My favorite board game, Dune, is definitely a systems game; the goal is to capture multiple different cities in the planet of Arrakis. The game is fairly complex, because there are so many systems at play; combat, resource, markets, the environment, and more. Each time I played this game with friends, we always had interesting takeaways after playing the game such as the effects of inflation player’s access to wealth, the economic incentives for war, etc.
I worked on Clout Chasers with my project partners with the goal of creating a game with the same amount of depth. I thought that if we were to model the social media industry in this way, it would be feasible. Boy, that was a tall order. In order to model the social media landscape with the same depth as Dune does with planetary supremacy, we would definitely need more time (probably on the order of months, if not more!). Moreover, our teammates discussed this possibility and concluded that such depth would have been to overwhelming for playtesters for this project. Still, I feel that our game still captured many of the complex phenomenon that arise in the social media landscape.
The ecosystem was modeled as a territorial strategy game. Originally, we wanted the game to have an infinite source of followers, but playtesters indicated that it was weird to have followers come in infinitely. From this, we decided have a territorial follower system where followers are represented by triangular grids in a shared space between players, with players claiming stakes in these different triangular grids. Changing the mechanic in this way made the game much more zero-sum, ramping up the take that each player had. Besides this follower system, and there was also the modifier system, wherein players could determine which tiles they can take over depending on their influencer level. The addition of the beef/collab mechanic allowed players to either adopt cooperative or competitive strategies with other players. One funny phenomenon that we observed was that people with less followers sucked up to people with more followers, which we thought was an interesting microcosm of the sort of internet politics that often take place online; it was great to see that our systems game was modeling some of the aspects of being an influencer!
In this project, I had discussions with other teammates about possible game mechanics that we could obtain. I also drew the concept maps to help formalize game structures, and I also created the player markers indicating which tiles players had taken over.
It was always fun to watch others play the game, because the players would often create their own narratives spontaneously and unprompted about what it was that they were trying to do; they effectively role-played as influencers with relationships with the other players, which was really fun to see. It also led to many very funny moments in between the interactions between the different players.
My biggest takeaway from this project is that these systems games do a really good job of distilling complex phenomena into much simpler representations that try to get the most important behaviors of the systems that they try to model across, and I think that these sorts of mechanics can make other games such as RPGs much more immersive. It would be cool to incorporate resource management systems in an IF, whose narrative itself can also respond to the state of the resource management system.