I abandoned my original idea after banging my head against the wall for a couple of days trying to figure out how to make it work as IF.
I pivoted to a different idea about the U.S. health insurance system (a real-life dystopia). The idea is to demonstrate to players, especially those with access to good health care, the profound unfairness of the system and push them to empathize with less privileged people for whom an illness can lead to utter financial ruin through no fault of their own.
The elements I developed with the help of playtesters are:
- Players select from 2 or more characters of different socio-economic levels to play as. These players vary in both their wealth and access to social support systems.
- There are two primary paths:
- Privileged path: begins with great health care and a solid community to fall back on. Players on this path seek to maintain their position as disease, and other life obstacles present themselves. Inevitably, they are pushed along a path that merges with the underprivileged path, exposing them to the unfairness of the system that their status initially shielded them from.
- Underprivileged path: begins with no health care and family/friends who are themselves already overwhelmed or need help from the player. Players on this path seek to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” and fail through no fault of their own.
Playtesters of the basic idea expressed a lot of support for the idea and basic mechanics. They also
helped surface some emotions to try to evoke in players to achieve the ultimate goal of creating empathy for others:
- uncertainty, specifically the feeling of not being able to understand or predict how a system is going to function (e.g. not knowing how much a necessary medical procedure will cost until after the fact).