A Force More Powerful – Part I: The Game & Gameplay

March 31, 2009

A Force More Powerful (AFMP) is a non-violent strategy game that is focused on using non-violent tactics to accomplish a social goal, which can range from freeing an unjustly jailed social figure, to overthrowing a corrupt dictator.

Having played several strategy computer games in the past, I decided to jump right into AFMP. Gameplay takes place in one of several scenarios that range from overthrowing a dictator to convincing a local government to investigate the level of corruption in your city. I decided to go with the scenario, “bringing down a dictator”, which is named after the goal you try to accomplish; bringing down your nation’s corrupt dictator. Although there was a lengthy text-based introduction, and more than several pieces of background information (which unbeknownst to me was incredibly vital to any possible success), I decided to go straight into the game.

The actual gameplay consists of picking members of your organization, choosing a type of tactic for them to do, and choosing a target for their tactic. For example, you can tell someone to fundraise for your group through the local University Student Association, or tell your group leader to organize a vigil outside your city’s police station. However, it often takes money and a certain number of people (the game’s resources) to accomplish each task. Your movement’s money is generated by organizations that are a part of your coalition, along with successful fundraisers done by members of your coalition. The number of people available to your movement represents how many organizations have joined your cause (the game refers to your coalition as an alliance). To increase the number of people available to use for tactics, you must use strategies to shift unaligned or opposition organizations to your alliance. Ultimately, by bringing many organizations and individuals to your alliance you are able to carry out powerful tactics that weaken the support structure of the regime, and help you accomplish your goal.

My first stab at bringing down the dictator did not result well. Within three gameplay months, my leader and three quarters of my members were arrested, while my alliance only had the support of two local organizations. While I tried to use my jailed characters’ public images through both publicized hunger strikes and vigils that took place at the prison, the government would not release my members. Seeing that I was well on my way to failure, I decided to restart the campaign.

My second try was a bit more fruitful. I began to use more low-profile tactics (tactics that do not alert the current regime) to recruit new members and organizations. However, somehow my members were all once again arrested, and by the end of the first year I was left with only two members in my organization.

At this point, I decided it was time to read the manual and pay closer attention to scenario details. This left me with a stronger appreciation of the level of detail that is found in this game. Outside of tactics, every person and organization in the AFMP game-world has a list of policy preferences that deal with taxes, immigration, corruption, due process, freedom of speech, etc. One of the hardest parts of AFMP is trying to increase the membership of your alliance while satisfying everyone’s ideology. In fact, I had ignored this the first two times playing this game, which in turn led to a high propensity of having infiltrators in my group that then led to most of my members were arrested.

While there are many more features of AFMP, I am still attempting to get a firm enough grasp on these details to write about them. However, I am 7 months into a new campaign with only two individuals in jail (a clear victory for me). Hopefully after playing through and succeeding in a scenario or two I can continue to reflect on my experience with this teaching-tool/video game. Next week, I hope to continue write about features of the game and also discuss the benefits and limits of using AFMP as a way to train activists.

– Aaron

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