Why not Y?

Recently I was wondering why Y has received so much less attention than Hex. In any discussion I’ve seen about connection games or the elegance of modern abstracts, the name Hex comes up — why doesn’t Y? It seems as though Hex has become a much more widely known classic than Y.

Is Hex so popular because it was discovered by well known people (Hein and Nash) or because it was discovered first (Hex in 1942, Y in 1950)? Craige Schensted often gets the credit for discovering Y, but Martin Gardner says that Clause Shannon, a figure as well known as John Nash, discovered the game some years earlier. I’m not sure who did what to popularize the game. Does anyone here know?

I’ve heard it argued that “Y must be better than Hex since Y generalizes Hex.” This view point seems to overlook game play. A game which is more general than another game might be less fun, less interesting, and less playable than the game it generalizes. One reason to prefer Y over Hex is that it is simpler than Hex whose rules and board are more complicated. This appeal to Occam’s razor also forgets game play though.

One thing I like to think about when I learn a game is how that game fits into a pattern of human thought. Each game can tell us a little bit about how humans think and what we’re good at. There are some abstract games that simply seem unnatural, and that simply cannot be played seriously. Could it be that Hex is more popular than Y for the simple reason that the play of Hex is a more human one than Y?

I have a particular soft spot in my heart reserved for Hex, the game that initially got me hooked on abstracts, so my views on the issue are certainly biased.

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