Hobby-hacking Eric


Early Career Researcher: the computer game

Here's an idea for a computer game called Early Career Researcher. The simple version being a fairly mindless turn-based RPG-esque deal. Nothing earth shattering in terms of game mechanics, but perhaps an amusing toy.

You have
  • personal attributes (eg. writing, social skills, initiative)
  • inputs (eg. ideas, papers to review)
  • daily resources (eg. time, energy)
  • actions (eg. check email, write paper, write grant proposal, lab work [or some generic term for "actual" research leg work], take nap, go to pub)
  • outcomes (eg. paper accepted, grant awarded, contract extension)
  • light bulbs (XP)
The goal of the game is just to maximise light bulbs. The basic model is that every turn consists of a "day" (a day should take about 5-10 minutes to play). In each day, you can do any number of actions, but the kinds of actions are limited by the inputs and daily resources you have. For example, you could do write a paper, but in order to do so, you'd need a paper-topic resource to consume, not to mention time. Likewise, you could check your email and it may only take a few minutes, but it could also use up a lot of your energy. Actions may result in outcomes, but whether or not they do so depends on a combination of personal attributes and luck. For example, writing a paper may result in paper accepted, depending on writing skills, research-fu and the dice roll. Going to the pub (presumably chatting with colleagues) may result in Ideas depending on social skills and creativity and the dice roll. Outcomes generate inputs (eg. ideas) and Lightbulbs (XP). If you get enough XP to level up, you can use your lightbulbs to purchase personal attributes.

As the game develops it should become clearer that it's important to choose your actions wisely, and also to pay attention to the notion of balance. Spending all your time doing lab work or writing grant proposals may seem like a good idea, but if you fail to spend enough time in the pub or take sufficient naps, you may not generate sufficient idea resources to make very much progress. Or maybe if you're too lazy and spending all your time just trying to be inspired, you just don't make sufficient practical progress to get anywhere.

So if anybody wants to code this up as a little exercise...