First session with Manetta:
- brainstorming about the different format that a workshop can have;
- forming the groups by tracking overlapping interests;
We formed this group because of the common interest in working with fake news and disinformation on the web and social media.
The first idea was to move this universe into the context of a game/treasure hunt in order to explore its working mechanism. We decided to go for this format after sharing some thoughts regarding workshops and the way we approach them: if not provided with a precise goal they sometimes remain a bit vague (and even boring) whereas providing a precise scope and plan a sort of defined achievement at the end can become too demanding for some people.
Firstly we thought about creating a sort on online treasure hunt based on popular social deduction games such as the werewolf (also known as Mafia). We also found out that a version of this game already exists online in IRC chats. Since at the time we were also working with IRC channels and bots we considered the idea of creating a customised environment that could recreate our fictional world. We also thought about expanding this universe by creating web pages that could report news, bios, gossips and more.
Needless to say, the project was rapidly escalating into something that looked much more like a plan for an all year of research than a workshop. Considering the time frame we opted to focus on the creation of the fictional reality and characters and employ already existing game mechanics.
re-adapting a game
After a research into games based on social deduction we found one that one suitable to our purpose: Coup.
The original Cop game is set in a fictional environment that asks the player to take the role of a maneuverer in a corrupted and weak city court. In this game the player, whose goal is to find their way into absolute power, is given two allies from a set of character having each one a special influential power in the court. We came to the conclusion that this structure was suitable to describe our setting as well: a world were the political power is built through the creation of a court of influential allies that would play a significant role in the context of social media.
In our adaptation of the game (CHAOS AGENTS BUREAU!!GRAND OPENING) every player had to be a politician striving to destroy their opponents by using their allies to accumulate influence and wealth and drive the opponents into media irrelevance. We adapted the set of characters and abilities of the traditional game for the purpose of make them work within our context. It resulted in this:
► COUP: Duke: take three tokens from the treasury ---> CHAOS AGENTS: CEO;
► COUP: Assassin: pay three tokens and kill an opponent's ally ---> CHAOS AGENTS: Lobbyist;
► COUP: Captain: steal 2 tokens from another player ---> CHAOS AGENTS: Influencer;
► COUP: Ambassador: exchange allies cards with the allies deck ---> CHAOS AGENTS: Troll;
► COUP: Contessa: block an ally's assassination ---> CHAOS AGENTS: Whistleblower;
After that we worked on adapting the rest of the rules and mechanics: you can read them here.
Since every category of cards in made of a set of three we decided to create three fictional characters for each role.
The result of this operation has been reported on which also work as a "world expander" for the game.
My set of characters:
When it comes to E-democracy, it is impossible not to mention the figure of Vilfredo Mule, founder and CEO of the internet and publishing company Mule & Partners. Mule starts his carrier in the eighties as a young software developer. Fore-sighting the potential on the internet he switches his path and he starts to work for an internet consulting company in the late 1990s. In ten years he eventually manages to found his own internet consulting company, Mule & Partners, curating blogs and websites belonging to influent Italian politicians. He early on links himself with the populist party Seven Thunders which will in some years become the playground for the development of the Diderot platform. The Diderot website turns into the most important system used by the anti-establishment Seven Thunders party to concretize their principle of direct democracy as an evolution of the obsolete representative democracy : all the political decision of the party are taken through an online voting system happening directly on the website which is still owned and regulated by Mule & Partners. The Diderot platform hosts the discussion and decisions affecting the political decisions in the party, in the country and in the EU as well. In 2017 an inquiry from the Washington Post recognized the platform as one of the major vehicle of transmission of fake news in the country. The company declared afterwords that the inquiry was itself “fake news”.
Petrovych Tkachenko was born in Ukraine to a prosperous Jewish family. After managing to escape the Holocaust the family decide to leave the country and move to New York City where Tkachenko becomes a student in Economics at Columbia University. After graduating he doesn’t take too long to find his way in finance: he spends his first working years in financial enterprises gaining a promotion after another. In the seventies he founds his own company, the Tkachenko Fund Management and becomes its chairman. Helped by the economic boom of those years he becomes a billionaire. He soon associates himself with democratic movements, helping with his influence the fall of the Communism in Soviet Union. Since then he has been accused several time to have manipulated democratic processes, caused coup d’etats in several countries in Eastern and Southern Europe and devalued national currencies. He retired form the public scene since 2015 officially because of illness even thought some believes that he is hiding himself because the pawer he accumulated gave him the appearances of a reptile. Nobody has been able to prove which is his actual shape at the moment.
