Game: Ca$h or Credit
Before we started this project, I was excited to explore a system that was somewhat mystifying to myself. The idea that you have to take on debt (temporarily lowering your credit score) to eventually increase your credit score so that you can take out bigger loans in the future, is somewhat unintuitive and makes modeling this system an interesting challenge. Adding to this was the fact that the real world operates a lot like Monopoly, which is not a particularly fun game, so creating come-from-behind mechanics and fellowship as a dominant type of fun was a main goal I had going into the project.
During the project, another more immediate concern emerged: creating a playable game. I’d say that throughout P3, I was constantly balancing 1) make a game with clear rules and functional mechanics with 2) have the overarching gameplay model the way credit will impact a person’s ability to purchase assets over the course of their life. After each playtest, it was easy to focus on fixing game pieces to address some of the playability issues – for example, the credit score tracker didn’t go down to 300 even though a player’s credit score might. On the other hand, considering how a score as low as 300 would change a player’s experience in the game was harder to see, because this didn’t occur in every game, and took a long time to develop (and we didn’t have this time during class). Ultimately, I’d say that we struck this balance by exploring some of the edge cases in our playtests outside of class. For example, when I ran a playtest with my family over break, I saw how the game worked with two people, and got to test the Community Event cards that required players to interact (for example, having everyone donate money to the player with the least in savings).
I’d say that we succeeded by building a game that models the credit system for an individual, while including opportunities for redemption and collaboration that do depart from the real-world model. Importantly, the player can still learn how their credit score impacts their ability to buy assets, and what key factors impact their credit score, but they don’t necessarily experience the self-perpetuating cycle of debt and low credit score that would make the game quickly feel unbalanced. Going forward, I want to keep in mind that systems games are powerful for exactly this reason – they are not a replica of the real system, but rather an intentionally curated model of the core components and interactions.