Commons Game – Initial Design Schematic

So, here is the next humble step in R&Ding the commons game.

I had a chat with friends Aaron Rosa and John Sweeney, both talented game design futurists, and we reviewed the various ideas and issues with the game as it was presented in the last blog on the game.

They recommended I produce a game “design schematic” to make the rationale, mechanics and logic of the game more explicit. And so that the design can be critiqued, refined and improved.

Here is my attempt at a design schema. I’ve even gone into premier pro to edit it (as keynote was bugging up)!

As the central idea of FuturesLab is to draw from a creative community o people in a peer to peer process to support potentially breakthrough experiments, social innovations, policy proposals, and methods / techniques, you are invited to be part of this game design process.

After reviewing the design schematic, if you have any points you want to offer to support the R&D process, please do add them on wordpress and / or the FuturesLab Facebook page.

[commons game initial design schematic slides]

The commons game – initial design schematic from Jose Ramos on Vimeo.

7 thoughts on “Commons Game – Initial Design Schematic

  1. Hi Jose,

    Nice work: I like the potential here.

    – I like that commons acts aren’t predefined, but set based on group context and values.

    – The crowd funding aspect was a little confusing. It didn’t get any introduction or explanation, then seemed to be quite central. Is this an optional mechanism or a “mandatory” pre-requisite step? My opinion is it should be optional, but I’d need to understand your intent more. I’ve made a subsequent related comment about CC’s.

    – It wasn’t clear whether this was intended to be a simulation or a real-world prototyping exercise: the use of wording in your design brief and your voice over seem to imply it’s a real-world exercise with problems of real significance and with commensurate actual effort required of “players”. If that is your intent, I think that stretches the practical application as a game, and will complicate or at least limit its potential as a broad teaching/ learning tool.

    For the purpose of the rest of my feedback, I’ll assume that’s a misreading on my part, and the intent is a simulation game/ exercise.

    – I’ve spent last year doing some work on a method framework that enables a network of stakeholders to discuss and establish a shared view of quality and value, and I have gamified aspects of that work. Some elements from that work might be useful here, particularly in defining the CA’s.

    – I think that a turn mechanic would help to overcome various design and game mechanic challenges: game play would work around turns, for example:
    – a set number of turns per player per game, or
    – each player must complete the current turn before any player can move to the next turn, or
    – a player might be able to be a limited number of turns behind the most advanced players, then either stall those player, forfeit a turn, (or have that turn become common?)
    – turns are forfeited through inaction (loss of opportunity)

    – a turn might provide the opportunity for more than one type of action, but limit the number of actions of a specific type or class (e.g. In 1 turn, a player could typically: give 1 turn of physical effort on a single CA, share or use 2 resources, do 1 turn of research, receive 1 turn of effort from another player, receive 2 resources, etc)

    – Commons Acts (CA’s) could be defined and agreed by the game stakeholders/ players in multiple dimensions: CC value as you’ve noted, but also other dimensions such as requisite tasks and associated turn effort. For assist short-running games or to generally simplify game startup, there might be some predefined or partially templated examples.

    – To simplify the game mechanic, the requisite tasks might follow a common, stereotypical cycle such as Deming’s plan, do, study, act (PDSA) cycle (or similar). Each step in that model could have both a turn count and a CC ‘earned value’, with CC’s only awarded to each contributing player once a cycle completes. More complex CA’s might require multiple cycles to deliver meaningful commons value and for players to gain full CC’s.

    – Your description implies that the game must run for a significant length of time. I think that’s an unnecessary limiting constraint. Instead, let the group of players/ stakeholders mutually agree and determine the total game duration (in turns?) and the turn cycle duration: this could be minutes, hours, days, etc). Using turns in this way as a key game mechanism means the game can scale from short, intensive simulation from say a one hour session (maybe with commons acts definitions as prework) through to longer running scenarios.

    – Turns used as described should also limit the potential for false claims and the need for referees.

    – If your intent around including the crowd funding was to inject pseudo capital or seed CC’s into the game, perhaps it’s simple enough to just randomly assign a range of starting CC’s to each player.

    – As an alternative to random CC allocation, it might be interesting to have some stereotypical character profiles that players can choose to adopt each time they play. These might be based on existing “pre commons” demographics: economic, educational, skill and social profiles, and a commensurate number or range of CC’s. This could be quite powerful in exploring and understanding motivation for different player types, building empathy for others and enabling people to “walk a mile” in others shoes.

    – player-character profiles might also allow for the elements

    – I would love the game to enable coop-etition at multiple levels: both success for the groups shared commons acts goals, but also the individual players needs and goals. So I think could be explicit Personal Acts (PA’s) or goals that each player would declare.

    – It would be nice to have a way to support online play, however even though I’m a software guy by trade, I have a strong preference – both personally and based on what I’ve seen have the most impact – for these sorts of games to be low-tech and simple to set up without a lot of complex parts. So yes to online play, but using simple tools and mechanics that can also be used without technology with a co-located group.

