01 Mar Pseudosubversion
Pox is done. The boards are being packed and shipped and I’m doing what I always do at the end of a big project– some reflection, and yes, some second guessing. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in what we created. It looks great, it plays great, and it is great. When you spend so much time focused on a single system, however, it is impossible to fully divorce yourself from the choices you didn’t make. For example, I wonder what the game would be like if the player played the virus rather than the cure. I asked this question in one of our team meetings on the game but didn’t find much enthusiasm for the idea. Folks thought, rightly, that it could confuse and detract from the original purpose of this game: to illustrate the concept of herd immunity. But I wonder also wonder if playing the bad guy would enhance the educational value for certain players.
Games are fantastic at teaching things to people in a deeper, more experiential way than plain old exposure. Unfortunately while all games are educational in one way or another, as soon as the actual word “educational” is used there is a type of person who will always try to subvert. I should know. There is real enjoyment in playing a game in a way that it was never intended to be played, in showing it how lame it is by breaking it, and what better target than some goody two shoes educational game (which Pox is NOT. Pox is badass!).
What was on my mind when I asked about playing the virus and what is on my mind for future projects is whether we can engage and teach a whole new set of players by simulating the experience of subversion by allowing them to play the bad guy while still exposing them to the the information that we want them to learn. Would doing that devalue the content? Would it only work for a minority of players? Can a player take a point even if the position he plays is that of an opposing perspective or would this approach backfire and teach the opposite of what is intended?
Maybe Pox will have a 2.0 or a sister game some day and we can try it out. Personally, I think it would be fascinating to have two nearly identical pox games but for the fact that one version is played as the disease and one as the cure. Which would you rather play?