Monday, April 28, 2008

Status Update

Haven't posted here much because I think I've finally gotten enough together to begin writing a playtestable game. Look for v. 0.3 in June!

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Gift

I feel pretty good about the "game of trust" model, a lot better than I've felt about any of its predecessors. I have some trusted advisers who've promised me their responses, so I won't say I've settled on it entirely until I've heard what they have to say about the idea, but I have a strong suspicion that something like that will make it through to the end of the game.

Right now, though, the part that bothers me most of all lies with the betting. The mechanic needs some way for relationships to affect it, of course, and to work as a game, it needs to introduce some separation between the character and the player playing the character, but all the same, the notion of forcing a character to trust seems ... wrong.

While turning this over in my head, I realized that the mechanic worked, but the verbal understanding of the mechanic missed the mark. What I had here didn't involve betting to force trust—I had competitive gift exchange.

Marcel Mauss' classic The Gift needs a lot of updating in a lot of ways, but the general idea remains: we give gifts to gain one another's trust. Anthropologists describe the hunter-gatherer economy as reciprocal, but this viewpoint comes from a domesticated viewpoint, where we have dislodged economic activity, often at great effort, from its underlying social foundations. A key point of wild—and by extension, feral—human society points us to the social fabric (and, I would say, the ecological, as perhaps an even better term, in that it extends the social beyond the merely human) as the ultimate basis of everything else that goes on in life. Reciprocity rules their "economy" becomes their economy exists only inside their social network, and gift-giving earns trust.

So, when you bet three beads, you move three beads from your bowl directly into the Other's bowl. You make a gift of three beads. You'll have to describe what kind of gift you've given; since the beads represent "power," or the capacity for change and movement, the gift can take any number of forms. You could offer a gift of praise, a story, or simply attention. The Other can then either accept your gift, and turn over to trust, or he can return your gift. If he simply returns it, the exchange ends there, meaning he did not accept your gift. If he gives you back more beads than you gave him—if he returns four beads, instead of three—then he has made a counter-gift. Now you must either return four beads to him, make an even larger counter-gift, or accept the gift and choose to trust.

We will need to use the beads for other parts of the game to make this interesting, of course (right now, I look at the beads as "potential energy," that a character can use more fluidly, or store more permanently by investing it in a relationship, which may give the player enough reason to want more beads right there).