P3: Reflection Essay

Before making Factions, I visualized systems games as centered around emergence. I thought that games like Civ 5, Rimworld, and For The King were excellent games that had a ton of elements that interacted in unique ways. When one piece moved, it created unexpected effects that the player had to recognize and play around. These games required high variance, simple mechanics, and many options. This felt like a pretty big challenge to tackle in 2 weeks.

For P3, our team created Factions, a game centered around the system of gerrymandering. To me, this system felt very relevant due to the recent census and insane district maps that were created in many states in the US. In addition, gerrymandering felt like a complex system that could potentially be represented well in a game since it had concrete elements like maps and voters that could be represented well in a game.

On this end, I feel like our game elegantly transferred the complexity of district map-making into a game using tetris pieces on a board of voters. Though it was a simple process of placing a tetris piece and determining a winner for the district, the combination of a random board and the competition between players leads to really unique strategies that emulate various gerrymandering tactics like cracking and packing. I think that the physical feeling of covering up the voters feels really “dirty” and gives a real feeling of the political moves that are made to win against the competition.

In order to add to the system, we added cards to influence the board before the mapping process started. This was intended to emulate the political moves that are made before every census with moves to influence neighboring parts of the board. However, the players said that the cognitive load of trying to envision the final board and place the pieces was really challenging. I think this is a fair point and it required more interaction between the two phases of the game.

I think that a move to fix this might have been to include the cards as in-the-moment plays within the second phase of the game but it felt inaccurate to the system. Ultimately, I think that there is a version of this game that would engage in the two phases in a more cohesive way (I hope Eugene can figure it out) but David and I are going to be focusing on the second phase with the tetris pieces to make that a truly compelling game.

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