Peeropoly: The boardgame of abundance, prosperity, and plenty.
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Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Licence
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 http://www.antimonopoly.com/.
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
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
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 againjust 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 micropoly.com.
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.
Please come to the forum to contribute ideas.
- On Tue, Feb 3, 2009 at 12:30 AM, Sasha <mrkflux@...> wrote:
> If you land on a space controlled by a monopolist you must pay rentA thought -- what if the spaces on the board represent not "real
> 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.
property" in the sense of land, but instead "intellectual properties",
e.g., patented ideas? You could then, instead of having groups of
streets which give a bonus if you control all of them, have groups of
*ideas* which give a bonus if the owner holds all of them, e.g.,
holding a horizontal monopoly. Possible groups might include
Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Transportation,
Communications, Mining, and so on and so forth.
This would also allow for the notion of vertical monopolies, e.g.
relationships between technologies in different industries for which
it is of benefit to a single person to control them all. For instance,
it might be of benefit for a single player to control Oil Drilling
(Chemical Engineering), Railroads (Transportation), and Coal (Mining),
as the owner can sell diesel fuel to himself at cost to power his
trains, which he then uses to transport his coal to the market at
Taking this approach makes the game a bit more complex, but more
realistically describes the cross-industry relationships which
characterise modern economics, and could provide a very realistic
demonstration to players of just how damaging it is for a single
business entity to control a particular industry, since "vertical
monopolists" would want to prevent the establishment of horizontal
monopolies and vice versa.