    – As a closing note: Monopoly has a terrible game mechanic, and is a bad reference game for cooperative mechanics. If you’d like better alternative examples, please let me know.


    • the idea of turns is intriguing, and I had not considered using it. it does give structure and provides an impetus and pathways to potential gamers.

      yes I do see CCs and CAs as having potential templates. I think, as a serious game, there are a number of game management and governance talk that need to be done to maintain the integrity of the game environment – I see this as overlapping with Ostrom’s principles on commons gov. – but obviously it is not the same as the game community is not an organic one with a predefined shared resource base.

      Motivation based on various roles sounds interesting. One of the weaknesses of the game as I have articulated it is who it may attract – e.g. creatives. diversity of perspectives and social positions would enhance game dynamics.

      also think coop-etition dynamics would be key to incorporate – so agree – perhaps a scale mechanism that allows collaborative effort of 5-10 people to get special status. This is a mid scale and connects with your multi-level point.


      I see online platforms as key – OES and loomio or other for gov. But also see this as supporting game in a locale (e.g. melbourne) – I have not thought through a global game.


  2. Hi again Jose,

    Having subsequently read back through your two previous blog posts, and also following comment links to David Week’s Urban development game, I have two additional comments.

    – I now understand better the genesis of the Crowdfunding idea. I think now that you’ve specifically and clearly defined the two key aspects of the purpose of the game, the crowdfunding aspect is probably no longer needed in support of the purpose and is arguably a limiting of least distracting element. I think at best, it might be an optional game aspect/ mechanic.

    – some of what I outlined in my previous comments appears to be explored in David’s & :Lucinda’s game, so it would be interesting to learn more about their experiences with this to date.

    Liked by 1 person

    • okay – I’ll follow up with David on his game, but would love to discuss with you as well. And, I’m not sure about the CF. To me it seems to be needed, but if you don’t, then how do we ensure scale, participant commitment and fund the organisers a bit?


  3. Addendum: I realised (in addition to typo’s) that I left an incomplete thought in my first comment:

    “– player-character profiles might also allow for the elements”

    I’ve expanded on it further here – Note, I say “optionally” below, because I think most of the aspects discussed in this comment post are not relevant for short-duration games used primarily as a teaching tool to introduce concepts or enable a group to experience commons collaboration: they are more relevant for long-running persistent locales/ worlds and games.

    – Much the same as a some MMORPG’s do, there might be the need for different locales or “worlds”. Locales/ Worlds would be unique instances, and might enable interesting contextual starting scenarios: physics, environmental, social or economic constraints or challenges for which the commons game could work through potential solutions.

    – Optionally, persistent player-character profiles might also allow for the aspects of levelling over time (e.g. attaining kudos or increased capability/ turn bonuses and wisdom). In a similar way, Commons resources might persist, and would potentially “retain” (gain and store) CC’s (gained as they are expended by players) during commons creation or improvement.

    – New CC’s entering the system (through the creation of new players, optional crowd funding events, etc) might – as you noted – need their own auditable object.

    – Elements that persist for a given locale or “world” over the longer term (i.e. between games), such as character profiles and commons resources/ assets might need an entropy mechanic (a max number of games, cycles or turns they can be in play). For commons resources, they might gradually lose CC value over time and gradually fail if they aren’t maintained through CA’s.

    – In the event that purposeful retirement or reallocation of a commons resource/ asset occurs through carefully considered, planned and actioned effort, this might release some reusable CC’s back to the pool: either as commonly available “commons” CC’s, or to contributing players (although some CC’s would likely be destroyed and lost).

    – If these persistent profiles (players, commons resources/ assets, etc) were structured-text based files (e.g. XML) stored – or at least archived – using a versioning tool within a centralised common(s) repository, then they would be potentially auditable at any historical point in time, and also stored simply as static profiles without the overheads of a specialised system. If there is the need for unique locales or “worlds” that have no interaction, there would likely be different unique instances of such a repository.

    – Audit tools could then be run to check the consistency of the repository elements: the transfer of CC’s between players, the “retention” (storage) of CC’s by commons resources (gained as they are expended during commons creation), and even calculating CC entropy.

    – There might be the need to introduce both security and scarcity mechanics for CC’s, but I’m not certain that’s necessary. As you’ve noted Jose, cryptocurrencies (e.g. bitcoin & others) with their block chains and inbuilt artificial scarcity might be a good reference model to consider, as might public-key (AKA asymmetric-key) encryption – such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) – with its Key-signing parties that operate based on peer-to-peer web of trust.

    see also:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. simply love the ideas of ‘worlds’

    yes – CCs might be more kudos and reflecting status / contribution to commoning – see your point

    the worlds can exchange physical artefacts / 3d pointed coins, or barter, or other qualitatively different modes of exchange – this adds nuance to the game logics


  5. Pingback: Initial design schematic of a new Commons game | P2P Foundation

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