Exploring the System

In the past two years I have spent a lot of my free time working on two computer games. They were both entries in the annual “Four Elements” (“4E”) contest put on by the website GameDev.net. Both were (well, ARE, actually) economic games, manifested as trading simulations.

I have always liked games where you start out with nothing, and by virtue of personal fortitude, business acumen and a bit of luck, amass a fortune and gain whatever rewards come from the experience. The 4E games were my attempt to make those games better. And maybe win some money.

I recently finished reading the Baroque Cycle for the third time, and when I finished the second book in the series I went to the library and picked up Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. I am part-way into the first chapter. At the beginning “economics” is defined as “…the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternate uses”. In other words, why do people decide to spend money on A instead of B?

This is some seriously interesting stuff, and may help me refine my games, if I am ever in a position where I can bring them to completion.

A friend recently pointed me to a series on Google Video called The Century of the Self (links to videos at the bottom of the page), which explores how governments have used Freud’s theories to “engineer consent” in various populations. One off-shoot of this was Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who is generally recognized as “the father of public relations”. Basically, he showed organizations how to take his uncle’s theories and put them to use in convincing people to buy things.

I am convinced that somewhere in the intersection of these two basic texts is the seeds of a Big Idea I can put to use somehow, either in a game, or in some aspect of my “real” life – although making it real may require some research into how the stock market works, and perhaps some delving into psychology.

In any case, I have something to keep my mind occupied for the next couple of months.