Remember the heartbreak when Garry Kasparov lost his epic man-versus-machine battle against the Big Blue supercomputer?
A back-and-forth game of strategy, foresight, indirection, and creativity had been reduced to an algorithm. It wasn't so much man that lost that match as the game of chess itself.
No such worries with the world's other great game of mano-a-mano pure intellect, Layer Tennis. Computer programs can generate beautiful imagery, but they cannot play this game. No way, no how.
It isn't enough merely to take your opponent's previous play, clone and manipulate some visual elements, add something new, and put it together in a visually pleasing way. It has to mean something. The visual aesthetic, yes, that comes first -- a shot that doesn't look good is going nowhere. But that's the baseline. That's just treading water.
A good shot succeeds not just visually but conceptually. You suss out the meaning of your opponent's incoming shot and subvert it or twist it or mock it. And you have to think ahead, too, and express your own idea in such way that makes it difficult for your opponent to subvert/twist/mock in response.
Layer Tennis, in short, is a game played on, well, two levels.
Both players in this match understand this. In week one back in September, Inman dug himself a deep hole in the early rounds of his match against designer-illustrator-suspected-felon Kevin Cornell. But he came roaring back in the second half, his comeback effort falling just short. Note in particular volleys 6 and 8 by Inman, two of the best plays of this entire Layer Tennis season.
Three weeks later, Glass came out strong and never let up in his photography-heavy week four match against Naz Hamid. His first two shots, volleys 2 and 4, set the tone for the match and painted Hamid into a conceptual corner he never got out of.
Both players published insightful postmortem analyses regarding their previous matches (links: Inman, Glass), laying clear the twisted multi-level thinking that drives the game. But this week's simultaneous match format takes the meta game to a new level. Inman and Glass are playing a one-on-one match against each other, but if either can manage to work in elements from the Koxvold-Hutchinson match on the other court... well, that's just the sort of razzmatazz that drives the crowd -- and perhaps the judges -- wild.
Shaun Inman is a designer and programmer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His web stats app, Mint, is both exquisitely clever and exceedingly popular. It's like crack for bloggers. His personal web site and weblog is shauninman.com, which Inman redesigns -- splendidly each time -- on a seemingly weekly basis.
Chris Glass hails from southwestern Ohio, the only state in the union that is round on the edges and "hi" in the middle. He's also a part of the crew at Wire & Twine, purveyors of exquisitely clever t-shirts and industrial-grade toilet paper holders. (Not a joke.) He takes photos and writes a splendid web site at chrisglass.com.
John Gruber publishes Daring Fireball, an intelligent and opinionated journal devoted to geeky things like operating system interfaces and just about anything that has to do with Apple. John has the ability to make complicated things simple and the enthusiasm to cut through the noise and get at what's what.
Here's how the game works. Sign up for free Season Tickets to get all the latest information and participate in voting, contests and more. You can also subscribe to our Layer Tennis RSS feed and follow along via Twitter.
Congratulations to Mig Reyes, Layer Tennis Season 3 Champion.
Thanks to all the players, commentators and fans who made Season Three of Layer Tennis a big success. And thanks to the crew at Goodby Silverstein & Partners and all the folks at Adobe Creative Suite for making it possible. Watch this space (or sign up for Season Tickets or follow us on Twitter) for news about some special exhibition matches being planned and about Season 4.
Cast your votes on The Championship Match. Both Finalists will receive invitations to play in the post-season tournament for Season Four.
Here's how the voting works. Decide who you'd like to declare as winner and then simply tweet their first name following a hash mark. Either #mig or #noper and, this is important, also include #lyt in that tweet. We'll leave the voting open all weekend and announce our Season Three Champion on Monday.
Presented by Adobe Creative Suite 3. Creative license, take as much as you want.
Hosting and technical advice by the nation's most gracious hosting company, Tilted.