P3: Reflection

Designing “Truth or Troll” has been an incredibly fun experience. Our team initially struggled to grasp the concept of a system game, partly because “systems” in everyday life are both overpowering and subtle—we rarely reflect on the systems we constantly engage with. Extrapolating systems clearly, let alone creating a board game about them, was challenging. I felt compelled to create something immensely complicated, where one player action could drastically alter the game’s trajectory, a seemingly impossible feat for an analog game. Amy’s advice during office hours was invaluable; she suggested “scaling down” rather than “scaling up,” shifting my perspective on system game operation and helping me realize that simulating a small fraction of a system could be effective.

Consequently, we redesigned our entire game mechanism, focusing specifically on how news headlines are influenced by different social, political, and cultural agendas, rather than broadly addressing the spread of misinformation. The game mechanism turned out less complex than I envisioned, but its success in our first prototype playtest was surprising. Although we added complexity to our punishment/reward systems through more playtesting and iterations, the core concept remained simple and straightforward. The positive feedback on our core game arc underscored the delicate balance in game design, where a streamlined, scaled-down, yet well-crafted core can be more effective than overloading a game with elements. Another challenge with our game was the game’s unpredictability. Giving players creative agency in writing and voting on headlines made it difficult to predict the game’s direction and design a corresponding punishment system. Initially concerned about this lack of constraints, I was pleased to see players embracing their creative agency in our playtests, seriously considering headline impacts and engaging in active debates during voting.

Looking ahead, I am excited to design more system games, particularly experimenting with mechanics involving a map that documents world systems, where players’ actions visually impact the game map’s development. There’s much to explore in the realm of system games, and I am grateful for the learning experience provided by “Truth or Troll.”

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