P2: The Future We Deserve — Accelerate

Note: It’s better to play my game blind here!

My game takes place in the year 2073; the US doesn’t exist and has fractured into smaller nation states. The events of the story take place in a future San Francisco, situated in the Californian Republic, where an AI system called DelSys controls the government and economy, with party members in Congress playing an advisory role. The main character, David Park-Garcia, was a corporate mercenary before he got laid off. His layoff results in a series of events that uncover the truth of how society and the economy really works. As the players navigate a politically unstable San Francisco with rival factions aiming to get more political power under DelSys, the player comes to find out that DelSys is not, in fact, the real system that is making final decisions in the CR; high-level officials in the party ultimately control DelSys behind the scenes without the public’s knowledge. The main takeaway I hope players get from the plot is the idea for all the talk that people in Silicon Valley have about runaway AI and catastrophic scenarios in the future where AI subjugates humans, it’s just as important to think about how it’s possible that humans themselves use AI to subjugate other humans. I was inspired to think about this point of view by reading the Dune series, which is a space Opera set in the future. What’s notable about this series is that AI doesn’t exist; it was banned after a conflict known as the Butlerian Jihad ensued, wherein  thousands of years ago people rebelled against people who used AI to oppress others. Moreover, the idea that I hope players can take away from this game is the idea of AI being a stand-in for capitalism; we often remove agency for economic decisions that take place and ascribe them to mechanisms such as “the market,” or “supply and demand,” but ultimately these are human phenomena that we as a society have more control over than we realize. Also yes, this is another “capitalism is bad” game.

As I iterated over the game, there were certain points of feedback that I got from earlier players that I’d ask later players to check whether the points were addressed. After talking to players, many times the changes in decisions that I made did result in feedback indicating that I did address the points from earlier with the design decisions I made.

The feedback from numerous playtesters, was invaluable; many talked about the ways in which they felt the plot was presented in a very propagandistic way, instead of letting them come to their own conclusions. In an earlier iteration of the game, the game would explicitly tell the player how they felt about the debate that ensued. After getting feedback that this felt propagandistic, I wrote the script for the debate that played on TV; this way, I’d let the player come to their own conclusion. Moreover, I added an alternative path where the player decides to not raid the government building and instead help with espionage after a player told me they felt they didn’t have much choice over who to help, and after they felt that raiding the government building was “too aggressive.”

Looking back at my project, I realize that I made it much harder for myself to complete this project on its deadline because I literally had a completely different story planned ahead for myself, and because I decided to completely change the premise and the message that I was trying to communicate 3/4’s of the way in (the fact that I was recovering from COVID didn’t help!). Next time, I’ll try to think of a premise that I will commit to ahead of time during the duration of the project. In fact, I think I will be able to do this in the future, since I have an idea of combining this story with the previous story for an insane IF with multiple plot twists.

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  1. I would say functional description fits best in terms of showing the values of this game. There is a lot of scene-building and getting the player up to speed regarding the dystopian world. And because of this aspect, it really allows the player to expand much deeper into the dystopia than if the player learns everything through the game. What I learned about this game is political polarization and the use of AI in the future and how that might affect opinions. In addition, it also kinda shows political corruption in a way with some of the endings that I got when I played around with it.
    I think the game does a good job of teaching me about the use (and misuse) of AI and capitalism is ultimately bad. The formation of how the political parties go about their stance in AI was also a good read. Twine was a good tool for this since there were actions that lead to different endings–and those endings were very different from each other, in turn, consequential to the overall outcome.
    I really liked the channel-flipping part at the beginning. At first, I was confused because it was just two arrows and no prompt but then it clicked and I was like “ohhhh” this is supposed to represent a remote control! I thought that the use of twine was super neat. For improvements for potential P4, I think jargon is hard since I found it tough at times to remember everything while reading all the text. I’m not too sure what I can suggest or if it is even an issue since it is necessary for the world.

  2. I think one of the core values/takeaways I got from this game was that the core of human suffering is inflicted by the very systems that we engineer with the hopes to organize, govern, and mitigate suffering. Essentially, we are governed by hypocrisy because there exists a non-zero chance of corruption and malpractice that easily can, and will, snowball into something uglier. I think these values can be seen through the key actors and societal input sources highlighted in our “Values At Play Heuristic” reading. Regarding key actors, after playing the game and reading Ivan’s blog post, it seems he has strong opinions regarding people in tech, the field of AI, and capitalism, which showed through in his game. Regarding societal input, there’s a neat balance between familiar yet unfamiliar cultural contexts (familiar: corruption in tech, AI malpractice, oppressive government infrastructure; unfamiliar: a futuristic, dystopian world with a different government structure and two different political parties).

