What Do the Games We Enjoy Tell Us About Income Inequality?

in #philosophy9 months ago

Have you ever played a resource-based game where the rich didn't get (at least) proportionately richer?

If so, was it any fun?

Did you play it long?

If we can't structure effective games like this, why do some think we can structure society like this?

I've been thinking about this more as I started playing https://prospectors.io/ which recently launched on EOS (I'm there as 1lukestokes1 if you want to say hi. Here's my referral link if you're interested.)

(More about the game later)

I asked this question on Twitter which created some interesting discussion:





There was also a rather large discussion on Facebook with over 50 comments (click through to see them all):



I think this is an important discussion to have. Many people have strong opinions and ideas for creating a perfect society with just the right amount of laws and regulation and motivational incentives to keep everything running smoothly and make it "fair" for everyone. The reality is we, as a species, don't actually want to live in that world. We don't create those types of societies when we have the opportunity to engineer societies within our simulations.

Now, I get that most people will say, "Life is not a game! You can't compare real life to a game." and to some degree, this is certainly accurate (games are usually made to be fun, entertaining, distractions from "real life"). But (and stretch with me a bit here), you can also make the argument that all decision making of conscious creatures which leads to what we call "real life" is based on game theory mechanics. Our brains process information, weigh various options, and respond, even if on a subconscious level.

Here's some of the FB discussion to highlight this point (there are many other great comments there as well):

When people in the real world discuss the very real problems caused by out of control income inequality...

I can't help but notice, at launch time, the rent is also Too Damn High on Prospectors:

At the current PGL price of around $0.33 each, that's almost $100 a month just to rent a plot! When you add in the costs of buildings and such, there may not be enough resources to support that high value. Already we see "the rich" taking up the land with one account already controlling 82 plots and the game has only been out for a matter of days.




(via https://prospectors.online/)

Here's my thinking on this:

If we want a better, more equitable society, we can try focusing on some fundamentals about how humans function individually and collectively. We can simulate various solutions in both the digital and physical world. The success of these solutions, IMO, directly relates to how enjoyable they are or people will simply abandon them, unless threats of violence are used to keep people within the system (the refugee crisis we see around the world shows even that won't stop people). Equality of outcome not only doesn't work, but it's not something people actually want. Games built that way are not worth playing. Life built that way is not worth living.

Equality of opportunity... now that's something everyone appreciates. Some of the best games we create start everyone at zero. Would you want to play Monopoly if others started with an extra $500? Something else our games often have is a bit of random chance ("random" being the word we give to sufficiently advanced things we can't understand from a materialistic determinism perspective). Games also come with rewards, little dopamine injections which make us feel good and keep us coming back for more along with cool down periods to avoid getting overly stimulated (at which point the "feel good" part doesn't work as well).

As we try to construct things like Universal Basic Income (and how Steem might power it), we'd do well to keep in mind the role of motivational psychology. For example, creative work actually declines when extrinsic motivators are given. Non-creative, mindless, factory work does well with those type of rewards, but creative work (such as good quality content created here on Steem) requires intrinsic motivation.

See Dan Pink's TED talk for more on this:

I've discussed this before. As we think about the upcoming HF21 economic changes, we have an opportunity to reset our expectations and try to build a game (and a reality) worth playing (and living).

Unlike many good games we like, in the real world, we don't all start at zero. We have different genetics, different parents, different economic starting points, different governments, and different opportunities. When we show up in this world, it's essentially random what we'll get. We then spend our lives trying to make the most of what we were given. Some of us try to selfishly improve the world for everyone around us, while some try to extract as much value as possible and end the game with a "high score" (unfortunately, many don't even bother to define success before they waste their life pursing a failed version of it).

Maybe the trick isn't so much about trying to make everyone equal, but celebrating our different strengths and working around our weaknesses. Some games, like Cosmic Encounter co-created by my Uncle Bill in the 70's, start with each player as a different character. Those games are more advanced, more nuanced, but also fun. Maybe we just need more games to teach us how to work with whatever we are given.

