Memory game, with a twist

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.

One Response to “Memory game, with a twist”

  1. Guzman says:

    Hi Ken,

    I’m passionate about the memory game
    and I’ve been playing it for years in many variations
    including the one suggested by Chung which is
    actually very difficult and demanding ’cause
    the usual method to associate positions and images don’t work.
    You need some method that allows a sort of dinamical reallocation
    of the images. I never found a very good tecnique for this version.

    I once made a list of 16 variations of memory that are worth playing
    (and many of them can also be combined).
    I list the ones that I found more pleasant to play:

    1 – “Turning the second card up is optional”.
    This very simple rule simplifies the game and makes it more strategic.
    You turn up one card, you watch it and if it is not one you know, you turn down again. By dont turning up the second card you avoid giving additional info to your adversary.

    2 – “Starting cards”.
    Among the cards there’s a special subset whose members are easily recognizable when face up (they may for instance have a dot in one corner, or you may choose the category of fishes if you are playing with animal pictures). You are only allowed to collect matching pairs only if you start by collecting a special pair (observe that there are many different special pairs).
    This way you have to memorize pairs and not only single cards.
    This is the one I enjoy more, especially one combined with version one.

    3 – “Tri-memory, Quadri-memory, …”
    Instead of pairs you can play the version where there are 3 or 4 identical cards and you have to collect them all together.
    If yuo want to play it at home, just buy to boxes of the same memory game.

    4 – “Swap after turning up”
    Same as Van Chung’s version.

    5 – “Players around the game swap their positions after 1 (or n) moves”.
    Or, if implemented for computers, the table rotates after n moves.

    6 – “Pairs have an order”
    Pairs have a well known order and you need to collect them in that order.
    So, in the meantime, you need to memorize all the pairs that cannot yet be collected.

    Sorry about the long comment,
    but I’ve allways been playing these variants and wanted to share them,


Leave a Reply