I’m going to make a game called Webproperty (or Webtrap), which can be played online by two players against each other. The game will start by introducing the setting or the game world the players will in merge in. Players are said to be investors who have the job to make as much money out of their available resources as possible. The player who loses all their assets first has lost the game.
Each player will begin by bidding on which platforms to invest in. There is a choice between: Craigslist, Youtube, Twitter, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, Facebook and Google Search. When bidding the players get an idea about how much money the platform needs to come to its full potential and how much return on investment they can expect. relative to their investment. For instance Craigslist may be a cheap investment with a high return compared to the money invested, while Facebook will give much higher revenues, but also is much more expensive to invest in. Each player does no bid at all on a particular web property or a bid higher or equal to the minimal bid.
When it is decided which player has a deal with which platform the game will continue with messages about how the platforms are performing. Each player can respond to the messages and submit their investment orders based on the news these messages reveal. When both players have submitted their orders a new round of messages will be generated based on previous choices. In every round players can expect the following kind of messages:
- A message that there is an opportunity to speculate and earn money. The players can only acknowledge this fact by clicking “ok”. After that this message will have follow up messages, in subsequent rounds of messages like: how much money was earned, how much loses where taken or that the speculation was ended without loss or profit.
- A message that there is an opportunity to buy a startup which will improve the user experience of platform X. Players can invest or ignore this opportunity, but they will want to do this if they can spare the money, because the platform will raise more money. A link to a paragraph talking about startups in relation to web monopolies will be send together with this message. When users click the link they’ll also be informed about news articles around this issue.
- When players have bought enough of startups to boost their platforms messages will start to appear that players can invest in two kinds of technology. The first kind is called ad aggressiveness, which will make the ads on the platforms more intrusive for the user experience. The second kind is called tracking, which will make advertisements more relevant by monitoring the users behavior. Both investments will result in more revenue. Players don’t have to choose between the technologies when responding to this kind of message, but there is a cap for the amount of money that can be invested at once. Together with these messages links will be send that show paragraphs about tracking and ad intrusiveness if you click on them. These paragraphs in turn will be accompanied with relevant news articles.
- A message that property X has earned the player a Y amount of money. The amount of money depends on how much is invested in previous rounds. The message will indicate whether investments in technology have played a role in the amount of money earned. If for instance a player has invested in tracking technology the user will be reminded about the fact that this technology has boosted the revenue. Again they’ll have the possibility to read about the technology by clicking on a link.
- A message that property X has cost the player a Y amount of extra money. The reason for this loss can vary between the following cases. In the beginning of the game the reason will mostly be that extra investments were necessary to update the equipment. Another cause is that users are displeased by how the functionality of the startups are integrated into the platforms and that the users are leaving the platform, but this reason only occurs when startups have been bought. When players have made investments the cause may be that users have left the platform, because they couldn’t bare the aggressive commercials anymore or that they left because data about users has leaked into the public domain. In the last case the message says that users don’t trust the platform any longer. When the reason is a data leak the kind of data will be indicated in the message which can be: medical, financial, personal or behavioral. The method of leaking will also be told which can be: an employee that sold the data, crackers who stole the data, governments who subpoenaed the platform or criminals who physically stole the data. All these messages regardless of the reason why money was lost will be accompanied by a link that links to text which will explain more about: the way internet equipment becomes cheap when the costs distributed over many users, online ad placement strategies and weaknesses in the system which are the cause of data disclosure.
- There will also be a message that the player has won or lost the game. These messages appear when one player has gone bankrupt and may reveal how both players have done. How much data was leaked into the public domain? How much money was made in relation to the investment? How many users enjoyed the platform? And how did your opponent do in this regard?
The game is not very graphical and could have a mobile version without a lot of extra effort when developing it. This would mean that players can play it when killing some time. There are different modes in which the game could be played. It could be real-time meaning that the players will wait for each other and play fast. Another mode would be that turns are resolved on fixed times like Tuesday and Friday afternoon. This will slowdown the pace, but will improve suspense and give the players time to read the texts where messages link to.
The rules of the game are derived from Monopoly. When players win a bid for a platform at the beginning of the game, they actually are allowed to buy streets from a certain color. In the game players buy a street when they take the offer to buy a startup which would complement their platform. Investing in technology is the equivalent of buying houses and hotels. To speed up the game play each player has four pawns on the board, which start at each corner. They roll a twelve sided dice instead of two six sided dices. Of course all dice rolls are done virtually and players won’t know where their pawns are on the board at any given time. They could reverse engineer their position on the board somewhat when they know the game well. It’s impossible to see the progress of your opponent. I can imagine that there will be more messages than described above which will remedy this somewhat and give the players a better sense of control. This control is already given by the messages that predict income from speculation. These messages are sent to the player when their pawns are within twelve steps of start and thus are about to receive their income.
I’m not sure whether I’ll create the prison. If I do the players will be forced to pay themselves out since they can’t use the prison strategically when they don’t see the board.
Change and community chest cards will be drawn virtually when a pawn hits the appropriate fields and when they land on the water and electricity company, which don’t play their normal role. Fines on these cards are subscribed to the failure of a random platform to make money and bonuses are subscribed to successes of a random platform. In this way a platform can both make and loose money at the same time. Of course this is resolved by subtracting the loss from the profit and see whether the platforms really makes a profit or not. I think the cards get shuffled each time a card is drawn, making any card as likely as any other all the time. Cards that cause pawns to travel over the board are resolved as normal before any messages are generated, but a pawn will never go pass start and collect income when traveling in this way.
Any fines that occur due to tax fields on the board or fines on cards are relative to the amount of investments done. This means that fines are lower when no investments are made and highest when all possible investments are done. Platforms where investments are made should have a bigger change to cause losses and data leaks should be a more frequent reason than others. I’ll remove the fines which are already relative to the amount of houses and hotels bought. Bonuses do not work on scale like fines. They are always the same regardless of investments. Cards depicting a free release from prison will be worth the money that players pay to get out of prison.
Railway stations function exactly as the free parking square meaning that nothing happens. I don’t use the house rule of free parking jackpot to speed up game play. It’s impossible to mortgage platforms, sell innovations (houses and hotels) or trade platforms during the game.
It lies in our nature that we can't assert risks very well. A lot of people like social media, but very few seem to be aware what the risks of them are. By allowing players to take the perspective of a “system agent”, meaning somebody with power over the functioning of the social media system, the players get a bird view of what is happening. From this perspective the players are more likely to get aware of risks than when they are “in” the system with a frog like perspective. It would be good if by playing the game and reading the bits of text and articles that are attached to each game message, the player gets a better sense of how social media function and where the vulnerabilities of the system lie. Any system can get played, but it’s important that users don’t become victims because of that. By informing users in this somewhat playful manner an early warning could prevent harm.