Jasmine Steele – P3 Reflection (Clout Chasers)

For P3, I helped build Clout Chasers, a tabletop systems game in which players take on the role of online influencers to compete for social media domination. Fun in Clout Chasers comes in the form of fellowship (players must build and break alliances to get ahead in the game), challenge (players must optimize their play strategy to claim as much influence as they can), and a bit of fantasy and narrative (players pretend to be social media influencers, which, in some playtests, led them to build their own informal narrative about what content they were making and what their relationships were to the others).

Our final version models the ecosystem as a gameboard made up of 7 hexagons — 6 color-coded hexagons surrounding a gray central hexagon — each divided into 6 spaces. Each hexagon represented a different “area” of the content creation space (ie. gaming, fitness, beauty), with each space representing a share of that area’s audience. The goal of each player is to claim as many of these spaces as they can to become the top influencer. To this end, they must manage 3 types of cards: content cards, which represent content which can be made to claim a space (with that content’s success determined by the player’s Influencer Level or IL); item cards, which represent equipment upgrades a player can equip to permanently boost their IL; and action cards, which represent one-time actions a player can take (such as “expose” or “make a reaction video”) to either boost their own IL or decrease another player’s IL for a single turn. Players can also pool their resources to jointly claim free spaces through “collabs” or pit their resources against each other to conquer already-claimed spaces by starting “beef.” Lastly, a dice roll at the beginning of each turn determines which content area is currently “trending”; spaces which match the trend are easier to claim for that turn.

The building of Clout Chasers was fun but tumultuous. If I had to pick a biggest takeaway, it would be to take advice about not changing too many things between playtests seriously. We had a lot of ideas about what pieces our system could contain but only a vague idea of how best to fit them together, so our system — down to some of the fundamental mechanics — ended up changing pretty wildly between each playtest. While this approach was interesting in its own right because it allowed us to test a bunch of different directions, it rendered playtest feedback less helpful than it otherwise could have been; with so many factors changing, it was difficult to pin down exactly what was working and where the problems were. That said, our final playtest went surprisingly well! While players ended up completely forgetting about the “trend” mechanic after the first turn and barely understood how to keep track of points, the entire play session was raucous and high-energy because people got really into the politics of collabs and beefs and ended developing a narrative around who held grudges against who; many rounds quickly developed into shouting matches with people aggressively slapping down their cards on top of the game board, not really caring whether they disturbed the board arrangement. While this wasn’t the type of play we expected, it nonetheless reflected a lot of player engagement, and our players didn’t want to quit when the playtest period ended despite having technically exceeded the game’s intended number of rounds!

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