We have been evaluating policy simulation games, both for design ideas, and for a sense of whether they might be useful for real world policy processes. Kudos 2 allows the player to play out the life of of a twenty-something from the ages of 20–30. The modding facilities in Kudos 2 should allow, with weeks to months of development time, playing out the life of someone with a particular challenge (e.g., blindness), set of circumstances (e.g., foster-parenthood), or life-goal (e.g., socially-relevant employment).
Game learning Curve: 10–20 mins.
Development Curve (to modify for specialized applications): weeks to months.
Kudos 2 does a terrific job of summarizing a very large number of complicated relationships into an interface that seems relatively simple. It is an object lesson in how to expose resource files in a way that allows the player to continuously mod the game to their enjoyment.
The game allows the player to run a character’s life. While it is obviously simplified from real life, it allows the player to entertain themselves with many “what if” scenarios. A CEO could download this game and discover what it would be like to become a rock star, or an engineer could download this game to find out what it would be like to become an alcoholic, enraged, gambling, doctor. This uncovers an important idea when it comes to social simulators: how far could you push the system before it breaks?
This uncovers an important idea when it comes to social simulators: how far could you push the system before it breaks?
Given the generous modding capability, it is possible to imagine re-purposing Kudos 2 to allow the player to live out the life of someone with a disability looking for work, or someone with a chronic disease negotiating daily life. Such mods would be non-trivial, but they could give the player a sense of the daily experience of someone negotiating a particular set of challenges. Social innovations could be introduced in the form of helpful training opportunities available to the player, non-traditional forms of employment, and innovative opportunities for social engagement.
Social innovations could be introduced in the form of helpful training opportunities available to the player, non-traditional forms of employment, and innovative opportunities for social engagement.
Similarly, if one wanted to live the life of someone looking to be employed in a socially or environmentally meaningful way, one could easily imagine expanding the available training and job opportunities to model the kinds of employment trajectories available for those interested in green jobs. Barriers to green employment could be modelled, as could training and gadgets available to live a greener lifestyle.
The game is relatively easy to understand and to play. It begins with the player choosing visual aspects of their player, including clothing, hair colour, gender, etc. The visual elements of the game are all moddable, so one could imagine, for instance, creating characters with wheelchairs. The player proceeds once they are satisfied and enter the game. Tutorial bubbles appear in game as the player is introduced to new elements of the game.
The general idea of the game is that the player begins the game as a twenty year old waitress or waiter, and plays the character’s life until they turn thirty. Each turn represents one day of the character life. A day consists of going to work, making money, choosing an activity for the evening, and going to sleep. Depending on the activities chosen, the player’s status levels change.
A typical turn
A typical turn (one day) includes the working day, and activity in the evening:
The player goes to work and makes money. Her first job is that of a waitress. Each working day, the system displays her daily wages, including tips. The tips depend on the character’s personal statistics (e.g., extroversion, cleanliness, sobriety). Depending on how her day went at work, her statistics change (e.g., days with low tips make confidence fall).
The player then chooses what to do in the evening. The player is allowed to pick one activity per evening. This activity can include taking courses, spending time alone, or socializing with friends. Depending on the activity, her stats change further. Socialising with friends at the bar can raise her level of extroversion, while lowering her sobriety. Spending time alone can raise relaxation and health, but lower excitement while raising loneliness.
Socializing after work
The game contains a large number of elements. It includes many elements that players would demand from such a game, if not more. A number of the more significant elements are mentioned below, but there are likely many more.
Day of the Week
The game accounts for each passing day of the week. The calendar can be seen in the top right corner, with little stars indicating days on which the character has appointments. Weekends are work-free (and hence income free), but players are able to choose two activities for that day.
The character begins the game with four friends, each with a certain number of acquaintances. Their level of relationship with the player is shown in a status bar.
Spending time with a friend raises your relationship status with them, while neglecting a friend lowers your relationship status. New friends are occasionally made available to the player. Friends with status levels that drop too low leave.
Relationships with friends are complicated. Friends have influence on the player’s stats. For example, spending too much time with a dishonest friend lowers honesty, while spending time with a confident friend raises confidence. Double clicking on a friend will show their interests, and a description of their character.
When the player goes to socialize with a group of friends, they can invite a particular group of friends to the event. Paying careful attention to various friends’ interests, and only inviting them to things they enjoy, increases the chances that invitations will be accepted. Relationships can be improved by inviting people to things they enjoy the most.
While the player begins as a waitress or waiter, they are able to apply for new jobs and upgrade their position. However, to apply for these jobs (and to be accepted to them!) particular stats are required. Generally, in order to get a new job, players are required to have a high level of confidence and to be an extrovert (supposedly for the interview). They must also possess the necessary education. Some jobs require particular stats to be high (such as honesty for cops).
The player is able to apply for evening classes (evening classes take one activity slot), and then attends classes on the scheduled day. For example, advanced biology takes place every Monday night, and attending it takes one slot every Monday night (though the player is able to skip class). The player continues to take the class until they attend enough classes.
Weather can be seen in the background. While it is usually sunny, it occasionally rains and snows. Weather plays an active element in the game. Walking to work in the rain can cause illness, as does running in the snow. Sunny weather raises happiness.
Additional game elements include transportation, pets, belongings, and musical instruments. The list of game elements is extensive. Kudos 2 is unusually thorough. Many of the relationships are best learned as the game progresses. Uncovering new aspects of the game can be exciting and entertaining, e.g., discovering paw prints in the mirror when the character does not clean their house for a while and owns a dog.
Installation and Development
Kudos 2 is a game by Cliff Harris, with artwork by Chris Hildenbrand and Jamie McKelvie, and music by Jesse Hopkins. It is currently free to download as a demo at http://www.positech.co.uk/kudos2. However, the demo ends after a number of turns, and the player is then either required to restart the game from the beginning, or buy the full version. The demo does, however, last long enough to engage its audience and allow the player to experience how addicting this game is, while still not allowing the full functionality of the game. It is available for all mainstream operating systems, and there is extensive support and documentation for the game.
The game is not free, or open source. After downloading and installing the game, however, the player can navigate to the game folder in their program file and access almost any of the resource files the game uses. These text files hold the key variables and formulas employed by the game. The player can easily adjust these variables and formulas to change elements of the game. This allows the game to be almost completely modifiable. Documentation for modding is available at the Kudos 2 website. In fact, the game is so moddable that it has several forum-based communities with support on how to modify nearly any element of the game.
An important aspect that we consider while playing these games is how long it would take to rewrite the software for the game from scratch. While the game itself may seem simple, the relationships between game elements are intricate and extensive. A game like this would take a year, if not more, to recreate.