Part of my regular “sit n think” for this column is to think of arenas of human existence that I have never seen in a video game. I realized that while there are a few games that tap into our otherwise pervasive capitalism, it is a largely untapped source of game inspiration. So I started thinking about corporate takeover as a video game. It has lots of gameplay potential, which I will lay out in two versions below.
First, I did my due diligence and went looking for any corporate takeover games I may have missed. All I found was a scrapped game written by Steve Meretzky back in 2008:
Videogame designer Brenda Brathwaite–a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design known for her work on games such as “Def Jam: Icon” and “Jagged Alliance”–says a game about consolidation in the videogame industry would have to pivot from one genre to another. Players could build up a business in a kind of “tycoon” mode, Brathwaite says, before competing to grab control of another player’s business.
“With Take-Two we’re talking about a ‘real-time strategy’ or a ‘tactical-strategy game,’” Brathwaite says. “I would certainly hope this would never get to the level of a ‘first-person shooter.’”
Of course, such a genre-bending game would be hard to pull off. “In general, in game design you want to pick one or the other and not combine a bunch,” Meretzky says, adding there are few games that have mixed elements of different styles of games into one successful game. “I suspect that when “Spore” comes out this year or next year, it will be another example of that,” Meretzsky says, referring to an upcoming title by Electronic Arts star designer Will Wright.
AHAHAHA HOW RIGHT YOU WERE. Anyway, High Priest Meretzky’s idea is a great one, and one I would love to play. Now that we’re in what I like to think is a more sophisticated space of video games, I think it can be expanded in a Telltale Games fashion.
Idea #1: Game of
You play as the hotshot young executive who thinks she knows everything there is to know about the corporate world. In the first couple of chapters, you work your way up the power structure at MegaCorp, impressing people and making sure you know how things really operate. Then in chapter 3 you get your big change to initiate a merger with Colossal Inc. Depending on how you installed yourself, you get the option to make it a mutual merger or a hostile takeover. Whichever plan you choose, there will be a major setback. A rival hotshot exec emerges, or the federal red tape is a mile thick. You’ll have to adapt and play the game better to see your plan through to success. You’ll have to be perceptive to the politics of the other executives. You’ll have to cooperate with some and only appear to cooperate with others.
Succeed, and you gain a controlling stake in the new Omni Corp. Lose, and you could wind up with nothing. Or worse, a mail room job.
Gameplay would be very much like Telltale’s Game of Thrones. Entirely dialogue driven, relying on said dialogue to hint at (or demand) your next possible moves. Your own dialogue choices will be critical in gaining your allies and thwarting your enemies. From literary and narrative considerations, this game would be an excellent vehicle for exploring/critiquing the sacrifices we make of ourselves in service of capitalism.
Idea #2: Corporate Go/Reversi
The other idea is a much more abstract version of corporate takeover, and in fact would work just as well as a board game. I propose the following simple (yet potent) change to the rules of Go: when a chain of stones loses its last liberty (is captured), it is not removed from the board, but flipped to the color of the player who captured it. This change preserves the patient and strategizing mindset needed for a corporate takeover, while also making the game feel like one of controlling permanent resources.
I’m also imagining a game for anywhere between two and five players. The traditional Go board, for two players, is a square grid of dimensions 19x19. One way to go would be to add a side to the polygon for each additional player. Three players would be a pentagon of side length 19, four would be a hexagon of side length 19, and five would be a septagon of side lenght 19.
Another way to go would be to have three players on a triangle (I bet you can guess what the side length is), four to a square, and five to a pentagon. Since I’m also imagining local and online multiplayer, I don’t see why both couldn’t be an option. Players who wanted to play, for instance, a three-player pentagon board could indicate as such, and would be matched together.
What are your thoughts? Would you play either of these games? Does my change to the rules of Go sound fun or am I just messing up a time-tested classic?
NEXT TIME: Metroid The Next Generation Follow-up