A few thoughts for a rainy Wednesday morning on the train.
1. If we accept that games can change people and the world for better or worse, then we can create a game that will potentially improve the world for everyone.
2. If we accept that no idea can survive unmutated after contact with the public, then this game MUST accept and propagate changes to the game that were created by its players.
3. If we want the game to actually change the real world and not just the world that exists inside the game, then this game MUST have real-world consequences for it to make impact.
Many people are trying to make games that fit under point 1, but most are limited to a single issue or educational subject. I'm not saying there's no success at all in this area, just that having a stand-alone game per subject seems a little daunting. I mean the world can throw a hundred issues at us before the design team can meet to figure out what the game should be about. How can we keep up with the world if we can't create a framework that we can extend in minutes based on the disaster du jour?
Since so many games are commercial by design, it follows that the companies hold on to the ideas and don't allow their games to be modified by players for as long as possible. Level design and reskinning game items seems to be dominant paradigm since Doom came out, but I don't know of a game that allows you to rewrite the rules in a significant way. Not like, say, a MUD/MUSH/MOO, where players earn the right to create part of the world and can create reality-bending puzzles. Sure, the mechanics of combat stay the same, but if you wanted to create a random maze that may not even have a solution, or an unbeatable monster that requires lateral thinking to defeat, you could do that. After all this time, the game industry still thinks we'll be happy with creating new levels with a finite toolbox of sprites and textures. How can we free limitless creativity with a finite selection of tools?
Real-world impact gains more visibility as time goes on. Whether that's cash prizes for figuring out the riddle first, or "get in the arena and the last one standing decides which charity gets all this money", games have a more visible impact today than they did when Monopoly was king. But we still have a long way to go before real-world impact gets woven into the fabric of games and becomes more than a publicity or tax-evasion stunt.
Stick with me for a second, here...
What would happen if we had a game that made the political process fun and accessible again? What if people could log in and farm their subcommittees for opinions, then recommend how to vote on a bill in a mock congress? And what if those recommendations and any supporting arguments could get to the congressmen actually voting on the bill? Granted, this falls down when it touches legalese, but what if the players would re-write the laws in plain English? Granted, I'm an American so this idea is America-centric, but that's no reason to believe that it wouldn't work in other countries with localization.
This game could change the way the American public thinks about self-rule and government in general, the public changes the game every day by coming up with new arguments for and against bills, and it has a real-world impact in the bills that will and won't get voted into law.
That's what I'd like to be a part of. That's what's in my head. That's my dream. The Great Experiment of American Government is about getting people involved and talking with each other. We're re-starting collaboration with blogs and video mashups, but we need to focus more on people connecting with each other and spreading good ideas to the highest levels of power in this country.
Am I crazy?