Little Blog Adventure

A gaming "sketchblog"

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Social Games Assignment

I'm gonna take a look at the game Mafia for this assignment.

1. Describe the social interactions which you observed during play. In what way did these interactions emerge from within the formal elements of the game?

Since the main core mechanic of Mafia is voting to eliminate a player who's suspected of being a Mafia, the game effectively revolved around social persuasion. Basically, at the start of each daylight turn, different players would put forward theories as to who they thought was the Mafia and then attempt to convince all the other players to vote that person out. The accused player would in turn attempt to try and convince everyone of his/her innocence. Social cues became very important. A player who laughed too much might be accused of being a Mafia. In addition, prior experience was brought into the game- one player was voted out because he "looked like a Mafia!" :p

2. Using Sutton-Smith's categorization of social play roles, discuss how the players' roles changed during the course of the game.

I could identify five main social play roles in Mafia- attack, defend, search, mislead, harass and seduce. The players who were Mafia attacked other players during the nighttime turn and all players could, in a democratic fashion, attack each other during the daytime turn. Players have no way to defend against a nighttime attack but they can convince other players of their innocence during the daylight turn to avoid attack. The players who were villagers were attempting to search for the mafia during the daylight turn, while the Mafia would try to mislead them by acting innocent and/or accusing other players of being Mafia, which is a form of seduction since they're tempting the villagers to eliminate one of their own, thus taking them one step closer to defeat.

The accusations certainly contained an element of harassment ("You're the Mafia!" "No way! you're the first person to accuse someone! YOU must be the Mafia!" and so on). In addition, some dead players had a nasty tendancy of voicing out opinions from beyond the grave- though they're actually disallowed from influencing the flow of the game by the rules. Heh.

3. Suggest a modification to the game which will alter the social dynamics that emerge during play.

We actually tried out one such modification during the tutorial class- an addition of an incognito detective who had a chance to find out whether one player was a Mafia or not every turn. Theoritically, this turns the balance in favour of the villagers since one member of their group has some extra knowledge- but in practise it's quite hard for the detective to actually convince players to either spare someone he/she knows ISN'T a Mafia or to execute someone he/she knows IS one, given that the detective can't reveal his/her identity for fear of being elliminated by the Mafia during the next turn.

It's a bit hard to think of another modification for Mafia that wouldn't break the game balance, actually... But I'll take a stab at it anyway. What if there was a player who, instead of being a detective, was a medium? The medium could then ask a "dead" player to point at a player who ISN'T a Mafia. Of course, this means that after a few turns the medium could tell who the Mafia were, but he/she still has the problem of trying to convince all the other players that he/she's telling the truth.


At 2:11 AM, Blogger Swift said...

Yeah, that was what happened to me when I was the priest for the vampire game. Knew who the vampire was, but didn't know how to convince the other players without revealing my role, and then Alex bit me. <_<

At 4:47 PM, Blogger alex said...

Hahahahahaha... (evil laugh)


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