[p2p-research] P2P economics game design concepts

Joseph Jackson joseph.jackson at gmail.com
Sun Aug 9 03:17:14 CEST 2009

Dear All, in preparation for a high profile conference I have planned for
July 29-31, 2010 I have found a game design team to create a game suitable
for distribution to various influential thought leaders and the public at
large; trying to teach P2P/ Open Innovation concepts.

If you have time please respond to me, joseph.jackson at gmail.com  or go to
this google group
http://groups.google.com/group/p2p-economics-game-design-brainstorm  to
communicate your ideas and criticisms to the game designers.

They have sent me an initial framework I reproduce below.  First see my
original thinking based around the 1976 game Anti-Monopoly.  Then see the
developer response which presents an interesting twist on Poker.  Then see
Smari's brainstorming.  I need to decide on something so as to fund some
initial rule set development.  We could try to design the whole thing in a
P2P way, but I think it is useful for me to retain a core team of paid
developers if a product is to be ready in time for next year's event.


Peeropoly: The boardgame of abundance, prosperity, and plenty.

After attending enough conferences and watching the eyes of venture
capitalists and other investors glaze over at the mention of Open Source
applied to biotechnology, it was clearly time to devise a teaching tool to
explain the economics of sharing nicely.

The best way is to create a game so simple even a child, or a VC, could
understand! This project, to distill the essence of Peer Production into an
abstract set of rules, sharpens our own understanding and forces us to
convey the ideas clearly and compellingly.

History: The world’s most popular board game, the aptly and as we will see
ironically named Monopoly, was, as it turns out, also originally devised as
a teaching tool. In 1974, Ralph Anspach invented the Anti-Monopoly game. The
incredible story of his decade long legal battle with Parker Brothers, a
battle in which he uncovered the truth about the history of Monopoly, that
the game itself was an unfair monopoly, stolen from an earlier game invented
by Quakers and in the public domain for years, is summarized at

His riveting book, The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle

is highly recommended.

Concept: Just as the original Monopoly predecessor, called the Landlord’s
Game and Prosperity, was intended to teach economics, namely Henry George’s
theory of the single tax on unearned rent from appreciation of land values
that the landlord effortlessly and thus unjustly captured, Peeropoly will
teach the emerging economics of Peer Production.

At heart, Monopoly is supposed to be a satire of the excesses of capitalism.
Players are supposed to understand that the winner is the “most successful
villain.” In practice, the game has led to an unintended glorification of
monopoly. To correct this, Maggie Phillips, inventor of the first landlord’s
game, created another called the Landlord’s Game and Prosperity. The key
innovation was the the choice to vote to change the rules of play by
majority consensus at any time during play. Once the players learned that
the first rule set, the standard winner take all game, made one player rich
but impoverished the rest, they would logically vote to play under the
second set, in which all unearned gains were redistributed to the community.
This was not anti-capitalist, players still kept income from houses or
improvements they made on the land, just not from the title itself.

Mr. Anspach’s Anti-Monopoly game went through several versions. Originally
he created a game whose theme was to “bust the trust.” The board started out
in the hands of monopolists and the goal was to break up ownership and
create true free enterprise. Later, he modified the game so that players
start in the normal Monopoly way, but can play as monopolists or
competitors, illustrating the difference between a free market and a
monopoly in real estate.

Plan: The design process will itself be an instance of peer production. Our
game will draw on the previous concepts from the Landlord’s game and
Anti-Monopoly. We imagine a game in which players compete and cooperate to
develop natural/energy, scientific, and cultural resources. Players can
adopt a monopolist or a peer strategy. They will acquire intellectual
property certificates over resources such as the human genome, the broadcast
spectrum, oil sites, etc.

The following rules are speculative at this point: just brainstorming. There
are many things to work out depending on how we devise the victory
conditions. The Landlord’s game ended when the poorest player obtained twice
as much money as had been distributed to the individual players at the
beginning, thus illustrating that prosperity had been achieved. The main fun
of Monopoly is the ruthless 0 sum drive to destroy your opponents. We have
to figure out how to capture this excitement in the context of rules that
demonstrate the virtues of sharing nicely. Essentially the game must show
that while monopoly is good for the monopolists, it is very unstable and
dangerous for us all. Thus, game events such as oil shocks, avian flu, or
crop devastation because of a monoculture’s vulnerability to
pests/pathogens, will demonstrate the danger of monopoly. Some way to
measure the player who creates the most wealth (is responsible for the most
development) rather than acquires the most, would be ideal.

