Anyway, what caught my eye was Borges listing what he took to be the rules of classic detective fiction. Here they are (his words in italics, my comments afterwards):
A. A discretional limit of six characters.
B. The declaration of all the terms of the problem. This is basically Dorothy L Sayers’ ‘fair play’ rule – I’m sure I saw an essay of hers with a list of principles once, but I can’t track it down.
C. An avaricious economy of means. I’m not totally certain what he’s on about here (he only gives counterexamples, eg Conan Doyle regularly breaks B), though I think there’s a tone of Occam’s razor about it.
D. The priority of how over who. ie what happened is more interesting to deduce than who actually did it.
E. A reticence concerning death. (He adds that detective fiction’s “glacial muses are hygieve, fallacy and order”. I think he means it should be an elegant puzzle rather than a gore-fest.
F. A solution that is both necessary and marvellous. There’s only one solution, which makes the reader boggle – but has no recourse to the supernatural. Chesterton’s Father Brown is his model.
That was written in 1935 – only a few years after Ronald Knox came up with his ten commandments for detective fiction (1929) and SS Van Dine formulated his twenty rules (1929). (Side note to self: ooh, I must track down The Sins of Father Knox.)
Anyway, er yeah, not sure why I’m posting this – just interested me. I wonder if there are similar principles that make games work?