I’m considering making a game in which, as the player, you make certain, narrow choices about the structure of a civilization and then observe political order emerging or decaying.

Recently I’ve been reading Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order. Fukuyama provides a fascinating overview of how and why different political states form. It’s incredibly interesting to see how groups with similar starting conditions can end up with radically different outcomes in terms of rule of law, equality, and accountability.

I think it would be really interesting to create a game / simulation in which you guide a civilization through various stages of development and watch as the state evolves. You would probably only be able to make decisions at key tipping points in the civilization’s history, the rest of game would be emergent from the starting conditions and chance events.

Sample decision: you need to build a great irrigation project to support the growing population, do you raise taxes from the peasants or aristocracy?

Some of the key factors to your civilization’s statehood would be:

  • Geography
  • Relative Power of Neighboring States
  • Role of Religion
  • Rule of Law
  • Political Accountability
  • Distribution of Wealth
  • Culture
  • Power distribution among state leader, aristocracy, bourgiouse, and peasants / working class

These factors would change based on your decisions, but not always in an immediately intuitive fashion. Beyond your decisions, there would likely be random events such as:

  • The spread of innovation, religion, and culture from adjacent lands
  • Disasters (plague, famine, barbarian attacks)
  • Political intrigue (assassinations, unification of kingdoms through marriage)

The game would run as a simulation (maybe an agent based model) in between events and decisions. There probably wouldn’t be any way to win though players could set their own goals:

  • Lasting as long as possible
  • Amassing the largest empire
  • Maximizing equality

The civilizations would morph over the course of the game through different levels of complexity:

  • Hunter-gather bands
  • Tribes
  • Warlord controlled districts
  • Kingdoms
  • Empires
  • Nation-states

If your civilization collapses, you may have the option to take control of one of the emergent states that come out of the chaos.

The game would probably have some overlap with and take inspiration from:

  • Sim City
  • Civilization
  • NationStates.net
  • Conway’s Game of Life

It would also likely take on many elements from roguelikes:

  • Randomly generated terrain, neighbors
  • Death / losing is common
  • No saving

Anyway, I’m just starting to noodle on the idea… if I still like it by next weekend, I may through together a prototype.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!