File:Blueberry pie.png Matti Tuomainen, also known as Blueberry Pie, is a Finnish YouTuber. With his Let’s Play videos filled with an edgy and provocative communication style he manages to have the highest number of subscription to a channel in Youtube history. He reaches an astonishing level of fame and influence in the entertainment industry: game developers and movie production companies begin to beg him to promote their products. In 2018 he starts a virtual battle with the Chinese YouTuber Lang Huan who is gaining so many followers that his channel is going to surpass Blueberry Pie’s one in number of subscriptions. To secure his position in the Youtube Olympus he launches a subscribing campaign that quickly escalates into a racist harassment battle driven by him and his followers. He starts to adopt a more radical communication style, lining up against mainstream media and Politically Correct culture. In May 2019 one of his followers, the 22 years old English man Joshua Harrison breaks into a Chinese restaurant in Manchester and shoot at the owner: during the arrest Joshua waves a flag with the message Blueberry Pie army. Dreamworld eventually decide to end their partnership with Blueberry Pie because of the promotion an animation movie set in imperial China. He rejects all the allegations of responsibility with the facts of Manchester. He claims that the subscription campaign is a joke.
Have you ever heard of one of those stories regarding people who have been reported missing after visiting that specific chain of supermarket close to that specific highway exit? Some might believe that similar stories always existed but with the help of the famous facebook troll Paloma Cotilla it probably went a bit too far. Paloma successfully embodies a middle class mother, living somewhere in suburban Madrid. According to the records everything started in 2017 when she wrote a post on a facebook group of young mothers that she just lost her 12 years old son: he presumably disappeared in a Chinese supermarket between the capital and Guadalajara. Since then Paloma Cotilla’s profile and probably an all set of facebook trolls have been used to drop clues regarding all sorts of legends of suburban paranoia. From organ trafficking in the Spanish suburbs to children imprisoned in order to serve as labour to produce a drug out of dog’s eyes: everything that gravitates in the realm of things that can make your mother worry is absorbed by Paloma Cotilla’s army. The drops has been so effective that news spread fast all over the country: fictional stories involving real places appeared on local newspaper first and national ones later on. Several protests and supermarkets’s fire attempts carried out by worried parents’ facebook groups are shaking the Spanish suburbs ever since.
Nobody would ever guessed how famous the Bobby Young name was going to become. He was born in 1957 a poor family in Okhlahoma: he never get to meet his father while his mother, suffering from alcohol abuse, soon abandons him. At the age of 15 he runs away from his grandparents’ house and move to Florida, doing different kind of jobs. He start working in a real estate company as a personal assistant of a man he previously meets in a restaurant. Within a really short spam of years he manages to reach a really hight position despite his lack of education. He eventually opens his own real estate company, owning buildings and luxury apartments all over the country. He moves to Los Angeles where his charismatic persona attires several Hollywood celebrities in his entourage while some rumours start to spread. Some ex employers of his company reports throughout the years several episodes of sexual misconduct but none of them ever get to the court. The scandal drops in 2018 when one of his luxurious properties in California becomes the centre of an inquiry regarding human trafficking and sexual abuses. It involves several celebrities, Hollywood producers and politicians. Several pictures and videos of underage women having non consensual sexual encounters with influential celebrities. After the finding he start to collaborate with the inquiries in order to receive better treatment. In January 2019 he manages to escape from custody and flies to Dominican Republic after what it seemed like an attempt of murder. It is still unclear what is his legal position right now: some newspapers reported he is still collaborating with justice while other reporters believes that his location is almost unknown to anyone.
Considering the possibility of having the workshop IRL we decided to turn it into a physical board game so we designed the deck of cards and tokens in order to be printed. We came out with two versions: one which has been screen printed and another one that has been printed with a traditional printer. The two versions presents differences in the content displayed which is more extensive in the second version.
The workshop took place the 5th of November from 14.00 to 17.30.
welcoming and workshop presentation
We introduced the setting and explained the rules of the game.
We made some slides to go through the points.
the deck of cards
During the explanation of the game the deck of cards and all the elements were already placed on the table.
We ended up producing two decks of cards:
- a black one which only shows the ability of the card itself;[image 1,4,5,7]
- a violet one which also contains a short description on the character that calls back to the fictional universe described here .[image 2,3]
During the workshop we played with the black version.
playing the game
We split in two groups of six people in order to play the game. It was quite funny so we played two matches and another one with the all group of participants (12 people).
We took some time to discuss the game with the participants. We received some valuable feedbacks:
- some cards were maybe a bit too powerful compared to others;
- somehow the effort that we put in the creation of the fictional world and characters was a bit obscured in the black deck because it didn't contain the description of the characters that can make the player more involved in the story;
- the possibility to extend the role of the player itself and create a new character role assigned to each player that goes beyond the abilities and personalities of the Allies cards.