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The Economy Principle

 

Disciplines > Game Design > Principles > Principles > The Economy Principle

Principle | Action | Discussion | See also

 

Principle

People live in and function through economies.

Action

Create an economy. Have things that can be counted, that players want (or maybe do not want). Let different things have different value. Have ways to find, earn, swap, steal or otherwise gain things. Have ways to keep things safe. Have ways things are used up, lost, broken or otherwise disappear.

Value items within game economies can include:

  • Game money.
  • Things that you buy with money (for example properties and hotels in Monopoly).
  • Weapons and body protection (common in role-playing games).
  • Information (such as maps and military intelligence).
  • Cards that may be used within the game for various purposes.
  • Artefacts which may not be of immediate value, but which can be sold or exchanged.
  • Houses, food and other things needed to live (typical in life simulation games).

Discussion

Money is the classic currency, but there can be many more things we can use for barter, such as food, weapons, artefacts and so on. In fact anything that people can acquire and exchange with others can lead to an economy.

Things that you gain but cannot give to others, from experience points to gold stars are peripheral, particularly if they cannot be bought. If, however you can acquire them by exchange, then they may be considered a part of the wider economy.

Money is a clever invention as, while it has no use in itself, it is used as a single means of valuing everything else. It is an interim, an asynchronous way to pause exchanges between giving and receiving. The flexibility and potential it offers makes it very useful.

The success of an economy is movement. If everyone just keeps what they have, then the economy stagnates. There are hence important roles in creating and managing markets.

One of the drivers of markets is our need to possess. We buy things not just to use but also to own. Our sense of identity expands to include our possessions. We are not just our bodies but also what we have.

Many games, from role-play to card games are based on acquisition and exchange of things. By creating an economy within the game, you provide the means for complex enjoyment.

See also

Marketing

 

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