for every card there is a matching card.
You play the game by turning up two cards at a time. If those two cards have the same picture, then you get to keep the cards. Otherwise, you have to turn them both face down, and try again. It’s really a test of memory (hence the name of the game) — if you can remember which card was which, you can win the game quickly. Otherwise, it can take a long time to finish.
Here is a simple version of the game that I’ve implemented as a Java applet, to give you the idea.
My friend Van Chung, who is a very accomplished Java programmer and amateur mathematician — and who also happens to be twelve years old — came up with a wonderfully fiendish variation of the Memory game. He calls it “the Memory game with a twist.” It’s a lot sneakier than the original version (be warned). I liked it so much that I reimplemented it. Here is my reimplementation of Van’s twisted Memory game.
To me the most interesting thing about this is the way that games can inspire other games, just as stories can inspire other stories. Van took a fairly prosaic game, added his own very clever variation, and came up with something far more interesting. And, arguably, more profound. For whereas the original Memory game is a kind of meditation on permanence, Van’s variation is a meditation on impermanence.
I was so impressed by this that I then created my own variation of Van’s variation, which took his idea even further. But I’ll get to that the day after tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’ll give you a chance to play with (and hopefully to solve) Van’s version of the Memory game.