The original model I had for Thicket was for exploring the problem of how a powerless actor defends themself against a powerful one (the solution is still pretty ugly). So, what happens when we also design for the perspective of the predator that is just trying to survive? Or for the chicken that potentially gets sacrificed to distract the wolf from the deer? What happens when we say, “what’s the least awful solution to this problem?” (presumably one that kills the least number of pieces on the board). How do we design for a game that doesn’t conveniently end when the predator animal is killed or put in check or the prey animal is eaten? The answer is we try to imagine the best possible outcome for the situation, one where you can’t just redesign predation itself, and that’s one very much like the actual balance that happens in nature. Predators cull older, less healthy animals and the populations are relatively stable in this relationship. The other option would be to eliminate predators, in which case the prey animals might overpopulate and die of disease. Rather than treat the scenario as just a chess game, make it a simulation where the game never ends, but different kinds of stasis can be reached, like- everybody dies, or populations stabilize. So the original strategies of manipulating powerful animals into eliminating each other are still there, but that’s not the only level the game operates at- the game would continue if the player dies or the predator dies and you see what happens. Then use the engine to move on from the predator/prey problem and model different problems, the problems should represent themselves- they don’t need to be metaphors for anything to be valuable or meaningful outside of the idea that problems can’t really be solved by just ‘eliminating’ an enemy.

Is there a way that a game could make a confrontation between ideologically-opposed family members have a beneficial outcome? A lot of times we think of games as having winners and losers which seems like a bad model when what you want is synthesis and de-escalation. Imagine enemies that can’t be removed from the board.

I’d like the next game to be a strategy war game that starts at the most destructive part of a long conflict, and the game is about de-escalation rather than domination.