In the game MultiVerses, the words of the English language represent the Multiverse, or set of all universes. Each word represents one infinitesimal moment of some universe, such as our own.

The number of rules associated with the universes in this game simulates Kolmogorov complexity, or the length of the shortest computer program needed to generate an object. Measure, in this game a kind of probability, is thought to decrease as complexity increases; in MultiVerses, the more rules your universe has, the harder it is to find words that meet its criteria, so all else being equal, a universe with more complexity will have fewer copies and lower measure.

Collections of words with high complexity represent universes with intelligent observers like us.


Strictly speaking, these definitions apply only to the game MultiVerses, although they are based on, and meant to suggest, recent ideas in cosmology (see References).

complexity: The complexity of a universe is the number of rules in its program.

copy: a set of moments in a universe. Copies are represented by lines of words.

duration: The duration of a universe is the number of words in its shortest copy. A universe with copies containing 4, 3, and 6 words has a duration of 3.

measure: The measure of a universe is how many copies there are of that universe. For example, a universe with four copies has measure 4.

moment: a time-slice of a universe. Compare "Nows" (Julian Barbour). Moments are represented by words.

multiverse: a set of universes, or (capitalized) the set of all universes. Compare "Platonia" (Julian Barbour) or "the Dust" (Greg Egan).

observer-moment: a moment as perceived by a conscious observer. Compare "time capsules" (Julian Barbour).

program: a set of rules devised by a player that specifies a universe.

rule: part of a program that specifies a universe, such as "Words must begin with the same letter", or "Words must be nouns".

universe: a collection of copies (lines of words) specified by a program (set of rules).

verse: See universe.


Was that fatuous? As absurd as insisting that every room full of monkeys really did type the complete works of Shakespeare--they just happened to put the letters in a slightly different order? As ludicrous as claiming that every large-enough quantity of rock contained Michelangelo's David, and every warehouse full of paint and canvas contained the complete works of Rembrandt and Picasso--not in any mere latent form, awaiting some skillful forger to physically rearrange them, but solely by virtue of the potential redefinition of the coordinates of space-time?

For a statue or a painting, yes, it was a joke. Where was the observer who perceived the paint to be in contact with the canvas, who saw the stone figure suitably delineated by air?

If the pattern in question was not an isolated object, though, but a self-contained world, complete with at least one observer to join up the dots from within...

Greg Egan, Permutation City, 1994

If I should throw down a thousand beans at random upon a table, I could doubtless, by eliminating a sufficient number of them, leave the rest in almost any geometrical pattern you might propose to me, and you might then say that that pattern was the thing prefigured beforehand, and that the other beans were mere irrelevance and packing material. Our dealings with Nature are just like this. She is a vast plenum in which our attention draws capricious lines in innumerable directions. We count and name whatever lies upon the special lines we trace, whilst the other things and the untraced lines are neither named nor counted. There are in reality infinitely more things "unadapted" to each other in this world than there are things "adapted"; infinitely more things with irregular relations than with regular relations between them. But we look for the regular kind of thing exclusively, and ingeniously discover and preserve it in our memory. It accumulates with other regular kinds, until the collection of them fills our encyclopaedias. Yet all the while between and around them lies an infinite anonymous chaos of objects that no one ever thought of together, of relations that never yet attracted our attention.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902



  1. Standish, Russell. Theory of Nothing. 2006. (Superlative, free ebook.)
  2. Tegmark, Max. Parallel Universes. 2003.


  1. Barbour, Julian. The End of Time. 2001.
  2. Deutsch, David. The Fabric of Reality. 1998.
  3. Egan, Greg. Permutation City. 1994.
  4. Perry, Michael. Forever for All. 2000.


Thanks to my game design group EGGS (Experimental Game Genesis of Seattle) and my regular game group Seattle Cosmic Game Night for playtesting this game and making many helpful suggestions. More specific thanks to come soon.

A tip of my hat also to Jim Gladstone and his excellent book Gladstone's Games to Go (2004), which contains a game called Ex Post Facto with some similarities to MultiVerses. Although I owned the book while I was working on MultiVerses, I came by the mechanics to my game by a different route; it was originally a card game called Platonia requiring the equivalent of a suitcase to lug around all its cards. When I started working on a project called Games Unboxed that collected games using "ordinary equipment" (such as a Chess set or pen and paper), I realized I could turn Platonia into a word game and ditch the suitcase. Thus, MultiVerses.

Back to Ludography