Playing with the Company 5: a World Made by Greed

He held out his hands and added brightly, “And it cuts overhead costs by sixty percent!
Kage Baker, The Sons of Heaven

Greed, not the greater good
The novels of the Company describe a future where capital comes to dominate the whole history of the world, where stock in a company entitles to a share in the plunder of the past, where the events are shaped by greed and other vices. In this world, official History does not reflect the truth. It is but a Potemkine village hiding exploitation; not the worst exploitation, mind you -the members of the board of Dr. Zeus do not revel in the misery of other human beings-, but the farthest-reaching ever devised.
All of it is the result of a business plan: Dr. Zeus Incorporated provides customers with information, items and living things of all origins. Cyborgs are listed as assets and employees. Somewhere, there is a balance sheet where their fate is weighed by accountants. Cyborgs are not supposed to better humanity in the course of their operations. If they help civilization move along, it is only because, doh, at the end of civilization lies the Company, so civilization is the way to go, or so goes corporate logic.
There are not enough checks and balances to prevent the Company from resorting to unethical practices. The Company develops a "production force" without regard for ethics nor sustainable development and, when faced with the human resources equivalent of nuclear waste, picks the wrong choices.

How would greed impact gameplay?
I am no accountant but I think a game based on the Company novels should factorize three elements.

1) The heavy cost of transportation of employees and items into the past, combined with initially limited cashflow, means the Company minimizes time travel at first. Later in narrative time, when the revenue kicks in (exponentially), it can expand its time-traveling operations enormously. However, this is done at the expense of possibilities. This is the entropic trade-off: as the Company gets rich, History calcifies.

2) The procuration of items as social control: the dog does not bite the hand of the master who feeds it. Cyborgs are provided with equipment and delicacies such as alcohol or even Theobromos. At some level, such resources are part of the delicate formula of programming, monitoring and other techniques devised to help control the cyborgs. One can imagine, for example, that the official goal of a game, as the Silence gets closer, would be to accumulate good performance reviews in order to get a big bonus with one's 2355 pension plan.

3) Capital changing hands. Who owns the Company indeed? As time goes by, the system embodified by the Company is less and less motivated by greed. Employees, managers and even stockholders can stop being on top of things.

The process of changing History is like Clausewitzian War; once begun, it takes a life of its own and pursues its own objectives according to its own internal logic. Greed is just the kickstarter.

No comments:

Post a comment