Interlocking Cogs – PtP Nuts and Bolts

So in the last post about Play the Planet, I provided the historical context for the economic model of the game, and having done that, now it’s time to start putting the various pieces together into a cohesive whole.

At the root, Play the Planet is actually three separate subsystems, meshed together like cogs in a wheel that drive a larger whole. Those three cogs are:

The “game cog,” which is driven by the LMS (Learning Management System), which houses the quests that the players use as one of their means of interacting with the game itself, and driving forward progress. These quests, as we covered in the last section, aren’t performed in isolation, but rather, in the context of a Holon, which provides a specific geographic frame of reference, and is useful for locating other players in close proximity (useful in terms of larger, more complex quests that require allies to complete).

Hand in hand with this is the “productivity cog,” which is in place to provide a communications framework that allows players, non profit groups, and interested citizens to communicate and interact with each other in ways that cut across traditional boundaries. This is important because in looking at the not for profit ecosystem, what we find is that each individual group is most often working in isolation. That is to say, while there ARE cases where non profits come together for brief periods to collaborate, these are the exception, and not the rule. Using the Holon as an umbrella, everyone IN a Holon, regardless of their affiliation with a particular group, can come together to collaborate on solutions to problems specific TO that Holon. This is done WHILE maintaining each individual group’s ability to communicate internally. In other words, each Holon has a suite of productivity, communication, and planning tools, which are replicated for individual groups, allowing both Holon-level and individual group communications simultaneously and seamlessly.

Finally, there’s the “Administrative Cog,” which recognizes that the system requires a not-insignificant amount of maintenance if it is to be the means by which actual work is done. There are forums to moderate, blogs to manage, files to archive and maintain, quests to moderate, disputes to adjudicate, and a host of other “behind the scenes” activities that MUST occur if the system is to maintain cohesion. These activities are quests also. Players can choose to be part of the administrative system that makes the game function, and be rewarded for those efforts just as players who go out into the world and help their fellow man.

What this game ultimately does then, is that it creates a system which encourages the creation of an ever growing cadre of servant leaders in communities around the world.

These cogs are lubricated by a variety of structures that help tie the various elements together. For instance, structured interaction between two players is considered to be a “transaction,” and at every transactional point, the players get the opportunity to “rate” one another. The rating system is tied to each player’s profile (one to five stars, akin to eBay’s rating system which is triggered when a purchase transaction is completed), and is a matter of public record. Your profile rating is, in effect, your resume of public service. People can tell at a glance who is trustworthy, and who is not. The system becomes self-policing.

The rating system is important in other ways too, because it has ties to the economic model.

One of the abilities that players can unlock as they gain experience is the ability to run a negative credit balance. The more four- and five-star ratings you get when you help your fellow man, the higher your “line of credit” can grow. One and two-star interactions decrease your creditworthiness. Since Gc can be used to buy real world goods and services, this matters, and what it essentially means is that players become their own “central bank,” with the size of the loans they can make to themselves being governed by how many times they’ve helped their fellow man. How many good works and deeds they have actually performed.

Note that this “line of credit” isn’t available to new players, but rather, is an EARNED ability, granted once a player has an established track record for helping others, making it rather difficult to “game the system.”

I should also mention here, that there are actually two KINDS of PtP accounts planned. Paid and Free. The distinction and difference between the two is as follows:

Free account holders can make full use of the system as it presently exists. Paid users can extend and expand the existing system.

What that means in practice is this: Paid users can create new groups and blogs (including eCommerce blogs, where products are priced both in dollars and Gc), and create “Votables” which are fund raisers that the community can vote on and rank according to their importance TO the community. While anyone (free or paid) can vote on a Votable issues, only paid users can create them.

This is relevant because after the site pays salaries, and funds ongoing development, any money that’s left over will get poured back into the community. Each month, the votable that got the highest number of votes will be the project that the site helps to fund. If there’s still money left after funding the community’s top pick, we’ll move on to the votable that got the second highest number of votes, and so on. Democracy in action, and the community itself gets to direct where our profits go, and which problems they solve. Do we help the Salvation Army buy a bigger warehouse, or do we buy the industrial washer and dryer for the homeless shelter? Those things are determined by the number of votes they garner from within the community. Thus, growing the Holon you’re based out of is an important consideration, because of course, projects in YOUR Holon are more likely to get votes from other players living in your Holon.

In “game language” Holons are like “factions,” and groups within Holons (say, the “Salvation Army Group – Grayson County Holon”) would be specific alliances within that faction. Groups have Gc “Wallets” just like individuals do, so group members can pool their Gc to fund projects of a scale that an individual would be hard-pressed to perform on his/her own, and as the system matures, this will be one of the means by which large scale projects gain traction.

All of this, by the way, is informed by real world metrics. The US Department of Agriculture, for example, gives us a county-by-county breakdown of the number of food insecure people in the nation. Using this metric, and others like it, a Holon can track with a high degree of accuracy, how it’s doing in terms of improving. These become the game’s “scoring mechanisms,” except that of course, instead of shooting for a high score, you’re actually shooting for zero. Zero food insecure people. Zero homeless in a given county (Holon), and so on, and of course, all of these stats are kept up to date by virtue of various Archival quests.

So that, in a very large nutshell, is Play the Planet, what it does, how it does it, and why.

This is the reason I made the career choices that I made. I needed the flexibility of a freelancing career so I could work on this project. And now you know the basics.

Imagine this system at maturity. The entire concept of “work” and “job” could, at least for serious players, become utterly meaningless. Life is work, and vice versa. Rather than having a “job” in the traditional sense, you simply commit to living your life in the service to others. To Playing the Planet, and as you do so…as you complete quests that ask you to help your fellow man, you are rewarded for those efforts with Gc, which you use to cause the resources you need to flow to you and your family as a consequence of your good works.

The system is self selecting, too. Since it REQUIRES acts of service to generate Gc, people looking for a handout won’t find one here. You have to EARN your Gc. It’s not a “job” per se, but it IS work, and people who don’t want to work either won’t sign up in the first place, or if they do, they won’t get good reviews, and will eventually just drop out of the system.

The great thing though, is that this fits into anyone’s schedule. You don’t need to ask anyone’s permission to perform acts of service, you just do it. You have to get approval to work overtime at your job, but you can earn Gc here any time you feel like it, which you can spend on REAL goods and services, absolutely any time you want, because let’s face it, there’s always SOMETHING that needs to be taken care of, right?

Oh! Forgot one more thing. The site will also have a “Craigslist-style” classifieds system called “Needawanna.” This system will allow users to post goods or services for sale, priced in Gc, or advertise that they need help completing a quest (which of course, also carries a Gc reward for the person who helps the user complete the quest). Having a totally user driven market for Gc is pivotal in terms of helping foster a vibrant market of goods and services.


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