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Evolutionary Games


Explanations > Evolution > Evolutionary Games

Super sense | Be big | Be small | Go fast |


Evolution is a long game, played out as flora and fauna compete to stay alive long enough to mate and ensure their offspring can repeat the cycle.

In these competitive situations there are three major forces that affect the games that are played:

  • Predator and prey: Predators need to find, capture and consume, while prey need to avoid this.
  • Resource sharers: Same species or nearby species computer for the same food, water, shelter, mates, etc.
  • Surviving nature: All need to withstand rain, wind, cold, drought, and whatever else nature may put in their way.

The games appear in a range of formats, as below, where evolution changes aspects of the creature in order that they can find food (or avoid being food), get the resources they need and generally survive what nature throws at them.


The first game is to evolve senses that are increasingly helpful in the games. Predators and prey both develop sharp sight, hearing and so on in a battle of who detects who first. Senses are useful for detecting water and food from a great distance. They can also detect weather changes, find mates, spot predators and so on.

Human senses have also evolved so we can, for example, know when a person is looking at us from across a crowded room. Paying attention to your senses can pay dividends, for example noticing how people smell can tell you a lot (although antiperspirants and cologne may cload this).

A lesson in sensing is to deliberately stay aware, especially of other people, what they are doing and how they are sensing you. When you can sense others first, you have the advantage of what moves you make, defensive or otherwise.

Be big

Size can be important, especially in fights where reach and momentum are important. Larger animals have fewer predators and may well be able to survive attacks.

People are well aware of even small size differences as taller people are unconsciously assumed to be superior, as may be seen in the larger number of tall people in senior organizational positions. If you want to appear powerful, stand erect and gain other advantages of height, for example standing on a stage to give a lecture.

Be small

Smaller creatures have the advantage of being more difficult to see, and can note easily hide from predators or sneak up on prey. In combat, they have less inertia and can rapidly accelerate and turn. They also need less food and can hence more easily survive a famine. Small size may still be dangerous when they use such as speed or poison.

Smaller people can also benefit from these factors, though the human emphasis on height can be hard to overcome. This can result in smaller people adopting strategies such as being friendly or funny, though they may also be aggressive and quick to anger.

Go fast

Moving quickly can be critical for both predator and prey, as speed often wins both races and battles, and can compensate for a lack of strength or size.

Speed needs compromise in overcoming inertia when accelerating, turning or stopping. This requires either low mass or great power. In this way, lithe and little prey compete with big and powerful predators, who may need to develop even more power to catch their elusive prey.

A variant on moving quickly is to think quickly. If you cannot escape their claws, perhaps you can outwit their clumsy power. This is an area where humans have excelled, where our speed and depth of thought can be used to outwit predators, prey and competitors alike.

Go slow

Speed costs in terms of energy and hence food. Moving slowly can save energy. It may also be used to avoid detection, for example in the way a predator will stealthily stalk it's prey.

Thinking slow can often be a better strategy than the much-desired quick thinking. When you take your time about decisions, you can create more and better options, as well as thinking things through in order to choose the best alternative.


In the game between predator and prey, a very useful skill is to be able to hide. If the other cannot see you, then you can sneak up on them or avoid capture altogether.

Ways of hiding include stillness, camouflage, smallness and simply staying out of sight. The eye is good at detecting movement but needs more effort to trace outlines. Camouflage takes advantage of this by blending in with the surroundings and breaking up boundaries.

In human competition there are easily times when staging out of sight, at least for now, is the best strategy, showing you to pick your moment to act rather than reading to the moves of others.


One of the most useful skills is to remain flexible, always being ready to adapt, adopt and change with the changing forces around you. Evolution is a slow process and adaptability is one of its greatest gifts.

Humans have an enormous ability to adapt, which is why we can be found in all climates around the world. Yet sometimes we forget this and stick to what we already know. Keep on gaining experience and learning to cope with adversity and you will find yourself better able to adapt to the constant stream of new situations that our ever-changing world throws at us.

So what?

See people through the lens of evolution and the natural games that it makes them play. Decide consciously whether you want to play the game, then shape the game or stand back.

See also

Games, The Psychology of Height


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