Let’s Designing~ #1: Capitalism: The Video Game

Let’s come up with bizarre and/or clever ideas for video games on a regular basis! Hence, “Let’s Designing~”. And this will be the first– Let’s Designing~ #1, if you will. Okay? Okay.

I was having one of those awful what-am-I-doing-with-my-life had this dumb/awesome idea for a package tracking sim which turned into a full blown Capitalism: The Video Game at work today.

The main screen would consist of a desktop PC monitor in the lower left hand corner, and a view of your empty living room on the rest of the screen. Sitting next to your monitor is your wallet.

The player can use his mouse to interact with the desktop PC screen, which is open to the Amazon.com website. (naturally, we’d need to consider different localizations of the Amazon.com website if this game got big, as well as a touchscreen-friendly UI for the inevitable iPad port.) Once the player has found something they wish to buy, they can buy it–though they’ll have to open their “wallet” to find their credit card number, CVV etc. Soon after completing the order, they’ll get an “email” notification that their order has been confirmed, then another saying it’s shipped, and so on. Once it has shipped, they can click a link to track their package status until it arrives, at which point it will display in their living room.

Time passes in the game based on actions performed, so the player will have to keep buying stuff. Once the player has spent X amount of money, they’ll have beaten the first level, at which point they’ll have to spend X+n in the next level, and so on. The player can also choose to track packages via SMS. Checking your “score” is done by checking your bank balance in the ingame PC.

There’s no end to the game. You just keep buying stuff. Next time the player logs into their account, they’ll find that all the stuff they bought is actually in their Amazon.com shopping cart. (MONETIZATION ALERT: The in-game purchases will actually be “bought” through our referral links, so if the player ends up buying the stuff they bought, we get money.) What’s more, the player can opt to let our game publish items to their Facebook Wall or Twitter feed, further extending our Social Media Presence.)

So why would anyone continue to play this? Well, it’s not really designed as an actually engaging game, per se–there’s no reason why anyone would play this. Except that people do that kind of Amazon.com shit anyway, and call it Retail Therapy–including myself–because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Because we imagine the version of ourselves that owns the product we’re looking at and think “Man, that me would be a Much Better Person than the current me.”

I ended up buying a new hard drive for my laptop (the old one died) and a new wireless keyboard and mouse (the old one sucked) so I could say to myself that I was a Much Better Person with a working gaming laptop and some better input devices. Either people play it a lot instead of actually buying stuff (because it’s the act of imagining those alternate, better versions of ourselves), and we get to make a valuable statement about Capitalism, or people actually end up buying more stuff because we caused them to go through the whole imagining process in the first place and they succumbed, in which case we make a bundle via Amazon referrer links. It’s like a win-win social experiment.

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One Response to Let’s Designing~ #1: Capitalism: The Video Game

  1. zero says:

    I find most 1 player games make me feel like I’m engaging in some form of capitalism, although from a different angle than what you describe.

    RPGs are the easiest example. Grind to gain capital (XP) so you can grind in a more expensive market (harder dungeon) to gain even more capital… ad infinitum until the seams of your ps3/360 controller are caked with brown man crust, your desk covered with pizza boxes/half finished soda cans, and you realize you haven’t talked to another human being in about 48 hours. YES! I reached level 500. Now what? Level 1000, I guess…?

    The Katamari series also uses a similar mechanic, but maybe in a more stripped down, straight forward manner.

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