MDA of Cops and Robbers

As a child, I loved playing Cops and Robbers with my friends.


In this game, which includes elements of Hide-and-Seek and Tag, half of the players are Cops and the other half are Robbers. The players designate a Base (e.g. a certain tree), and everyone starts at the base. Then, the Cops allow the Robbers a few minutes to get away from the Base, after which the Cops can begin to hunt down the Robbers (a Cop captures a Robber by tagging her). Meanwhile, the robbers must try to make it to the Base; if even one Robber touches the Base, the Robbers win. If the Cops capture all Robbers, the Cops win. There is also a time limit, after which the Cops win if no Robber has touched the base.

Mechanics → Dynamics → Aesthetics:

First, since only one Robber must succeed for the whole team to win, the Robbers must help each other. Strategies often arise where Robbers act as “distractions” and lead the Cops away from the Base– “sacrificing” themselves for the good of the team. Robbers must also protect one another, as the whole team loses if all of the Robbers are captured (and it is harder for a Robber to reach the Base when all of her teammates have been captured).
Cops must also work together; if all of the Cops leave the Base, for instance, it will be easy for a Robber to reach the Base.
Thus, unlike in Tag or Hide-and-Seek, no player is ever working by herself against everyone else. Rather, each player must always be aware of the other players.
These mechanics give rise to a team dynamic, where team members must pay attention to one another and communicate with each other to create strategies to outwit the other team. This leads to the aesthetic of Fellowship within each team.

Second, unlike in Hide-and-Seek, no player can ever be inactive for long (Cops must chase Robbers, and Robbers must reach the Base before the time expires). Moreover, since players have team members, no player has to be in constant motion for long; for instance, a Cop might rely on other Cops to take up chasing a Robber when the first Cop gets too tired. (This is different from Tag, where “It” might have to exert himself for a long time if the other players are difficult to catch.)
This creates the dynamic of a fast-paced, challenging game where players create obstacles for one another and help their own team members overcome the obstacles set by the other team. This creates the Challenge aesthetic of the game.

Finally, since players take on the roles of Cops and Robbers, they also must take on the inherent real-world competitiveness between cops and robbers. This creates the dynamic of shared group identities within teams; this dynamic strengthens the Fantasy aesthetic of the game.

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