Playing with the Company 2: Theobromos

"Our masters were horrified when they discovered that chocolate gets us pleasantly stoned, because they thought they'd designed us to be proof against intoxicants. They even tried to forbid it to us, but must have realized they'd have a revolt on their hands if they did, and settled for strictly regulating our use of the stuff. Or trying to, anyway."
Kage Baker, The Children of the Company

In the Company novels, most cyborgs use and abuse of Theobromos (a.k.a. chocolate) whenever they can get their hands on some. This is at times a difficult proposition, given that operatives are sent in the human world for extended periods of time and in places that can be quite far from Mexico, Central and South America, the places of production of cacao for a large part of recorded history.
Theobromos is one of the more humorous elements in the series. The idea that Company employees get their kicks out of chocolate (not unlike Kage Baker used to herself, so it seems) deflates the testosterone-heavy stereotype of humorless super-agents from the future that springs to mind when you mention the words "immortal cyborgs". This attraction which borders on addiction reminds me, on a smaller scale, of the one of the Newcomers in the movie Alien Nation. Theobromos, when corporate policy does not prohib it entirely, is certainly used as a carrot by the management. And the substance is not entirely harmless. Excess of consumption leads to "theobromine poisoning".
Ironically, the cyborgs, while technically removed from humanity, share more tastes with us than with their 24th century human masters who have given up on cigarettes, alcohol, meat, milk, sex and chocolate.

Does chocolate need game mechanics?
The question is open. Theobromos should remain an element of fun and stay on the periphery of things.
Gameplay could revolve around finding the balance between the thrill of forbidden food / joy of instant gratification and the risk of getting caught / losing status with your immortal employer.
Simulating addiction and pleasure is difficult due to the disconnection between the perception of the player and that of the character and the way our brain is wired to select different options depending on what our stomach tells us. I am tempted to use real chocolate on the gaming table in order to appeal to the real hunger of players. It is a difficult exercise: I would not want to frustrate the players out of proportion with the intended result. Perhaps, like children, they should be able to grab their candy when the management / game master looks the other way.

No comments:

Post a Comment