The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

Splintered reality, the encyclopædia game

In which topic maps are joined with webs of trust to create a game where pocket realities fight for the adoption of their system.

Take a topic map where the topics themselves are empty and without form, having only an arbitrary, meaningless unique identifier.

Take several groups of people, each group of which has a different world-view from the others, and inside which each member is of an independent disposition.

Give each person the ability to create new topics, create and associate a description with any topic, and associate two topics in ways they define (by, of course, creating a topic which defines the relationship and giving it a description).

Have a trust system whereby individuals can rank others in a scale of trustworthiness, and the rankings of one person has an influence (depending on how that person is ranked) on everyone else's trust. Er, that’s poorly described!

The task is to write an encyclopædia, a reference of reality. Will the different groups and individuals create ghetto realities for themselves, ignoring the strange definitions and ontologies of others, or will there be much contest over particular topics. Who trusts whom, and can a majority view take hold, or even consensus develop?

Posted by jamie on February 1, 2006 17:13+13:00


Neat idea!

It sounds as if the cynic in you already has an idea about how this might turn out though...

Isn’t there a wiki-mediated game-form a little like this, where players co-operate to create an encylopædia reference for a virtual world?

Posted by: Michael on February 1, 2006 21:35+13:00

Do you mean the Lexicon game? If so, then there are some similarities, but what’s neat about this is that what you see when you examine a topic depends on your calculated trust ratings for those who wrote the various descriptions of that topic. So if I go to topic A1, I might see a statement that this topic is the Elemental System of modern physical sciences, while someone else might see that it’s the Chinese Elemental System, while another might see that it’s all about vegetables — all depending on whom the people trust.

That last is perhaps a weakness of the game, that because there is no absolute meaning to a topic, a person could try to make it mean something completely different from what everyone else has asserted about it, rather than trying to find a common germ and providing their take on it (as in the first two examples).

I’m not sure I'm cynical about what would happen — I think it would be awful if everyone came to complete agreement about how the universe is constituted and how it relates to itself. On the other hand, it would be equally boring to have each view self-contained without overlap or connection. It’s in the overlap and the strange pathways that the fun is; seeing that because I trust so-and-so (who has said sensible things about chemistry), I am presented with a connection between two things I would never myself connect.

I think this is slightly similar to Nomic, though I’ve never played it.

Posted by: Jamie on February 2, 2006 09:48+13:00