Introducing Tokume, the Game

A new half-virtual, half-real, epically complex, infinite civilisation-building game

“Games are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.” — Bernard Suits, philosopher and author of The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia, 1978. Photo of Supertree Grove, Singapore by Annie Spratt.

ONE PLANET. FOUR REMOTE LOCATIONS. MILLIONS OF PLAYERS. ENDLESS GAMEPLAY. THE RESULT? A NEW CIVILIZATION.

TOKUME IS A BOUNDLESS JOURNEY FOR THE RE-BIRTH OF THE HUMAN RACE, FUELED BY COLLECTIVE WISDOM, SELF-MANAGED COLLABORATION AT SCALE, HUMAN INGENUITY, CREATIVITY AND DETERMINATION, WITH REAL-WORLD NATURAL DISASTERS AND ECOLOGICAL CRISES TO OVERCOME.

[Authors’ Note: We (Gail Taylor, Elisabet Sahtouris and I) have spent most of the past 2 months since returning from San Francisco diving deep into the world of gaming to create a simple yet solid framework for a game that’s designed to help us navigate a world that’s accelerating towards collapse. This document is a ‘scaffold of intention.’ All going well, it’s where we want to invest our productive energy between now and 2030. It’s the document we’ll share with game designers interested in working on the biggest game ever played. Nothing here is set in stone — our intention is to spark imagination, to get the ball rolling.]

Game Context

It is 2020. The world is in chaos. Social structures everywhere have crumbled. Governments and economies have imploded. There is fear and uncertainty everywhere. In a bold move designed to re-inspire humanity, UNESCO — with the agreement of eight countries — have donated three remote and sparsely populated heritage sites to the Public Domain. These sites are to be used to run experiments and role plays with alternative forms of civilisation. A Virtual Reality game is the United Nations’ way of soliciting new ideas about human collaboration and settlement.

The players’ mission is to build new virtual human settlements in these locations, using entirely new forms of energy, communication, transportation, governance and exchange of value.

Locations

The four real-world locations in which the virtual game will be played are:

  • The Guiana Highlands in South America, spanning Guyana, Suriname, most of Venezuela and parts of Colombia and Brazil.
  • The Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area in the Gobi Desert, spanning parts of northern and northwestern China and southern Mongolia.
  • Pitcairn Islands, a small group of islands in the southern part of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Greenland, a massive island covered mostly in ice between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The Guiana Highlands

Monte Roraima, part of the Guiana Highlands, is said to have inspired Paradise Falls from the Pixar film ‘Up.’ Photo courtesy man_in_the_mirra.

The Guiana Highlands, specifically the section east of Venezuela’s border, are the source of some of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls such as Angel Falls, Kaieteur Falls and Kuquenan Falls. There is abundant fresh water and it is one of the regions of highest biodiversity in the world, but the steep sides of the plateaus make them difficult to access. The tepui plateaus have held a special significance for the indigenous people of the region, and it is central to many of their myths and legends.

Your challenge is to weave the indigenous people into the design of your civilisation and to build a thriving settlement on top of the uninhabited highlands, without disturbing the ecosphere.

Location of the Guiana Shield, Tom Hollowed, NMNH Informatics.

The Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area

A Mongolian nomadic dwelling, called a “ger.” Its wooden frame, covered by wool felt, can easily be collapsed, transported to another location and put up again. Photo by Patrick Schneider.

Forbidding and expansive, the Gobi Desert is the largest desert in Asia and easily visible from space. The GGSPA is situated in the south-western part of Mongolia at the border with China and encompasses a total of 53,000 km². Temperatures in the Gobi can fall to -40 °C in winter and rise to +40 °C in the summer. With an average yearly rainfall of about 100 mm, the climate is extremely arid. There are 110 families with nearly 60,000 heads of livestock in the reserve.

Your challenge is to build a thriving civilisation in the desert by planting forests and securing access to water. Space for expansion is limitless, but resources are scarce.

Location of the Great Gobi. Source Google Maps.

Pitcairn Islands

Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Island archipelago. Image by benjaminrgrant.

The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands — Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno — in the southern Pacific Ocean. The four islands are scattered across several hundred miles of ocean and have a combined land area of about 47 square kilometres (18 sq mi). Henderson Island has an area of 37 square kilometres (14.4 sq mi) and is entirely uninhabited. Its remote location, poor soil and little fresh water makes it unsuitable for agriculture and human habitation. Pitcairn is inhabited with a population of 56 people, most of whom descend from four original colonising families. Much of the Pitcairn Islands are inaccessible, or difficult to access, due to high limestone cliffs covered in sharp coral that form a barrier to the more inhabitable interior. There is no landing strip for airplanes, though yachts and cruise ships are welcome in its harbour.

Your challenge is to build a thriving civilisation across the four islands by securing access to water and tapping into the abundant resources offered by the ocean. Space for expansion is limited, resources are scarce, but you are far away from the threats of other civilisations.

Location of Pitcairn Islands. Source Google Maps.

