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Son of Co-op

Jeff Warrender
United States
Averill Park
New York
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"You Said This Would Be Fun", a book about game design, available at Amazon and DriveThruRPG
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Come talk design at the Jeff's World of Game Design blog!
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It was almost a year ago to the day that I famously and controversially declared that Pandemic is not a co-op. My reasoning, which I still stand by, was that Pandemic is purely a game of coordination; there is no self-sacrifice, other than the "go-along-to-get-along" which admittedly requires a little bit of humility. I contrasted this with The Lord of the Rings, in which players can sacrifice themselves and be eliminated from the game, which I consider to more accurately model real-world cooperation. We each have a self-interest (continuing to participate in the game) but we can (and must) suppress our self-interest for the good of the collective. That's cooperation in the Jeff sense.

bluetaj:

It was recently announced, in the New York Times of all places, (and later here at BGG) that Matt Leacock is hard at work on a daughter game to Pandemic, Daybreak. Daybreak is a cooperative game in which players work together to end climate change.

Now, there are a lot of things we could latch onto in a game design blog post: stuff like "when is it advisable to announce an in-progress game design?" (some designers are very secretive, some--like me--will basically just come out and tell you everything), or "how to model a complex phenomenon in game mechanics without trivializing the subject?", or "how do we design a game that has a strong message without being trite?", or political stuff, and so on.

But because this is just a spontaneous post and the next real post is hitting tomorrow, I'm simply going to observe that Daybreak, unlike Pandemic, has the potential to be a co-op in the Jeff sense, because each player represents a nation, and in the real world nations have self-interest. That is the very nature of being a nation, one might say: a massive in-group that looks out for its own self-interest primarily and fundamentally.

Time will tell whether this possibility for Daybreak will be realized; it depends on the mechanics. I will predict not, simply because the game is billed as a co-op, whereas probably this subject wants to be a semi-co-op. We each have goals and interests, but if the planet heats up too much (or whatever) we all lose. That would force us to grapple with real tragedy of the commons problems, which are going to be barriers to any international effort to any problem in which self-abnegation is supposed to be a key component.

I predict Daybreak will instead be infused with the kum-ba-yah ethos of Pandemic, in which we all band together because it's the right thing to do, and self-interest isn't a concern; it's merely whether we coordinate our efforts efficiently enough. That's not a wrong direction to go in, it's simply an artistic choice, and to make such a choice would be to take a positive and upbeat we-can-do-it approach to the subject. That's a valid artistic decision, it just means that it's still not a co-op in the Jeff sense, which I suspect is hardly a concern of the presumably very wealthy Matt Leacock!

But anyway, let's keep an eye on it and we'll see!

bluetaj:

March Madness final starts tomorrow; we go through the wardrobe and past the lamppost to see if it's the snow, or the land covered by it, that truly have the March Magic!

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