Rules, Conditions Need Apply

By: Michael Movsum

ID: 27205961

Class: English 255B

Handed to: Carolyn Jong


Human existence is defined and limited by specific physical and chemical laws that allow us to exist. Such laws can have a wide range of applications anywhere from the behavior of our cells down to the molecular level to the behavior of a human being in a social system. Whether these sets of rules and conditions for life on Earth were conceived by a higher being or our existence is simply the result of fortuitous happenstance, rules of nature are immutable. Were they somehow altered, so too would change the characteristics of human life. On the other hand, the virtual rules of worlds we created ourselves are much more flexible than ours; by changing the value of some parameters in video games, characters will respond differently to virtual stimuli.

For the most part, the rules and restrictions of a videogame world are an imitation of ours. Such restrictions can be our interactions with solid objects; a normal human being can’t move a house without the aid of some outside force. In video games, it is possible to create a force to push the house, or even to make a character capable of the feat. Here will apply the concept of procedural rhetoric, a set of rules made by the game designer/programmer that dictate the functions and options at the disposal of the player to defeat any given obstacle in a game1. The choices made by the player to overcome the problem will in turn affect the reaction of the game world by creating new obstacles in response to the player’s decision, consequently continuing the cycle.

In Republica Times, the player is placed in charge of operating a newspaper, choosing between what articles to print and what articles to ignore, juggling the amount of people that read the paper, the government and the loyalty of the readers. Each of these “factions” will impose on the player a certain set of rules in order to keep them happy. One factions may value a newspaper that prints a lot of articles, while another might prefer being limited only to a few positive ones. The challenge comes when the only available headlines can be too grim to print. The player has to make a choice between which faction to appeal to and which to alienate. If a faction’s approval rating drops too low, its game over.The mechanics of the game and its story are both intrinsically tied. You can play through this game multiple times and because the articles are randomized you’ll have to cater to your audience differently each time. Therefore each replay can be different to the last. The game world then reacts by changing the values that affect the factions’ interests and impression of the paper, which in turn forces the player to adapt to the situation by balancing out which of the factions they’ll need to appeal to within the confines of the game’s refreshed conditions.

In video games, the rules we play by and choices we make are a reflections of those present in real life: the choices made in Republica Times being quite similar to the ones made by elected officials every day. Politicians have to choose between various “factions” such as the people that elected them, the government and its policies as well as numerous other interest groups. Appealing to or even favoring a particular faction runs them the risk of upsetting the others and losing their favor. Much like in the game, the political world is a juggle of interests of various divisions where a slight misjudgment of the current “stats” could lead to a game over.


  • Bogost, I. (n.d.). Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames.
  • The Republica Times. Lucas Pope. 2013. Videogame
Rules, Conditions Need Apply

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