Monday, July 9, 2007

Organic Leadership

One of the biggest surprises from the GXC test launches was undoubtedly the richness and variety of governmental styles adopted by the various teams. True, Yale and Harvard may be weird test markets. But this doesn't mean that we can't take the things that happened there and separate the elements inherent to human nature from the weird things that only Harvard kids will do.

As we've mentioned before, over 50% of all undergraduates played the game at both Yale and Harvard, and a lot of interesting social dynamics emerged. One of the most notable features of the test games was the development of organic leadership positions and structures. In all, it worked in microcosm much the way one can imagine an early civilization developing a government over a period of generations.

Obviously, I'm much more familiar with the Yale game. And as one of the most politically-focused campuses in the country, Yale obviously presents an interesting test case. In all, I saw a few major forms of government emerge:
  1. The Roman. Triumvirates and co-leaderships were surprisingly common, especially early in gameplay. These would typically arise from "whoever had control of the email list" complemented by one or two intense strategists. Examples: early Bingham, Farnam
  2. The Idi Amin. This was perhaps the most effective system of government encountered. It's also the most straightforward -- one intelligent, charismatic leader brings all orders down from on high, and the players accept and follow with minimal infighting. Example: Durfee
  3. The Athenian. Democracy, it was found, was often the last resort of teams on the decline and often little more than an excuse for widespread infighting. Still, some teams stuck with their 20+ member-councils. God bless them. Example: late Bingham
  4. The Somalian. Others never quite got it together. Between infighting clans, Argentine-style presidential succession plans and uncoordinated attacks, the anarchaic teams rarely made a significant presence in the game. The fact that no individual was directly responsible for new player recruitment is probably a big contributing factor. Examples: Vanderbilt, L-Dub, Lawrance

So what can we make of all this? What social variables drove some teams to become democracies, while others were perfectly suited to an absolute monarch? Could this provide us with any lessons beyond the gaming space? What drives nations to their respective styles of government, and why can forcefully replacing one style of government with another often be a recipe for failure?

This isn't a political or current events blog, but I wanted to give everyone a taste of some of the questions that are raised (at least in my mind) by these games. Be on the lookout for more analysis, and specific study of what makes these social dynamics click.

- Brad

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