Solving Collective Action Problems Creates Culture (In Play)

edited September 2009 in Story Games
My odd opinion of the day:

If you pose the characters a collective action problem taking place in their world, and put it on them to solve it, their solution creates game-world culture.

If you want to 'dress up' the culture, and have it stll feel like players-creating-culture, the cultural trappings should follow these solutions, rather than the other way around.

Your thoughts?


  • This might be exactly what I'm working on, or it might be just what I'm looking for. Can you provide an example? It's not quite clear from your description. What is a "collective action problem"?
  • Some examples (these ones are economic, overall; not all need to be).

    =================Example 1========================

    When you go out hunting, roll 1d10, and subtract four (negative numbers are zero).

    That's how many person-days of food you just hunted down.

    If you don't eat on any given day, increase the amount you subtract by another point; these stack up until you eat the food that you missed, or until you starve to death (at -10).

    There are twenty hunters facing this situation - if they pool their results to some degree, they can reduce it. But they might also create a new "free rider" problem; how will they solve that one?

    ==================Example 2======================

    There are seventy people stranded on the island, and fifty trees.

    They will never leave; their children will live here.

    A tree is enough wood to make one canoe.

    A canoe is enough for one person to fish the reef.

    Fishing the reef is the very best source of food.

    There more "stuff" to this one, obviously - how many trees do we cut? Who plants more? Who makes the canoes, who uses them, and how is the catch divided?
  • This is golden. See, I'm making a game about building a community after the apocalypse. So far, I've been focusing on internal/social problems, like "The humans hate the mutants and want to drive them out" and such. I've been wondering how to get external threats into the equation without it just being a matter of "C'mon, now! Let's all work together to prepare the town for the radstorm!" (I already wrote a game about that). This is similar to the thinking I've been doing, but it's better formulated and more general. Thanks!
  • Bullshit.

  • Graham: Bullshit how?
    It seems like an interesting idea, I'd like to know what problems you see.
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