Here’s an extended quote from Prisoner’s Dilemma by William Poundstone that discusses what I’m hoping to accomplish with my system for Dirty Cities:
It does not take much to create a prisoner’s dilemma. The main ingredient is a temptation to better one’s own interests in a way that would be ruinous if everyone did it. That ingredient, regrettably, is in ample supply. For this reason some have seen in the prisoner’s dilemma the fundamental problem of society–the problem of “evil”, if you will. The tragedies of history are not the natural disasters but the man-made ones, the consequences of individuals or groups taking actions contrary to the common good.
The most common type of prisoner’s dilemma in everyday life is the “free rider dilemma”. This is a prisoner’s dilemma with many, rather than just two, players.
The name refers to the dilemma confronting public transit riders. It’s late at night, and there’s no one in the subway station. Why not just hop over the turnstiles and save yourself the fare? But remember, if everyone hopped the turnstiles, the subway system would go broke, and no one would be able to get anywhere.
It is the easiest thing in the world to rationalize hopping the turnstiles. What’s the chance that your lost fare will bankrupt the subway system? Virtually zero. The trains run whether the cars are empty or full. In no way does an extra passenger increase the system’s operating expenses. Etc., etc. etc.–but if everybody thinks this way….
(p.125-126; emphasis in original)
Honestly, from a design perspective, my only concern is that people won’t grok the connection between the small choices that their characters make and the larger social shifts that will be the result. Even if I explain that this is happening, I still wonder if people will drive their first cities into the ground, simply because the feedback loop is too long.
But, maybe this isn’t a bad thing?