    This story was compact and efficient at getting the message across. I felt like my choices mattered and had agency in the events following. I went back multiple times to play through every possible path. I also think Twine was a perfect medium for this story because of the branching nature and different endings. I liked having the option to choose between two very consequential choices (espionage vs. direct raid), and it made me pause and think for a little bit.

    I liked a lot of things about this game. The very first page that introduces the world and sets the context was excellently done. It was a slightly steeper learning curve with all the new terms and world-specific jargon, but I found myself reading through it multiple times (the red-colored text was a nice touch) so I could familiarize myself with the new terms. I find that having world-specific jargon, although hard to adjust to in the beginning, is key in making me feel like I’m really inside this world. Circuitbreakers is also a clever name, kudos to you. I also really liked that I was able to flip between channels – this was a really subtle, creative touch.

    Some improvements I would suggest are to break down large bodies of text into more digestible pages; namely, the presidential debate scenes that can get very lengthy. I think you can maintain the reader’s attention better by having less text per page and more pages. The action of clicking to get to more content is something that grounds my attention as a player, and it’s helpful if there’s not too long of a period of time when I’m just reading. Another suggestion I have is to have more details regarding certain action scenes – e.g. the escape you make from your initial capture and how you break into the building in the raid. I would’ve loved to see a description of the action sequence; it also will help with giving the notion that these actions took a while, instead of happening in the blink of an eye, which is less realistic.

    All in all, I think the world-building was excellent, and I love the parallels you can draw with our society today. Thanks so much for creating and sharing this game!

  3. The abstract values I saw in the game were critical thinking, cautionary for technology’s governance over humans, and the people in power’s exploitation of the ones with less power. The game designer, Ivan, who is also the key actor in making this game, created a world for the player to see the ugly side of AI and politics. It seems like he has abundant knowledge and experience in AI’s impact on human society and he wants the player to think of the implications of using technology to govern people. He implemented the values using the story of these made-up political parties using AI to oppress its people and make profits out of it, ignoring the welfare of the public. He presented a controversial debate on how people should or should not accelerate the development of technology as fast as possible without consideration of legal and ethical issues. He chose to present it as a TV show, so the player gets to see the arguments from both sides. This is a very interesting design choice, emphasizing the designer’s value of critical thinking, which requires the player to evaluate the truthness of information and make their own judgment at the beginning of the game.
    The game successfully gets me thinking about the interplay between technology and politics. I particularly agree with what Ivan said in his write-up about people passing the buck for their selfish decisions to abstract concepts like “the market” or the AI algorithm in this game just to cover up their selfishness and greed.
    Twine fits the story because there are two different endings.
    I like that I can choose to intervene in the bullying. It would be better if the consequences will be different if I choose to intervene or not. For example, if I don’t intervene, I will join the Accelerationist, and if I intervene, I will join the Deccelerationist as it is set up in the current game.
    One thing I really like about the game is that there are many news incidents telling me what the world is like and what AI has done to the world. That helped me catch up with the world setting.
    One thing that I would really like to have is a choice to choose to join Accelerationist or Deccelerationist, because that seems to be the biggest conflict in the game, and it is very tempting to pick a side and see how the world will end up to be different, or the same, if one power wins or loses, with the protagonist’s help.

  4. “The Future We Deserve” is an interactive fiction game set in a political dystopian world where AI controls the government and economy, and various political factions compete for power. The game immerses players in a futuristic San Francisco, where they uncover the truth about the society and economy, and learn about the misuse of AI, political corruption, and the negative impact of capitalism. The core values and takeaways of the game revolve around the idea that the very systems we engineer to mitigate suffering can also be the source of human suffering. This is a thought-provoking theme that encourages players to think about the potential risks of technological advancements and political power dynamics. The game also highlights the importance of individual agency and choice in shaping the future. One of the game’s strengths is its use of Twine as a tool for multiple endings based on the player’s choices. This allows for meaningful choices that impact the overall outcome and encourages players to consider the potential consequences of AI and political systems. The game also effectively immerses players in a dystopian world, with clever scene-building and a channel-flipping mechanic at the beginning that represents a remote control. One area where the game could improve is in its use of jargon. While necessary for world-building, the use of complex technical terms and acronyms can be a challenge for some players to remember. Simplifying the language or providing in-game explanations could help make the game more accessible to a wider audience. Overall, “The Future We Deserve” is a well-designed game that effectively uses its medium to explore important themes and encourage players to think about the future. The game’s multiple endings, immersive world-building, and focus on an individual choice make it a standout example of the potential of interactive fiction as a medium for exploring complex issues.

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