A new game, sharing and chance

Some games reward procedural and process thinking; call these the strategic. Others  favor the impulsive, tactically savage, even heroic. It’s a reductive division but useful. A game that immediately rewards the impulsive but then hints at yet greater rewards for good strategic thinking will probably gain a large audience. I’d imagine that games whose interest is only appreciated by those patient enough to be good strategists are, like many difficult works, lousy money makers.

This simple division is not new, nor is its framing. It’s as old as the Homeric epics and probably far older yet; I’m sure one could find equivalent distinctions in the most ancient works in China or anywhere else.

And games, however conceived, are not just about war or conflict, though society is most spectacular on a theatre of agony (especially somebody else’s). It’s when we think of society as society—or whatever ordered body of people we want to claim as us—and not just what we do, only dully recognizing the importance of others’ work and presence. Obviously, games—that set of ordered fictions—can be and have been put as a frame for any arbitrary moment of daily life.

I would imagine that there are now also games that focus on the real sharing economies. I don’t mean the faux “sharing” businesses like Uber or Airbnb, which claim to “share” so as to steal the value that has been successively layered onto services like taxis and hotels. I mean the more interesting and cooperative sharing economy represented by the P2P Foundation, the Flok Society, a lot of open source and open access work, the Mondragon Corporation, and so on.

These real sharing enterprises are rooted in context and operate in the abeyance of government or its collapse, or with its blessing and endorsement; or with its utter indifference. But the cooperative that works in Berkeley, USA, probably won’t work as well in Kuala Lumpur, not because there is not the same measure of sentiment and passion but, I’d guess, because civil, legal, financial expectations and demands—not to mention familial—would make what is otherwise robust fragile. That said, the formal principles can be articulated and respected; added to and complicated. Their weighting, application, and thus implementation, as well as removal becomes part of the game. Call these the epigenetic elements.

Let’s imagine, then, a game that takes as its point of departure the cooperative as a model of sharing. Kind of like Sim City, only with sharing as a constraint. I’m *sure* that there are numerous such games already out there. (I kind of dread going and using the Google for this ….)

Because it’s a game, we could add some interesting constraints. For instance, all energy resources and uses must track forward with the consequences of their actuality. If I use fossil fuels, like tar sands, then what is the likely impact? If I opt instead for wind, what do I do then with broken-down windmills, inefficient transport and ill tempered landowners upset with gigantic wind farms on their land? And so on.

Part of the game would be to weigh the consequences of such actions in the creation of a sharing society. To do this reasonably, a deck of cards (the computer equivalent, perhaps) would assert the limits, drawing upon generally accepted conclusions. Thus, if I want to plant an open-source and “free” version of golden rice, the consequences would be indicated by the cards. As the game would become insufferably tedious if we brought in every iota of gloom available (sigh), a simple limit would be given by the roll of the dice, by a measure of chance.

More on this….

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