If you land on a space controlled by a monopolist you must pay rent unless
you try to infringe, at which point you “go to court” and just like in real
life, essentially “roll the dice” to determine the outcome. If the
monopolist doesn’t like the outcome, they can pay more and roll again–just
like in real life where he who hires the most lawyers usually wins. These
legal battles can quickly cost a lot, meaning that players will typically
just pay the tax/rent. If a monopoly is found invalid, the property is back
in the public domain and open for development under a Peer strategy.
Monopolists will pay dearly to preserve control as each monopoly property
pays large amounts of rent while a Peer owned property simply generates a
modest amount of income per turn. However, Peers do not pay rent to one
another, and can benefit from improving their properties.

Obviously we could quickly make a game that is too complicated which defeats
the purpose. Thus we are soliciting many ideas in the forums and will narrow
it down.

Seeking: a core dedicated team of rule designers and testers is needed. When
the rules have been devised they need to be balanced and play tested. This
can be done by having a computer play the game a few thousand times. There
is actually quite a lot of probability work involved in the original game as
to which squares are most often landed on and thus most valuable to own.

We also need someone with artistic ability. There is a make your own “opoly”
kit that can be a starting point. http://www.tdcgames.com/MYO.htm

Also a Microsoft satire game, called micropoly is at
The project does not seem to be active but there is some material to
download and examine.

Finally, we need some programmers on the team as it makes sense to build a
computer version of the game both for testing purposes and eventual release
with the prototype for a board game."


I have attached a short doc that gives an overview of what we are trying
to accomplish with the design including the method of play.

Once you and your partners have reviewed and hopefully approved the
approach we will refine the concept, produce simple test copies and
proceed with the initial testing process. Yes and of course bill you. If
you have any trepidation to the direction we are taking now would be the
time to bring it up, as re-starting later will be time consuming.

I will be visiting and exhibiter at GenCon in two weeks that has a PoD
game production business. They would be able to produce small numbers of
games at a reasonable price to use in outreach. This would be a possible
option incase your plan to produce copies for the general population
changes and you still want to follow through with the original educational
concept alone. Right now I know they have the capability to make Peer
Poker yet I have not seen their products first hand. Quality is always an
issue with PoD producers so I’ll let you know what you’ll get for your

Proposed Peer Poker Design

The authors were approached to create a board game that the clients can use
in business seminar and workshop settings to demonstrate the relative
advantages of different business entities working together rather than in
strict competition. Ideally, the game will be straightforward to learn, yet
provide the players meaningful choices that, at least on an abstract level,
show how shared resources can sometimes be more beneficial to every
stakeholder than would be possible individually. Since the potential real
life applications are widely varied (e.g., open source software libraries,
shared production lines, published biotechnology research, group health
care, etc.), the in-game components should be kept relatively generic, at
least during the initial development. This way, the clients can use the same
game with groups in a variety of industries or, if desirable, customize
certain thematic details in derivative works for use within individual
target industries.

Most seminars and workshops are likely to be held in group settings, so the
authors will work to create a game that scales well with three to eight
players. In larger group settings, the facilitators can divide the
participants into teams that need not be equal (to simulate smaller and
larger entities within the industry or other customized scenarios). Playing
time should be under two hours, and enjoyable enough to keep the primary
target demographic (investors, executives and decision makers who value
their time) interested and engaged. In addition, the game will be tailored
to also appeal to wide demographic (such as families), because larger print
runs would greatly reduce per unit production cost allowing for a financial
return in addition to the game's instructive benefits.

Expected Components

   - Paper Money (enough to have a working but limited in-game economy, in a
   realistic size for easier handling)
   - Loan Documents (notes in one or two denominations for simplicity, and
   similar in size to the paper money)
   - Markers (winks, chips or cubes) in eight colors (probably eight of
   each, to represent the entities' claims on projects)
   - Cards (probably around 100, representing combinations of resources such
   as ideas, talent, experience, research, equipment, technology, popular or
   political support, etc. over a range of values and costs)
   - Board (with spaces for cards and markers to keep track of developing
   and completed projects and claims, to help determine returns on investments
   when projects are completed, to give bonuses or exact penalties for
   investing in certain areas and so on)
   - Rules
   - Box Inserts and/or Zipper Bags (for keeping components tidy)
   - Box

Brief Description of Play

Game play will feature a mix of competition and cooperation. Players (or
teams) representing investors and/or company decision makers will take turns
using money to pay for a limited number of actions. Some of the possible
actions include:

