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May 01, 2004



the revolution game at MIT deals with some similar issues. we were proposing a chapter-based winnowing structure -- so that there's permanence of character and world state, but it's affected by more global actions. in short, we were trying to take the "bugs" of classroom based time constraints and turn them into features, in terms of organizing game play. anyway, matt weise has done a lot of thinking along these lines if anyone's interested. we'll be showing it at e3.


You need the admin staff of a VW & the developers taking an active part in the world as a method of enforcement. New York and New Hampshire CAN'T be at war in a situation where rules are enforeced. If you cut the masses loose to do what they please, you have anarchy. That's why we have police in the real world.

Game designers can't sit back and talk about having player-run government, and then not give the players (or the staff, however you want to do it) the tools to enforce such a government, and the consequences for failure to maintain it. Elections, anyone?

Perhaps it's a matter of scale, too. ATITD has elections, but seldom do actual laws get passed. That's probably related to the size of the population. When dealing with the day-to-day issues of government becomes too burdensome a task for standard voting, people can elect representatives.

The bottom line, though, is that it has to mean something. Government has to be more than background story if you want people to care and participate.


I commented more completely in my trackback, but the main point I'd like to see clarified is this one:

The challenge with these games, in part, is to communicate a caricature of the real-world as entertainment.

Why do you perceive the challenge in newsgames and related games to relate to their entertainment value?


Ian> Why do you perceive the challenge in newsgames and related games to relate to their entertainment value?

I wasn't thinking of newsgames specifically. A general statement - I didn't mean anything deeper than: in the end, to be a game, its still got to be fun to at least someone. Of course, the boundaries here are quite open (who would have thought a decade ago, SimCity ;-)


Didn't fully address the question. A charicature is a difficult art form (the "challenge") in that it has 2 sets of contraints it needs to satisfy: accessible ("fun"/"game") to the viewer; and some basis in a reality it is "cartooning".


Nathan -- thanks for the clarification. I may have read more segues in your post. I guess I'd still question the equivalence of fun and accessibility ... there is certainly an experience of caricature in some newsgames or political games, but I've always been and remain uncomfortable with diagramming the category of fun around the category of game. That's a bigger topic, to be sure.



A few thoughts. Generally, as the saying went, the personal is political. Ergo, *all games are political*.

You can think of that in two ways. First, as Eric Hayot pointed out, you can treat the game as an expression and say that language and representation in any game reflect the ideology of the designer -- so designers can't avoid expressing political ideology in games any more than television producers can avoid politics. (See, e.g., The Cosby Show, Murphy Brown, Roseanne Barr, whatever...)

So, yes -- even Tetris and Space Invaders enable political readings. Duke Nukem, Castle Wolfenstein, Tomb Raider, and Civilization probably enable more interesting political readings. And like Greg Costikyan has pointed out, there are explicitly political games out there as well that enable even more interesting political readings.

What Ian and Gonzalo have been working on (in my opinion) is engaging the player in games that are political, representational acts and demand participation in those political statements on the part of the player. That's part of the notion of Boal's Forum Theater, and it's really interesting. It's obviously something you can't do with political editorial cartoons, for instance.

What Ted and I were observing in the earlier thread, however, was something different. It was a metaverse-specific version of "the personal is political": When you get a bunch of people talking, jostling over resources, forming groups and creating rules and norms within a persistent computer-generated environment, you're seeing *real* social politics -- you're not just seeing a representation or enactment of real-world politics.

So the point is that player actions in VWs are political actions, design restrictions on player action are political actions, etc., etc... Of course, people don't recognize the political components of VWs unless they accept that political participation is something greater than voting for representatives and having them pass bills in a legislature.

What you are really talking about, I think, is making a *simulation of representative democracy* into a game. That's a tall order, I think, because the political game of representative democracy, if you're not a wonk or wonkette, is sort of boring. As you note, people won't play games unless they are entertaining.

You can make a game to teach people representative democracy, for sure. That would be a good thing, just like computer games that teach kids math or reading are good things.

John Wilkerson did it at Washigton:

It sounds like it was a very useful experience for the participants. But I don't know if his students would be playing legsim if it were not part of their course requirements.

Anyway -- just some thoughts...

p.s. One note -- the failure of a simulation to mirror the results of "reality" might not be a shortcoming of the simulation, but instead, the true benefit of the simulation.

See this for details:



{edited: format fixes}

Hi Greg, for discussion, I was hypothesizing evolutionary forces at work (politics in games, something like this:

Thread 1:"representation or enactment of real-world politics" (Ian, Gonzalo) => *simulation of real politics* (LARP analogy)

Thread 2:"social politics" (metaverse) => metaverse + "political lite" structures adopted (subgames), ala Michaly.

If so, then, in a nutshell, what are the relationships between: (metaverse + "political lite") <==> (*simulation of real politics*) ?


> If so, then, in a nutshell, what are the relationships between: (metaverse + "political lite") <==> (*simulation of real politics*) ?

Ah -- well okay, then, we're on the same page...

Short answer: It's a fascinating mess, isn't it? :-)


Re: Political Lite;

I have often said that the economies of MMORPOGs work very much like those of cities, as opposed to nations.

I think we will also find that that the politics are also very close to 'city politics', as opposed to national politics.



bruce> MMORPOGs

Whoops, one too many O's. Well at least it's easy to pronounce that way. :-)



I'm sure you meant it to stand for "Massively Multiplayer Online Rulesmaking and Political Organization Games"




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