Thursday, May 22, 2008

Game Proposal: Sales can educate!

After playing several online videogames, both for this class and in the past, I have found that the most effective social-commentary games are the ones that are not blatantly propagandizing. The most effective and attractive games are obviously the ones that offer entertainment value. My idea for a social impact game would consist of a game that explains memetics to the general populace. That said, it would be an educational game without a particular agenda, that is, a game that only teaches.

Functionally speaking I think that the game would boil down to a salesmanship type of game. What I mean by this is that the gamer would control a traveling salesman, similar to a Mary Kay consultant or Willie Lowman. They would operate in a simplified world that reflects society in its current state; perhaps this would work well in Second Life. The salesman would have many things to sell. Some items would require a payment in time, some would require a payment in money, some would require both. There would be a myriad of items that represent everything from entire ideologies, to individual ideas, to things as simple as a YouTube video. These would be called “items” or “memes.”

The gamer/salesperson would be able to both make appointments with people who have requested a viewing of the merchandise as well as approach random people on the streets, or perhaps do a bit of cold door-knocking. The customers would be simplified individuals, meaning they might become stereotypes to some extent. So when a transaction occurs it might look like a nerdy-type purchasing a piece of technology, a hipster-type buying music or other underground cultural item, or a soccer mom purchasing computer-security software to protect their children from the perceived high threat of predators. Herein would lie the challenge of the game: trying to judge what series of items to show to the customer to keep their interest and ultimately sell a meme. There would be an “easy” setting where it would be simple to judge a person by their appearance or position in society and sell them items (memes) that would typically fit into that person’s lifestyle. The “hard” setting would be a challenge and perhaps closer to real life; on this setting customers would be interested in a wide variety of items. If the gamer misjudges, then the customer becomes disinterested and tries to end the appointment or get away from the salesperson. One would have to keep up with certain quotas or sell certain items in order to succeed in the game. If quotas are not met in the time-frame allotted, then one loses the game and ends up being fired.

The game might be a bit complex to create for an online venue—perhaps it could be kept simple enough to do so—but perhaps the game would be more successful as a console game.

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