One part of this game, I think, is resetting everyone to zero and starting a new round. In a sense, that's what https://www.palnet.io/ has done, and so I'm participating with this, my first post here. We'll see how this game plays out. :)

And, just for fun, here's a video showing one possible path forward using full Anarcho-Capitalistic rules for the game:

Clearly, in the "real world" things wouldn't go exactly this way, but I do think increasing freedom and autonomy does allow for creativity and that creativity is going to be needed to face many challenges our species and the life on this planet is facing.

Here are the original questions again for discussion:

Have you ever played a resource-based game where the rich didn't get (at least) proportionately richer?

If so, was it any fun?

Did you play it long?

If we can't structure effective games like this, why do some think we can structure society like this?


Luke Stokes is a father, husband, programmer, STEEM witness, DAC launcher, and voluntaryist who wants to help create a world we all want to live in. Learn about cryptocurrency at UnderstandingBlockchainFreedom.com

I'm a Witness! Please vote for @lukestokes.mhth

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I'm not sure if the various versions of the computer game Civilization count, but I absolutely loved that game.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you basically said that ultimately it comes down to allowing for equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcomes.
This was a well thought out and interesting post that made me really think about the subject matter and that is always appreciated! :)

Thank you for the encouragement. There was so much discussion on Twitter and Facebook about this that I had to put it into a more detailed post here on chain as well.

I have played games where the ones who got in first are profiting the most :)

Yeah, that's what I was thinking about most. Even our games have this built-in nature. Can we escape it?

Well it is a hard topic.... even in life when you think about the wealth is in the older generation and the young one needs to create its own. Sometimes new techologies and economies apears and that gives people chance.

So I guess having the possibilities to create a new layer in the game from the new players is a chance for them. A game into a game. Freedom to create new systems in it, not just the predetermened that will always be in favor of the ones who started first. .... I guess that is what we are doing with the crypto economy as well :)

If enough people gather around the new system.... the game within the game, then even if they are late at the party they will have a chance as the ones who came first...

That's a fantastic way to think about it. I think that was the vision of SMTs, to some degree. Thankfully things like Steem Engine are making that a possibility (with examples like PALnet).

The games where the rich didn't get richer are solo games.

Given any system, there will be people who are better at it.
The Pareto Principal.
And thank Goddess! Because those 20% of people who are allowed to accel create 80% of the abundance.

But even if we look at poor farmers and middle class farmers in India. What's the difference? One weeds their farm and the other doesn't. Weeding is something anyone can do (unless you can't do nothing) and increase crop production by 20%.

So, we restart at zero, and most of the poor will be poor again, and most of the rich will be rich again.

I see this in MMOs all the time.
There are people who have tons of money in the bank
and people who are borrowing money to buy food, and other basics.

And these people get about the same amount of gold per time in game from hunting monsters.

So, any game that tries for income equality just fails. Because, there is no way for the player to get ahead. No success = no enjoyment.

I don't always agree with your points (or the way you make them), but this one rings true for me:

So, any game that tries for income equality just fails. Because, there is no way for the player to get ahead. No success = no enjoyment.

The irony is, in our attempt to create "fairness" we end up creating something with unequal rules (top-down management) trying to benefit one group over another in the name of equality which ends up failing entirely.

Blah Blah Blah...

If you're not rich, and want to be, work harder.

I'm absolutely shocked you found a way to shill EOS in the post...typical fanboy...

Hey Bernie. I'm surprised, one might even say shocked, you pay attention to anything I say or do given how many times you've said otherwise.

I'm a fan of technology that works to improve the world. That includes many blockchains. You sell your STEEM for other cryptocurrencies you believe in and support. I do the same. I at least don't go on and on about how terrible Steem is (as I've seen you do) in the process. I think it will take many projects working together to create better opportunities for my kids.

Interesting question. It generated some pretty cool discussion. There was a psychological study where two participants played monopoly and one player had the advantage of starting with more money and an extra dice that allowed them to pass 'go' much more frequently then their opponent. The person with the advantage appeared to love playing while the one without seemed to be pretty frustrated and disheartened. What was interesting though from listening to the taped sessions was that the player with the advantage was super arrogant while playing (laughing at their success and almost like stamping the board with their player token as they moved it, further highlighting to their opponent that they were winning). But interestingly, they never actually acknowledged the fact that they were winning the game because they started off with an advantage. They seemed to simply ignore that and chalk their success up to how they chose to play the game. Their lack of insight into their privilege/advantage was surprising.

