New “ransom” game: Executive Decision

A while back, I blogged about how board-game maker Greg Stolze had pioneered a cool new publishing paradigm — the “ransom model”. It works like this: Stolze describes a new concept he has for a board game, and sets a ransom price for it, like maybe $600. Anyone can donate money to meet that goal. Once the goal is met, he designs the game — and puts it up for anyone to download for free online. It’s a win-win solution: Game-lovers get a new game (with a great “pay what you can” pricing scheme), Stolze gets paid for his work, the larger public can get a free ride off those who are juiced enough to donate money, and piracy is instantly rendered irrelevant.

He’s done two successful ransoms in the past, but now he’s doing a charitable one: Executive Decision, a game for which the ransom is $1,000, all of which will go to the Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina relief. I particularly love the interplay of the charitable focus with the gameplay: Since Katrina was a disaster created almost entirely by governmental bungling and delay, Executive Decision is about precisely the opposite. As Stolze describes:

Executive Decision is a white-knuckle game of political decisionmaking and brinksmanship set in the Oval Office. Players take on the roles of the President and his top advisors, then plunge into the middle of a crisis demanding leadership.

Events in Executive Decision are resolved without recourse to dice, bidding, cards or other random elements: It all boils down to your ability to argue and persuade. The fate of the nation may rest in your hands… if you can only sway the Chief Executive with your words.

I love it. The ransom deadline is Nov. 5, and he’s raised 75% of the funds so far. If you want to throw him some money, here’s the link!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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