   - Purchase a card from a shuffled deck into your hand
   - Play a card from your hand onto the board to open, advance or close
   - Replace an existing card on the board to improve your own projects (or
   possibly sabotage a competing project)
   - Invest in or claim exclusive rights to resources and/or projects
   - Pay royalties to use resources owned by others
   - Repay loans (whether to a bank or to other players)
   - Release exclusive claims (doesn't cost money, but may be used in
   negotiations or to retrieve a marker for future use elsewhere)

Projects close when all the spaces representing that project are filled with
cards, and the closure of the second projects represents reaching a
deadline. At that point, all projects in a given area become due, whether
completed or not, and returns on investment and losses are determined
according to how they compare. A system roughly comparable to Poker is used
to evaluate project rankings at the deadline. Projects can outshine one
another by having better attributes:

   - More valuable resources (like higher cards in Poker)
   - Synergy due to resources of matching value working well together (like
   two, three, four or five cards of the same value in different types of
   - Clear progression (like straights)
   - Strength in a particular area (like flushes)
   - Combining two or more of the above (like straight flushes)

Players may negotiate with one another about where or how to strategically
invest in projects, loan money to one another, form alliances, make claims,
and release rights. But since cards held in hands represent potential
resources and technology that do not yet exist, the contents of players'
hands may not be revealed to each other.

Among the projects that came due, returns on investments are determined by
consulting a simple look-up table in the rules. Then, the best project takes
the largest share of the returns on the investments, and the second best
takes some smaller share. Under performing projects get nothing. Returns or
costs are shared proportionally among the stakeholders.

1. Example: Player A has exclusive rights to both the best and the second
best projects. All of the returns from these projects go to Player A.
2. Example: Players A, B and D are invested 50%, 25% and 25%, respectively
in the best project. Player A gets half of the best project returns, and
players B and D each get half the remainder.
3. Example: Player C has exclusive rights to a project that does not pay off
at the deadline. Player C gets no money.
After investment returns are paid, the resources from the two projects that
closed (even if they were not among the highest ranked) are removed from the
board. Markers are either returned to their owners or transferred to other
projects depending upon where they were on the board.

As in the real business world, success is measured by how well each player
or team uses their money and resources to generate more money. At the end of
the game, players or teams are ranked based upon how well they did with what
they had. Any positive return is good, but more is obviously better.


" Have finally made it through the Peer Poker proposal, and it seems
very lacking. It makes certain structural assumptions that I think don't
readily apply within the P2P or open source contexts. The fact that
loans, claims and rights are built seems a bit weird.

 An alternative proposal... I've played a number of roleplaying and
tabletop board games in my time so I can see how this kind of game
dynamic might play out, but it's just a thought that came to me as I was
reading the other proposal.

 Each player represents a village. The village has a size on the scale
from 1-20. Depending on the size of the village they have a certain
amount of time resource units that can be allocated and reallocated each
turn. These can be traded between players, but the total number in play
is always the sum of the sizes of all the villages.

 At the beginning of each turn players draw cards from a deck. The
cards have three types: Resources, events, and technologies.

 A resource needs time units allocated to it in order be used.

 Events can be good or bad, and represent the will of the villagers,
natural disasters, political situations or changes in prosperity.

 Technologies need to be put into play in order to be used. When
they're put into play they can be put into the player's area, granting
him a monopoly over the technology, or into the commons, allowing
everybody to use it.

 Here's where it gets interesting.

 Each village has a needs card with tokens on it. There are six bars
representing six measures of prosperity: Exposure (too hot, too cold),
hunger, thirst, injury/illness, luxury and happiness. Each bar has five
places on it (see attachment) - hereafter known as Very High, High,
Adequate, Low and Very Low. At the beginning of the game each player has
tokens on all the middle row... and five cards on hand.

 Now consider a game:

  Player 1 has five cards on hand:

       - Technology: Irrigation
                       - doubles food production in farms
       - Resource: Copper mine
                       - requires 5 labor
                       - provides +1 luxury
       - Technology: Genetics
                       - doubles health production from hospitals
       - Event: Drought
                       - -3 thirst to all players.
       - Resource: Army
                       - requires 5 labor
                       - Can inflict -1 health to another village

 Player 2 likewise has five cards on hand:

       - Resource: Comedians
                       - requires 1 labor
                       - Adds 1 resistance to happiness drops.

       - Technology: Insulation
                       - Doubles exposure protection in housing

       - Event: Forest fire
                       - Pick two players; they get -2 exposure each.

       - Event: Pandemic flu outbreak
                       - All players get -4 health

       - Resource: Well
                       - Requires 1 labor
                       - provides +1 water

Token states can be traded (I'll give you one water in exchange for one
luxury), and so on...

This would need substantial playtesting of course, but how does the
basic idea strike you?"
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