Saturday, May 24, 2008

Social Impact Game: Rickshaw Driver

I was sick this week, so I played quite a few of the social impact games.  Some of them were very monotonous (like Tuboflex and Tamatipico) but I guess that was sort of the point.  It was depressing to complete the same boring task over and over again, but for some reason I still really wanted to do well, hoping that I could get ahead and get high points.  I also played faithfighter, which I felt was not very successful in getting its point across.  The game was meant to make people realize the arbitrary nature of religious conflict, but when I started to play, I quickly forgot this message.  Basically, I just wanted to win the battle and wasn't contemplating about the terrible repercussions of religious violence.  I felt that the McDonald's game was a little more developed.  It was interesting to view the company from the point of view of the owners.  I saw myself cutting down forests because it was cheaper than cleared land.  Then I simply gave money to NGOs to appear ecoconscious.  This was a good anthropological study because it shows the complexities of running a global corporation.  
            For my final project, I am examining the culture of poverty among rickshaw drivers in India.  For a social impact game, I developed an idea that exposes the difficult decisions and lifestyle that rickshaw drivers face daily.  The player will be a rickshaw driver, forced to decide where to wait for customers (the airport, the bazaar, the IT district, the university, etc)  Then the driver will be forced to make a series of decisions (haggle with customer, take 8 persons and risk getting a ticket from the police, pursuade the customer to go to a shop where you will receive a commission, etc)  The results of each decision will be variable, mimicking real life.  The game will also feature meters expressing happiness, energy level, available money, hunger.  The driver will have to make decisions like when to pull over and sleep, or when to stop for a chai or naan.  Each of which will cost him time and money.  The driver will also have opportunities for self-improvement.  At the beginning of the game, the player is given a driver from a rural village who speaks either a tribal language or a language not spoken in the city to which he moves.  If he learns the language, he will be better able to communicate with customers and will likely have more clients.  But language classes will cost money and time that could be spent working.  Also, the driver will be new to the area and may get lost.  To improve his sense of direction, he can take time out to learn new routes, but this will cost time, raising hunger levels, lowering energy, no monetary gain etc.  The driver will also have to account for unforeseen repairs and stresses.  For instance, he will need to refuel, repair a tire, buy a new horn.  There may be a strike, or monsoons may prevent him from working.  To make the game even more complex, the driver could have a family that he supports and must make time to see and provide for.  The intent of the game is to reveal the difficulties that rickshaw drivers face in daily life.  Not only can the work be tiring and unpredictable, but it is difficult to maintain a living wage, especially when one has dependents to support.   

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