|One big motivation for making this game was because I think we humans are on track to keep fighting each other in a way that eventually destroys civilization in general, and I think part of what is going on could be that we have been raised on zero-sum games, which can be very fun, and educational, but also condition us for destruction. These games train us to feel good about others feeling bad. And make us better at recognizing zero-sum patterns, and blind to win-win & lose-lose patterns. So I'm thinking that if we could change how humans are socialized by popularizing a game that conditions us to feel more like we are generally all on the same side, that might make a small difference.
It reminds me of this song...
"How can I save my little boy,
From Oppenheimer's deadly toy?
There is no Monopoly® of common sense,
On either side of the political fence,
We share the same biology,
Regardless of ideology,
What might save us, me, and you,
Is if the Russians love their children too"
(Sting - "Russians")
Making this game has been a long process. It is difficult to make a positive-sum game. I was inspired by how, in her 1983 non-violent co-operative video game "M.U.L.E.", Dani Bunten used (like real life:) a limited number of turns, some random elements, and a mix of both win-win and win-lose market forces, to create a game clockwork that is mostly positive sum even though all players act in their own best interest. I have thought a lot about Dani's solutions from M.U.L.E. while designing this game. It would be great to somehow influence my culture to be more co-operative. I want to play games that make us feel like our fates are more entwined than opposed. Positive-sum games should exist that are so good and intriguing and entertaining and satisfying that people will throw their old zero-sum games in the garbage! Just kidding, but seriously I would like more non-zero-sum games to be popular, and to do well in the market even when based on their entertainment value alone.
Thank you to all the game testers! They gave freely of their time, reactions, and ideas, many of which I have used, including (in order of appearance) Andi O'Briant, Ann O'Briant, David O'Briant, Kamaria Moir, Tracy Emmert, Miguel Lyons, Amelia Lyons, Jennifer Warren, John Walsh, Phil Baisley, Jennifer Brokamp, John O'Briant, Madison Graham, Brent Walsh, April VanLonden, Matt Hisrich, Leigh Ruddick Tolton, Joseph Tolton, Isaac Lyons, Kevin, Tony, Brad, Char, Yuri, and Joyce Hagberg and her kids. I want to especially thank Andi O'Briant for her tireless supply of help and advice on this game, starting all the way back in 2012 when we played M.U.L.E. and many other classic games in an effort to think up an idea for creating a new co-operative game. And also thank you to Andi for all the amazing graphic design work she has done to “show me a garden bursting into life”.
As the song says... "Each jump in the dark, we claim as our own, We know it's a lie; we never acted alone..." (Chumbawamba, 2004)
I have more ideas for co-operative games. Zero-sum-ness and positive-sum-ness exist on a spectrum, with some games more positive-sum than others. In the future I would love to come up with more of my own solutions for this puzzle of creating a positive-sum game, maybe even game mechanics where players still interact independently yet cooperatively, but without so much being so transactional.
Here are some other ideas for games we could make:
Fountain of Youth: After discovering the Fountain of Youth, you smashed it open so it flowed into all the world’s water supply. Can you leverage the discovery of eternal life to create a utopia, or will your society descend into overcrowded chaos? (Thanks to Andi for most of that idea.)
(Advanced) Co-Operative Dictators: I already have an alpha test of this made, but it has not been tested much, and might work better as a computer game or ap. "Education" upgrades all the other resources, and a lot of other ideas.
Santa's Workshop: Something like positive-sum chess. Most elements could come together in various combinations, with the choice to either stack or connect. And you can't see the hidden elements the other elves have, that they may eventually place on the board, like in Scrabble. Maybe conveyor belts can be built to move the toys through the workshop to Santa's sleigh. What kind of toys will you elves be sending out to the world THIS year?
Popular: A port of Jim Gasperini's "Hidden Agenda", maybe set in a school. Like in the game it's inspired by, this single-player video game would not have a random element, and would instead supply replayability by the unexpected but realistic results of each choice, the unpredictable interactions between your various choices, and the impossibility of a perfect outcome. Maybe like in Hidden Agenda, you could choose friends, who will impact how the game goes because they will exercise their own free will, because they have their own agendas.
Hidden Agenda 2021: Maybe I could get Gasperini to write, or help me write, a version set in a fictional modern day country. Maybe you would play as a member of a political minority who was just installed as a puppet prime minister by a foreign super-power.
Gypsies: Andi came up with an idea that would involve an element where every time you go around the board you pick up another gypsy. I think it sounds kind of like a mix of M.U.L.E., Pikmin, Kirby, and Pokemon. |