Sunday, August 10, 2008

Makin' Whuffie

On Thursday, I wandered over to the library over lunch to return a pile of books. While I was there, I picked up a copy of Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. While I'd read many of C.D.'s blog posts, I hadn't read one of his novels before. I finished it, umm, Friday night, I think.

It was a quick read, and I enjoyed it. Like most good sf novels, it had some really interesting ideas that lurked in the background. In this case, one of those ideas is called Whuffie. Whuffie is, essentially, a constantly-updated weighted reputation score (like karma on some websites - or something like Google's pagerank if applied to people) that not only informs social interactions, but serves as the basis for the economy in Down and Out's scarcity-free future. Practically speaking, whuffie is buying power.

In some ways, we aren't that far away from such an economy today. Image is everything. How things score in opinion polls is almost as important as how well the reality of them sells. People who are widely respected are given free things in the hopes that they will speak well of them.

One of the first things I thought of was that an economy like this would be awesome for a near-future shadowrun-like campaign. The PCs could be operatives who make or break reputations via sabotage, espionage, troubleshooting, set-ups, and blackmail. It wouldn't all be 'breaking' either. Giving PCs the assignment of making sure an event goes off without a hitch - or to come up with a creative way of making their client look like a hero could be interesting. The PCs may decide to work on their own to boost their own reps as well - which would be pretty cool.

I could run a campaign like that.

This also got me thinking of PC adventurers more generally as celebrities, or even reality TV stars. I've never been particularly interested in X-Crawl, but the idea is somewhat intriguing all of a sudden. I do like the idea of equipment-makers seeking out the PCs for product endorsements.


Nick Novitski said...
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Nick Novitski said...

Well, now I want to make a Gibson-inspired (or Shadowrun-inspired sans magic, if you prefer) game of Metasystem with a Whuffie resource. Down and Out, despite lacking that "cyberpunk" feel for me (probably because the narrator/protagonist talks too much, but there's also little overt body-modification or theft or AI or other Gibsonian standards), struck me as an exercise in proving that even in a post-scarcity era, there could still be cyberpunk people: teetering on the edge, driven by need, broken down by life or even, how could I say it...down and out?

But I'm biased. Lately, everything looks like a job for Metasystem to me. I think I need to make a game with it, just to get it out of my sys...uhh, just to get it off my mind.

David M Jacobs said...

A similar sort of thing appears in Charles Stross' Accelerando -- which is well worth a read, IMO, if you haven't already.