Greenland

Tasiilaq, a town in the Sermersooq municipality in southeastern Greenland. Photo by Filip Gielda.

The world’s least-densely populated territory is Greenland, which belongs to the Kingdom of Denmark and has been inhabited for over 4500 years, with a current population of roughly 56,000. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island. Greenland is located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Most of Greenland is covered in ice, with the population residing mainly along the west coast, where lack of glacial cover has given way to rocky coast.

Your challenge is to build a thriving civilisation across the island by finding novel ways to produce food and tapping into the abundant resources offered by the ocean, while bearing in mind that as Greenland’s ice melts, sea levels around the world will rise by 7m. All of your decisions will be ratified by the Inuit Community Party. Space for expansion is limitless, but resources are scarce.


The Game

Tokume (pronounced toh-koo-may) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing civilisation-building game with only one rule: play the game as steward of yourself, of other players, of all living species and of our home, Planet Earth. Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning, use and management of resources.

Your mission is to get involved in any way you choose in humanity’s greatest coordination effort ever undertaken. You will collaboratively decide logistics, economics, governance, culture and incentive systems for your civilisation. You will build shelter, transportation, learning, feeding and healing systems. But these systems will be nothing like those we are familiar with, because they will be regenerative instead of extractive. Tokume promises to be the future of human civilization.

You can experience and inspect all aspects of life in your civilisation, across many scales of time and space. Shape your cities and cultures by collaboratively sketching detailed plans for infrastructure and zones, decide on how goods and construction material are produced and take part in decision-making about how your civilisation will be managed. Bear in mind that every move or decision made by you will have a knock-on effect and impact the overall structure of your civilisation, no matter how small. Everything you build will be seen by others. If you take a break for a while, you’ll see what others have built while you’ve been away. All players see the same settlement as it develops, but you may choose to partake in the game at any scale you choose.

Yours is a virtual civilisation, but with real-world constraints. Depending on which location you’ve chosen, there may be limited natural resources to be exploited. The same real-world limitations will be found within the game. You will have to come up with creative solutions for life in challenging environments that don’t currently exist, or they exist but they haven’t been widely adopted. How will you distribute clean energy at scale and how will you ensure all your citizens are adequately cared for? How do you engage with citizens from other civilisations? What part do you play in a larger network of cities and communities being formed? (Mars, Venus, floating cities, intentional communities). You’re essentially building a civilisation from the ground up — a civilisation not based on fossil fuels and that doesn’t use money as a measure of value; a civilisation that lives in harmony with Nature.

Building Your Reputation

Your personal score in the game will be impacted by the good and bad decisions you make and everything you do in the game will be recorded for all to see, forever. Your score becomes your Reputation Index, which provides all kinds of benefits as you travel yours and other civilisations and engage in various activities.

Now Let’s Get Building

If the broad outline of the game has sparked your imagination and you’d like to play a role in shaping the development of the game, here’s where to start.

“What if we started to live our real lives like gamers, lead our real businesses and communities like game designers, and think about solving real-world problems like computer and video game theorists?” Game Designer and Futurist Jane McGonigal.

Explanatory Notes

Objective of the Game

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware”. — Martin Buber, Ich und Du, usually translated as I and Thou, 1923

While the primary objective is to provide an epic civilisation-building experience for players, the secondary and perhaps more important objective is to shift thinking sufficiently at scale to enable humanity to birth an entirely new human operating system. This is our mission. You can read more about our methodology behind the game here. In the same way that the game Halo spawned the Museum of Humanity, the intent is for Tokume to spawn a viable new Human Operating System.

We are reminded of the need for a new form of human civilisation by the wise words of Stafford Beer:

“Man is a prisoner of his own ways of thinking and of his own stereotypes of himself.
His machine for thinking, the brain, has been programmed to deal with a vanished world.
This old world was characterized by the need to manage things — stone, wood, iron.
The new world is characterized by the need to manage complexity.
Complexity is the very stuff of today’s world.
This mismatch lies at the root of our incompetence.” — Stafford Beer

The game is designed to lay the foundations for complexity thinking.

About the Name, Tokume

Tokume is a fictional name inspired by Wakanda. Using a Wakanda Name Generator — which you can download here — Tokume is the Wakandan equivalent of the word new, which seemed relevant to what we are aspiring to achieve: a new human operating system. If you come up with a better name, let us know!

About the Locations

Many civilisation-building games are set in completely different environments than what players are physically familiar with. Playing in alternative environments allows players to free themselves from the constraints and limitations of the real world. As Jane McGonigal is fond of saying, “Reality is broken.” Games allow us a way of rethinking the big, messy, emergent features of how we think: concepts and communication, our habits and norms, and our models of the world and how we apply them.

The environment and setting are also important parts of the game narrative. For Tokume, we want to similarly create a radically alternative environment, while keeping the theme as close to Nature as possible. Rather than fully escaping reality, we want players to be able to connect more deeply with the planet that has been our home for hundreds of thousands of years. A remote, real-world location like the three locations chosen seemed like a good starting point.

