Protecting against the dark side of play

As I am going through the umpteenth revision of contracts around the intellectual property with the backdrop of having had my materials stolen, copied and in some contracts having to sign away all rights to our work, it made me think about how this plays out in games. I am talking above about the game of business with competition and the pursuit of profit or performance targeted commission as main drivers for unsavoury behaviours.

Sometimes it is a game of David versus Goliath, where the bigger company has a bigger budget for expensive lawyers and they bank on this in their dealings with small companies. Other times negotiations get lost in the commercial purchasing team and become far removed from the intended simple ways of working. Games like that are not win/win, the odds are always stacking in favour of the big guy, no matter which way you turn it. As a smaller player, you have to work with that and protect your risk and what is yours to start with.

As a game designer, we do our best to balance any game and make it as good as possible for everyone to have a chance of winning. Saying that as soon as someone owns a hotel on the most expensive street in Monopoly, you know it is a matter of time before you end up there. It is chance and luck to some extent and causes banter as well as conflict in family homes the world over.

The cross-platform games such as Fortnite at the moment favour those playing on consoles instead of mobile devices. Whilst everyone can collect resources and run around, battle and hide, it is a heck of a lot harder on a mobile device, where faceplanting your character is a regular occurrence.

Can you protect yourself against these conditions? and should you be able to?

In the real world, lawyers and insurance companies have been making money on protecting people for years. I have not yet come across an insurance for the protection of status in e-sports or sports generally for example. Unfair treatment or fraud would be different and fall under a different legal framework to problems experienced during play when the whole set up was run fair and square.

I think it is the role of the game designer to ensure their design allows people to win in equal measure at the start of any game. In golf players have handicaps, in sailing boat sizes also carry relevant handicaps to level out the playing field. In casino’s on the other hand, the house eventually always wins, so at some level, the odds are always against the player.

In the world of gamification for workplace behaviour, I have not yet come across a situation where this became an issue. We have done gamification designs where we had to actively pay attention to making the game enjoyable for all and giving everyone at the start the chance to win. In one example for sales teams, where experience in the field would have given favour to those with longer service, we built in activity-based measures as well as strictly closing of sales. We also grouped people based on their level or duration of service, we could envisage introducing a handicap system to keep the leaderboard interesting and to keep experienced people on their toes.

As I navigate this in the world of real work, I wonder what have you done in your game designs or gamification designs to make the gameplay fair to all involved? Or should that even happen?


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