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Game Economics

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MarkKreitler
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Hey all,

I'd like to make a Euro-style game where players manipulate the U.S. economy by introducing legislation concerning trade, tariffs, pollution, subsidies, etc. I'd also like to factor in public opinion so that "bad" governance has ramifications for the player.

I know this is broad and ambitious, and I'm not nearly at the design stage, yet. Where I need help is gathering research materials. Can anyone recommend books and/or sites that discuss macro economics (and micro, if appropriate), modeling of government agencies, etc.

A tall order, I know. Thanks in advance for any help and advice.

Mark

Chegra
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Economics

I have a suggestion. Maybe instead of doing deep research into economics you should make it a little bit more topical.
Economics can be a rough subject even for those that enjoy it. The game might be better served if study headlines of economic changes when associated with politics. The news cycle can be more enjoyable to study. The game sounds like a good idea but if you make it too cerebral it might not be as appealing.

MarkKreitler
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Need a solid model

Chegra wrote:
IThe news cycle can be more enjoyable to study. The game sounds like a good idea but if you make it too cerebral it might not be as appealing.

I'm totally with you on that, but the game is going to be part of a high school civics curriculum, so the simulation needs to be solid.

That said, I want to bury the simulation beneath a user-friendly, Euro-style interface. I can cheat and have a computer crunch the numbers. What I'm most interested in is a robust and reasonably accurate-at-large-scales model for the interaction of legislation, the economy, and public opinion.

For example, I'd like the model to be able to handle a "play" like this:

Player decides to subsidize oil, which allows large corporations to extract taxpayer capital and increases ecological pressure from pollution while at the same time allowing the public to enjoy its current quality of life.

Impudent Mortal
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Book

MarkKreitler wrote:
Can anyone recommend books and/or sites that discuss macro economics (and micro, if appropriate), modeling of government agencies, etc.

"Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" by von Neumann and Morgenstern.

MarkKreitler
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Woot!

Impudent Mortal wrote:
MarkKreitler wrote:
Can anyone recommend books and/or sites that discuss macro economics (and micro, if appropriate), modeling of government agencies, etc.

"Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" by von Neumann and Morgenstern.

Cha-ching!

Thanks, IM!

Gimbal
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some good intro to macro economics: Milton Friedman

Check youtube materials on Milton Friedman, who assisted several presidents on economics (but he is a Nobel prize winning doctor)
It will tell you a lot about current economics from one consistent viewpoint (maximum freedom)
example: "Milton Friedman - Rights of Workers (Q&A)", which is a part of his old TV series on economics.

MarkKreitler
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Much appreciated

Gimbal wrote:
Check youtube materials on Milton Friedman, who assisted several presidents on economics (but he is a Nobel prize winning doctor)
It will tell you a lot about current economics from one consistent viewpoint (maximum freedom)
example: "Milton Friedman - Rights of Workers (Q&A)", which is a part of his old TV series on economics.

Excellent! Thanks, Gimbal.

Telc
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Being an economist student

Being an economist student myself (but micro/experimental oriented) I must tell you this:
If you can build a simulation that works like reality then you are a genious and would instantly get the "nobel" price!!
The sad thing is, economists just don't know... there are millions of factors so that equal actions in two seemingly equal situations can have totally different effects on the economy...
We micro guys have it a bit easier since we are looking at individuals but still we actually suck in predicting behavior (since people are quite complicated, too ;) ).

How does this help you? Hmm I think you should focus on very simple mechanics like supply - demand, production costs of goods, limited ressources etc...

As a book why not just something like "economics for dummies". That should capture basic mechanics (that might or might not be a correct description of the world) and therefore be good enough (I didn't read the book though, but like the dummie series in general).

Friedmann is also just from one "school" of economics (I'm no expert there though) and the above mentioned "Theory of games and economic behavior" is more about strategy. (even though very interesting). But nevertheless I think youtube videos of such guys can give you a relatively good understanding of something like interest rates and stuff.

If you want to go a bit deeper some simple first semester economics slides would be a good starting point, or there might be some open lectures on youtube /different university sites! (wanted to search for such forever now..)

Hope it helps!!

MarkKreitler
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Thanks!

Thanks, Telc -- you verified many of my suspicions with your reply. Believe me, I have no illusions about creating a realistic simulation of the world economy. My ambitions, at best, are to integrate well understood sub-systems like supply and demand with player-controlled rules like subsidization/regulation. The ultimate goal is to create a 'lab' in which players can watch capital flow through markets, create and control bubbles, ad' ultimately, see (crudely) how politics and economics interact.

Economic for Dummies is a great suggestion, and something I'd thought about, but was hoping for a recommendation based on one's experience with the book. Can you suggest Amy introductory texts from you own coursework (I would assume you had to take at least one macro class at some point)? I should be able to handle the math -- I have degrees in math and physics, and I do a lot of mathematical simulation in my day job.

I appreciate your help on this!

Mark

Telc
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Well what is used (at least

Well what is used (at least in germany) for basic macro courses is the book
"Macroeconomics" by Nicholas Gr. Mankiw. But this contains many of these "old" models... but actually might also give you some basic understanding!

It's definitely easy to read.

MarkKreitler
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Great!

This is perfect, Telc!

Thank you for your help, and welcome to the forums!

Mark

Mimyr
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The other thing you'll have

The other thing you'll have to keep in mind is that by simplifying and instantiating these mechanics in a game you'll have to find a way to easily display the information while also making it a fun mechanic, public opinion regarding policy shifts is likely going to be a nightmare to do that with.

This is mildly off topic, but it is an example of a game where player choice interacts with public opinion in a reasonable way.

Only game I've ever played that seemed to do it well was, hilariously enough, Xcom: enemy unknown.

As a brief rundown in case you're unfamiliar: Aliens are invading! Oh no! You lead a multi-national force tasked with combating said threat. There are always more mission requests than you can complete in a time frame, and which ones you do raise or lower both global panic and individual country panic (in xcom, panic is public opinion). If a particular country becomes too panicked, they withdraw their financial and personnel support from the project, and if too many withdraw, you lose the game.

Back on topic, I took a fairly interesting course in college that used a text called: Introduction to International Political Economy by Balaam and Dillman. It gave a pretty good overview of the many different perspectives from which to analyze macro economics (lazzie-faire, mercantilist, Marxist, etc.). Added bonus, the 5th edition is available in paperback! I don't know if it's exactly what you want though, since it doesn't actually get into the math behind the viewpoints much.

MarkKreitler
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Thanks!

Thanks, Mimyr, that's all great info.

I'm a video game developer, so I'm familiar with XCom. :) Hadn't really thought of it in the light of this problem, though, so I'm grateful you brought it up.

Of course you're right about keeping the game fun and interesting. Fortunately, I'm envisioning this as an app for mobile/tablet computers, so I can hide most of the math and let the players interact with bright, shiny widgets. I'm envisioning something like Nation State with more player interaction between nations and a more tangible link between policy and economy.

"Introduction to International Political Economy" sounds like a good primer for me. I've found a couple of books that delve more into the math side, so the combination of these books should cover the ground in which I'm interested.

I appreciate the help!

Mark

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