About Tokume’s Economy

One of the roles of early players will be to create a new form of economy that closely mimics the healthy living economies of Nature. The game calls for an entirely new paradigm where value is no longer conflated with money. We are inspired by the absence of money in the 6-nation Haudenosaunee League of Nations, renowned for its organization and democratic system, one of the first of its kind and which inspired the enlightenment in Europe, though their economy was never copied.

Nature’s Principles

Since we are convinced that Nature provides all the clues required for establishing a viable, regenerative healthy living economy and governance system, the development of the game will be overseen by a Council of Elders closely attuned with Nature. The Council consists not of a static collection of individuals, but a series of annual events called Chrysalis, which tap into collective wisdom. 100 people from diverse backgrounds attend these events and the output of each event forms part of the Game Governance. You can read more about Chrysalis and the Group Genius methodology here. The game’s central founding axioms can be found here.

Technology Stack

  • The open sourced game will be powered by SpatialOS, the cloud platform for the next generation of multiplayer games.
  • Interaction between players will be powered by High Fidelity, the open-source application for building and deploying virtual environments, imagineered by the founder of Second Life, Philip Rosedale.
  • We expect that a game token will be called for. Many lessons have been learned in the crypto and blockchain experiments over the past ten years. Rather than focussing on crypto as a wealth creation mechanism, we will view these tools as technologies that solve the social problem of mistrust. For further background, read The True “Aboutness” of Blockchain and The Other Side of the Coin, A different perspective on cryptocurrencies.
  • Every player will receive a unique identifier, the basis for a Self-Sovereign Identity.
  • Although the game will be played in a virtual environment, we expect and encourage physical strategy Meetups to occur in cities where there are large numbers of players who wish to collaborate.
  • As happens with all successful strategy games, we anticipate that a Tokume Wiki will be created and maintained by players and fans.

References

In addition to the extensive material we researched, which you can find in our Games & Behavioral Science Library, the following videos from other games could help set the scene for Tokume. The videos are provided purely as inspiration for game developers looking for direction. Each of these games are very different to the game envisioned as Tokume. Use these examples as inspiration only.

The following video explains the Seasteading Institute’s plans and the ideology behind a real-world floating city in French Polynesia:


Full List of Civilisation Building Games Reviewed

Second Life by Linden Lab

An online virtual world launched on June 23, 2003 where “There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective.” Inspired by the belief that humanity can “build a massive metaverse powered by the original spirit of Burning Man.” Wikipedia, Creator, Book.

Banished by Shining Rock Software

A city-building strategy game, where players control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland.

Seed by Klang Games

A simulation MMO where players are tasked with colonizing a large-scale, exoplanet through collaboration, conflict, and other player-to-player interaction, set on an “Earth-like planet.” Wikipedia, Review.

Foundation by Polymorph Games

A grid-less, sprawling medieval city building simulation with a heavy focus on organic development, monument construction and resource management. The game features in-depth resource management akin to the Anno (Dawn of Discovery) series, expertly mixed with city building elements from Settlers, SimCity, and Pharaoh all topped with narrative encounters inspired by Crusader Kings II to create the ultimate medieval ant-farm simulation. Kickstarter, Gamepedia, Review, Video Overview.

Citybound by Anselm Eickhoff (open source)

A city building game using microscopic models to simulate the organism of a city, arising from the interactions of millions of individuals. Players experience and inspect all aspects of city life, across many scales of time and space and shape their city by collaboratively sketching detailed plans for infrastructure and zones, decide on budgets and take part in governance. Patreon, Interview.

Atomic Society by Far Road Games

A post-apocalyptic town building game where players must set the laws and decide how society should be run. Review.

Depraved by Evil Bite

A city builder game with survival aspects, set in the Wild West, where players must build towns and establish important outposts to supply their residents with food and other raw materials. Review.

Soviet Republic by 3Division

A real-time soviet-themed city builder tycoon game where players construct their own republic and transform a poor country into a rich industrial superpower. In a soviet republic with a planned economy, everything is controlled by the government. Review.

Ostriv by Yevheniy

A city-building game that puts players in a role of a governor of an 18th century grid-less town to challenge their creative skills and management abilities. Review, Video Overview.

Surviving Mars by Paradox Interactive

A simulation video game where players serve as an overseer who must build a colony on Mars and ensure the survival of the colonists. Wikipedia, Review.

Neolithic by Alex T Harvey

A historical strategy game heavily influenced by games such as Age of Empires I, Civilization & Caesar III. Includes aspects of city building, RTS-like gameplay and deep character progression. The game is set in the Neolithic or Chalcolithic to Late Bronze Age and features characters that have needs, gain skills, carry, equip and craft items, build structures and each have unique strengths and weaknesses. Kickstarter, Review.

FrostPunk by 11 bit studios

A society survival game asking the question of what people are capable of when pushed to the brink of extinction. The objective is to build the last city on earth and secure all the means for people to survive. Players’ empathy as well as strategic thinking are tested. Wikipedia, Review.