Algorithms of Late-Capitalism Board Game Workshop #3

Karla Zavala
Aug 13 · 6 min read

Workshop #3: Creating Game Content That Breaks the Rules

Date: 30 July 2021

In this workshop series participants come together in online sessions and help co-design a game that promotes more inclusive and open perspectives on the future of digital technology. Each workshop in this series corresponds to a specific phase of the game design process and will build on the knowledge generated by previous participants.

Workshop #3 was conducted as a hybrid event hosted by Tshimilogong Digital Innovation Prescinct in Johannesburg, South Africa with a guest presentation from Mxolisi Xaba.

During this session, participants had to start creating content that challenges the game rules and allow players to beat the system and its algorithms.

Workshop Report

Summary

In workshop 2, participants came up with the idea that the repressive machine system is represented by the rules of the game itself. These rules, like algorithms, are encoded grammars of action that determine what players can and cannot do within that system. Players can thus choose how to play the game: either they compete with one another and try to win by conforming to the system’s rules — or they work together playing collaboratively to change the system by changing the game rules to be more inclusive and collaborative.

Participants of workshop 3 took a look at the rules of the machine system in which players find themselves — and then designed subversive alternative rules that players can use to ‘hack the system’ and change the dynamics of the play world. The underlying motive of this was to explore how can we use this type of game mechanic to explore questions about our own participation in software systems and ecologies.

The goal of the workshop activities were to create:

  1. Control point cards: These cards contain privileged spaces in the machine world that you can only access with Cutecoins. Once inside, you can hack the control point to access Transboxes
  2. Transbox cards: Transboxes allow players to change the rules of the game.

Activities

Group 1: Collaborative Values

Group 1 had to create Control Point & Transbox cards related primarily to the Object of The Game.

Points discussed:

Creating collaborative values through continuums rather than absolutes:

  • Conforming vs Free-thinking
  • Prettiness vs Ugly
  • Rejection vs Acceptance
  • Cost vs (Cost) Free
  • Betrayal vs Trust

Translating these values to ‘key acts’:

  • Encourage authenticity & originality
  • Merge players into a collective (multi-organism)
  • Creating trade opportunities without Cutecoins being associated with behaviour (i.e. gifting & sharing)
  • Low scores can equal high value / Back the underdog (i.e. How can players be rewarded for having a high value that isn’t reflected in their ‘prettiness score’).
  • Create safe spaces
  • Rehabilitate ‘bad actors’ (i.e. make space for change)
  • Find common ground between players

Transbox Card Suggestions:

  • Sharing Cards: You can have a positive card and after reading it decide to share it (which the ‘system’ discourages).
  • Cutecoin Stokvel: Add additional condition to the Cutecoins where you have to be 2 or more players who create a Cutecoin sharing pool (the sharing pool can increase in value if it is communal).
  • Woza! / Come As You Are: Everyone, whether handsome or ugly, gets a 35% increase in ‘prettiness score’ (“Everyone, you are welcome! Woza!”).
  • Power Up: Sharing Cutecoins has an additional condition. Each person in the collective gets 35% increase in value.

Group 2: Introducing Disorder

Group 2 had to create Control Point & Transbox cards related primarily to the Object of The Game.

Points discussed:

Object of the game: How do we make sure everyone wins the game?

  • Control point: Community Garden / Community Center
  • Ubuntu Society Transbox: Game only ends when everyone has 100% ‘prettiness score’ — instead of ending when the first person gets 100%. Excess points gets redistributed. Everyone wins when everyone has the same level of prettiness. From this point on — benefits or prettiness points from cards are doubled while detractors are halved (change game pacing). If we work together as a community — we will get to a better future faster

Controlled Society: Everything is ordered and controlled — introduce a chaos card to disrupt playing order

  • Control point card: Traffic Control Center
  • Self-driving car / Autonomous vehicle hack Transbox: Change the direction of play from clockwise to anti-clockwise / Swap seats / Swap cards (pass upgrade / Cutecoins to the left)

Safety Cards: The system might be unfairly balanced/biased against certain people

  • Control point card: Library / Nature reserve
  • Safe and Sound / Scan Scramble Protection Transbox: The card can be held until a System Scan happens. Players get protected from any penalties inflicted by the Scan for one round when it is played. It can be sold, traded, or gifted to someone else

Group 3: Subvert from the Inside

Group 3 had to create Control Point & Transbox cards related primarily to the System Scan cards.

Points discussed:

Prettiness Point Sharing Transbox:

  • An ally can take some of their own prettiness points to give to or share with those who may be going through a System Scan. This can be a point swap or a sacrifice or even a hijacking of the system.
  • Use a ‘magnet card’ that causes the charge of the Control Point card to short circuit temporarily — System Scan cards thus have less effect.

Home Affairs Office Control Point:

  • With long queues

Hospital Control Point:

  • Check for illnesses / malformations
  • Eugenics come into play here (0 prettiness score gets you eliminated)

Prettiness Score Transbox:

  • The more people in the game gain a certain amount of prettiness — the more they give to others who are likely to lose immunity.
  • The more individuals gain — the more the group gains.

Outcome: Creating more gameplay opportunities for compassion and collaboration

We summarized the outcome of the workshop as follows for the next group of participants to work with:

Within the game world of the SM4RT C1TY, more fair and inclusive technologies are only possible once players have started unlocking Transboxes. Transboxes are cards that allow the players to start changing the rules of the game to be more inclusive and collaborative (and less individualistic and competitive)!

The Transboxes created in workshop #3 promote values such as:

  • Sharing or redistributing resources to help everyone win
  • Ubuntu: “a person can only be a person through other people”
  • Thinking of continuums rather than absolutes
  • Support players who are struggling
  • Low scores do not mean low value
  • Change the metrics of how we measure the ‘prettiness score’
  • Encourage authenticity and trust
  • Come as you are
  • Introduce chaos can disrupt the system
  • Protect vulnerable people in our community
  • Working together brings about change quicker

Relay

In workshop #4 participants will be creating SM4RT C1TY cards. These cards represent new technologies that are introduced into the fictional play world. They can represent the existing system — a probable future based on Algorithms of Late-Capitalism — or they can present a preferable future that is based on more just and inclusive visions of digital technologies.

This project is made possible through the New New Fellowship supported by SuperrrLab, Bertelsmann Stiftung, and Allianz Kulturstiftung.

internet teapot

a playground for <digital> ideas