Gaming parallels to human resource management

By | August 24, 2012
The thing about games is that civilizations can evolve much faster than they do in real time. The first time I heard of this concept was 'Nation States' – based on Jennifer Government – but, in both cases, the parallels to how players in the game behave and how the various 'bands' in today's world (bankers, merchants, etc) behave are startlingly similar. And in both cases, the results aren't pretty, as the desolate image at the end of the experiment suggests.

What I wonder, though: given such massive sociological test environments, is there a model that players can institute, which would lead to a peaceful symbiosis in a limited-resource environment? If so, perhaps we will have a chance for peace on earth after all.

/via +Radoslav Dejanović 

Closed Map Experiment
If you were to catch a glimpse of this world you would figure that someone got out of control with TNT and made a giant scar of the whole world. The results look very similar. It’s something even scar…

13 thoughts on “Gaming parallels to human resource management

  1. Sophie Wrobel

    +Andrew Nelson it isn't my type of gameplay – so no, while I happily observe, you won't find me there. I'd suspect that finding out is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, and perhaps to a lesser extent gamer forums.

    +Robert Moser in my opinion, the biggest impediment is game design. Make the model too realistic, and gameplay becomes bad. Without decent gameplay, you don't reach critical mass in terms of hard-core gamer numbers. Make the model too simple, and it's too far away from reality to shed sufficient light. Perhaps the road with the most potential is an inception-style world architect who could fix the rules of reality for a particular world, which would provide sufficient framework for gamers to fix the parameters of each experiment. Sure, every experiment would have inherent flaws, but by using different flaws each time, we can see if some trends surface in how people behave.

  2. Robert Moser

    +Andrew Nelson  Perhaps.  I am open to being wrong if more information comes out.

    There are many reasons to be dubious, though.  Chopping down a tree results in multiple seedlings being generated.  Thus, trees would not be a resource that would run out.  A lava flow and a few buckets of water would likewise create infinite cobblestone, and in-game food can be provided by means other than farming, which makes grass (and therefore seed) not the pressing issue that was presented.  Resources like iron, diamond, and the like, are consumable, of course, and that's where much of the pressure would lie.

  3. Robert Moser

    To be honest, +Andrew Nelson, I would be very surprised if it actually happened.  There's an awful lot of text and very few screenshots to go with it.  The idea of only playing when all thirty people were available (and this actually happening!) is, perhaps, the biggest red flag.  Even if at least partially fiction, though, it makes for good discussion fodder.

  4. Andrew Nelson

    I can never find interesting Minecraft scenarios like this. Are these usually announced somewhere or is it just for some in-crowds?

    Also, +Sophie Wrobel, ever played Cyber Nations? It's sorta like NationStates, but 90% of the game is through meta communities (alliances) managed/hosted off-site.

  5. Robert Moser

    An additional thought.  I think that many models, both informal and serious, suffer from overuse of the zero-sum approach.  From a developer's standpoint, it's very easy to see why such methods are chosen.  X guns for Y butter, and all that.

    The problem is that such strict linearity in the model makes it impossible for multiple people to 'win'.  Let's use minecraft as an example.  If we set up an experiment with, say, 500 units of iron total, me having 100 of them means that everyone else now has to pull from a depleted pool.  If we added a recycling option that restored 50% of what we use after recycling, the total supply might go up, but it's still a straightforward competition between users, and probably not all that varied in the results we'd get.

    Where things would get interesting, in my opinion, is when we find a way to accurately and effectively model transactions where both parties come out ahead, adding non-linearity to potential gameplay/simulation options.

  6. Robert Moser

    +Sophie Wrobel  Are you familiar with Chris Crawford's work?   He's a game designer of note, and in 1990 he wrote a game/environmental simulation called "Balance of the Planet'.  

    It's freely available now, and you can find it here:

    Despite its age, it's still a solid example of simulation, and I think you might enjoy checking it out.

    He also has a current kickstarter campaign running to fund an updated version.

    Sadly, it isn't going well, but there is a link to the current alpha, which is worth checking out as well.

  7. Sophie Wrobel

    +Robert Moser Of course, every game has it's modelling flaws – the question that is quite challenging, though, is 'Please define proper management'. What would your management proposal be? And then to put it to test – if someone designed a game to test it (maybe someone will make a 'cleaner planet' game), would it work?

  8. Robert Moser

    Sure, if the resources were modeled so there were external energy inputs in to the system.  

    The conclusion of the minecraft experiment were foregone the moment they started- materials permanently disappear after use in-game, with no renewal possible.  Entropic resource exhaustion is the only possible outcome.

    Compare that to, say, fresh water on earth.  It's a limited, finite, valuable resource, but it is also renewable.  Proper management can, in fact, create new supply, even in the face of heavy usage.  With those sorts of starting conditions, peaceful co-existence becomes possible.

  9. Chris Harrington

    In principle, my suggestion is that you break people up into groups of manageable scale (dozens to hundreds of individuals depending on how real you want to make it) and give each group a piece of ground. The constraints are that you are only allowed to use resources directly available in your assigned area. Further, the effects of any environmental changes you trigger must be limited to your area. Finally, you are not allowed to intentionally influence or control neighboring groups in any way (you can't advertise, proselytize, coerce, subjugate, etc.). Other than that, each group can do pretty much whatever the heck they want.
    That's the rules for groups. Individuals are allowed to move from group to group freely, though each group can set their own criteria for accepting outsiders. Groups cannot force anyone to stay.

    This to me would be a good basic starting point for a recipe for a sustainable, peaceful global society. Fantasy, of course, but I could imagine the world running this way centuries in the future when we've ironed a few things out.

    Edit: OK, already I see right away how this would still lead to the kind of barren wasteland that is your typical shared Minecraft server. People would use up the resources in their assigned area, and then just move out and go anywhere they were accepted. So there would have to be one more constraint to ensure that the incentive for making their assigned area sustainable in perpetuity is high.

    But this happens so easily in Minecraft, though, because the "environmental effects" of damage to one area can be prevented from effecting neighboring areas. In the real world, it would be very hard to lay waste to one plot of land without damaging the surrounding plots. Perhaps that is enough of a constraint after all?


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