Asymmetric Gameplay, Asymmetric Feedback

One of the fascinating things about an interactive piece like PeaceMaker is that it can take a life of its own. Players get positive messages you didn’t intend to convey, others try very hard to find the bias towards one side or the other. Such is the common observation of “which side is easier”. For example, we got this note from Josh Felberg:

“Something i noticed while playing through both sides is that the job of the Israeli Prime Minister seems to be much more difficult than that of the Palestinian President. Almost every action by the Israeli PM is scrutinized and complained about by either one side or the other, while the actions taken by the Palestinian President seem to generally gain support more easily.”

Interesting to compare to a blogger from a few days ago:

“Playing the Israeli side is actually pretty easy… Playing the Palestinian side, however, is all but impossible. You have no funds with which to institute policy programs or government construction. Talking peace to the Israelis gets you hated by your own people. Deploying police and attempting to arrest militants is pretty much ineffectual.”

It is all new to us, and we will be looking for answers. How come people find the experience so different? Is it related to pre-assumptions that lead the scenario in a certain direction? All I can say is that we aimed to create a realistic and balanced environment, arguably optimistic, with no intention to say that one side holds the key to a solution or that one side is to blame.

3 thoughts on “Asymmetric Gameplay, Asymmetric Feedback

  1. I had read this blog post before I played the game for the first time, so I was anticipating the difficulty of playing the Palestinian side, but I wasn’t fully prepared for how accurately “all but impossible” describes the Palestinian side.

    On the one hand, it would be nice if both sides were symmetrical, but on the other hand it also occurs to me that in a classroom setting (where I hope to use the game), this would be the beginning of a fruitful conversation on the relative abilities of each side to bring about optimal solutions.

  2. I’m not sure what to say on this . . . within owning the game for two hours I was able to win playing both Israel and Palestine. Granted, this was on the ‘moderate’ level. Perhaps surprisingly (?) my rate of violence was *much* lower for playing the PLO.

    Anyway, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are a handful of *must* do items for each side. Have you ever played ‘Axis and Allies’? I always lost at this game because I played against veterans who knew the objectives of the game very well . . . they knew — but I didn’t — that if you played country ‘X’, there were certain things one *must* do immediately, or else winning was impossible.

    PeaceMaker seems to have this kind of mechanism. For example, as the PLO, establishing police patrols, building a prison, and asking the UN to give aid (which they always do) is extremely important within the first few rounds.

    I’m not saying this game is simplistic. I don’t foresee anyone writing a ‘walk-through’ in which you can step by step win the game according to a checklist of sequential actions. The game possesses a fine degree of variability in circumstances. Still, before you speak of the PLO side as impossible . .. I would tinker a bit with your initial moves. They seem to make a huge difference in the general development of a particular game.

  3. The tag line of ‘solve the puzzle’ seems to be appropriate. Each side has different options and reactions. so employing a strategy that worked for one side on the other seems to lead to failure.

    I originally found the Palestinian campaign to be easier. This was because I found that the Palestinians are judged by internal opinion and world opinion. This allows one to make moves early on that really angers the Israelis without it necessarily ending your game. Then, when you have the political capital to make changes you can, leading the Israelis to start approving of you more. Your internal approval rating will drop until you get enough Israeli approval to get a major concession at which point its pretty much a straight shot to the finish.

    I attempted to use a similar tactic with the Israelis but found it failed utterly because the Israeli campaign is judged on internal and Palestinian approval, not international. Whenever I made any headway with the Palestinians the violence would escalate and everything would be lost. Finally I recalled that there were polls and found that monitoring those was more important than the groups when playing the Israelis. Monitoring the ‘suppression’ poll in particular seems to be key. When it drops too low the violence sky rockets. Again, the general strategy of getting some internal support first and then losing it to get Palestinian approval and then using that approval to get major concessions seems to work.

    Now that I’ve figured out ways to do these things I’d say both sides of the game are equally difficult and enlightening. The same general strategy is the same for both but how to do it with your options and the reactions is wildly different. It is, as the tagline indicates a puzzle. When you figure out one side and can’t figure out the other it’s easy to assume asymmetry in the difficulty. However, in this case its just a matter of needing to spend more time figuring out the other puzzle.

    Thanks ImpactGames for a great experience!

    PS Any chance of an update reflecting the Hamas take over of Gaza?