I think our society is currently a long way from equality of opportunity and in general we tend to ignore our own privileges and advantages. Though slightly different, It sort of reminds me of the cognitive bias called the fundamental attribution error in which individuals blame their own failures on situational circumstances but others failures on their personal negative characteristics.

Their lack of insight into their privilege/advantage was surprising.

Heh, yeah. For the reasons you mentioned (biases, attribution errors, etc), that's not all that surprising to me, and unfortunately I think we all do it. It's most likely something we'll have to train our minds not to do. The only way I can think of to do that is through travel and exposing ourselves to more of how the world lives. Thank you for your comment. Lots of interesting things to consider here.

One huge factor in game theory, in my opinion, is consideration of "environment" parameters (as you mentioned) such as scarcity vs.abundance, as well as whether the game's "victory conditions" are zero sum or achievement/goal oriented.

Sometimes there is a mixture... and sometimes there's even just a sandbox where victory becomes unimportant.

I am reminded too... of games where maintaining the starting condition is part of the objective. Games like 'Pandemic' where the conditions only get worse as the game progresses... players actions involve either simply treading water to stay afloat or do damage control on a cascading series of negative events.

Lots to think about here @lukestokes ...thanks for posting this!

I love Pandemic. I used to do game reviews with my kids and did one for Pandemic here.

Thanks for thinking along with me. I do think there's something important about spending time understanding game theory dynamics so we can better structure "real life" according to what we know about how humans make decisions.

I have to say I think games will end up being the biggest adoption of Cryptocurrency then anything else. With ETFs being rejected left and right it seems like the best and biggest entry point.

That being said I have yet to launch up prospectors.io but since I keep hearing more and more about it now I am going to have to!

That will be now the 4th wallet app running on Chrome (its getting a little out of hand to keep track of)

As per the HF and other changes I think it has to be done. The first few adopters have had massive control over the system and pretty much used it as their personal ATM machine and not really for anything else.

Perhaps the optimal system/blockchain would be one that resets and puts everyone back on the same level playing field time and again.

What wallet are you running in Chrome? I would not use the Scatter one as that's been deprecated for some time. Use Scatter desktop instead.

A resetting blockchain is a very interesting idea. Almost like resetting debts as they did in the year of jubilee.

Will give that one a shot. I use whaleshares, steem keychain, metamask and tronlink. I guess snax counts too?

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How do you get/buy plots to rent out to other people? Also why does the game require you to log in with Google or Facebook to play?!?

The Google/Facebook login part sucks, for sure.

You can only rent plots, and they are super expensive right now. The screenshot in the post shows how much gold it costs and one PGL is worth 1,000 gold so renting a plot for just one month is almost 290,000 gold which, at current PGL prices, is almost $100. Super pricey to me for just one month of rent. I just started playing and am about to build my first shovels using resources I mined by hand. One interesting aspect of the game is the need to manage your travel times. It can take hours to get your workers together to trade resources between them. Sometimes it makes sense to do a transportation job if it will get you part of the way you want to go anyway.

Part of me wants to try renting a plot and building a building, but I also know it's kind of a waste of money. Unlike Steemmonsters, there's no chance of getting some special gold foil legendary buried in the ground to make it all worth it (I still have my gold Spirit of the Forrest :)

Who are you renting the plots from then and how is the price determined?

Sorry for all the questions...I just don't have the time to figure all this out on my own :-)

No worries. I think the plot rentals go to the game fund which is kind of like a government. They also have taxes as well. From that fund, as more people join the game, they will expand the map and bury those resources into the newly added plots. At least, that's how I think it works.

The other aspects of the game (hiring for jobs, trading resources and tools, etc) seem to be player to player with a tax.

I went ahead and rented a plot for a month. You can find me at 12/-19. I know it's a waste of money, but I plan to enjoy playing for a month and see if I can earn my rent money back. I'm sure it will be a huge time suck, but I'm a sucker for blockchain games. :)

I'll let you know how it goes. If you do create an account, message me as 1lukestokes1 or stop by and say hello. Maybe I can find some work for you.