Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Peace Process

I have been
kicking around some ideas for a pen and paper RPG that attempts to shift gaming focus from violence to nonviolence.

I'm not talking about crafting or singing or, um, waiting tables.

What I mean is a focus on nonviolent interactions - protests and walk-outs and sit-ins and leafletting and speeches. Organizing and managing groups to achieve social and political goals. Any violence caused by members of your group will cause ill effects, while violence done against you may gain you sympathy but possibly at a cost of group members.

Or maybe not built around group dynamics (which might work on a turn-based or real-time/pausable map).

Maybe you play a buddhist. Play revolves around attempting to adhere to the Eightfold Path while still accomplishing objectives. You could choose school teachings that would interpret your actions in different ways and present varied 'winning' goals.

The problem I'm having with a system like this is imagining how it would actually look and play. Maybe it could almost be like a collectible card game, where you collect sutras, which will have varying effects on people. A sutra would not 'run out of ammo', but used against the same person will have diminishing returns until it is completely blocked; People could also have a 'universal tolerance' that, when reached, means they will ignore you entirely.

I've been sketching out some ideas for a 'concept core' based around the tranfer of discrete units (cards or tokens or just little rendered post-its) - memes, to overuse a term.

Let's consider the basics of object-oriented programming. Every thing in the program (a chair or insect or sound) is an object, and every object has some basic properties (position, direction, weight). Every action in the program is a function (rotate the chair, move the insect, play sound).

So we have being and doing.

A meme is similar, but more flexible. It can be being OR doing OR being/doing. One meme might represent, for example, the belief in a triune godhead, with different characteristics like transmissibility (how easily it is passed on), adherence and repulsion (how much it attracts and repels certain memes) and priority (how important it will be). The triune godhead will pass easily to people with religious memes that are not strictly exclusionary and not so easily to people overly reliant upon logic (notice I didn't say logic will automatically reject a religious meme - only when logic takes a much greater priority).

Memes are very flexible. If you have an Annoying Jingle meme (very high rate of transmissibility but very little priority) not only will it contain characteristics but also an action - namely, you will sing it every so often, resulting in its spread throughout the memesphere.

Links between memes can result in complicated memeplexes. Let's say, then, that your Triune Godhead meme is the parent meme of an Annoying Jingle. The two memes will alter their characteristics based upon 'genetic rules' of meme-combination. The Annoying Jingle retains a high rate of transmissibility but also gains a much higher priority (essentially you have made a simple Cult memeplex). If you made the Triune Godhead meme subordinate to the Jingle, then you have a meme that spreads quickly but has a lower priority (more of a general belief than specific adherence to a religion).

Anyway, a system with many many kinks, which I hope to continue exploring.

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