I just had a radical thought: why does this game need turns? In all my testing, I do the same thing: set up my taxes and subsidies at the outset, then run though all the turns without changing anything. In other words, my play cycle is simple: set all my inputs, then play, in effect, one turn with those, seeing how everything comes out in the end. The intermediate turns aren’t important to me.
Here’s another way of thinking about it: would a player really want to be constantly adjusting the inputs? Is there any good reason to start off with one tax setting and then change that setting later? Let’s suppose that there’s an optimal set of inputs; if there is, then could altering those inputs improve overall performance? I suppose so, but the improvement would likely be small.
Another approach: will the player be confused by a too-busy approach to the game? That is, if the player comes up with one group of inputs, and then wiggles them through the game, will they really learn the lessons of the game? How can they divine the effects of their actions if their actions are so complicated?
The game is already complicated enough with my single-move approach. I find it difficult to see the effects of my actions as is; if I were twiddling inputs, it would become impossible to figure out.
Another line of thinking: which would be more educational for the student: setting up one set of policies, then showing the effects of those policies, or play turn by turn?
Another: I initially had the game proceed one turn at a time, but later decided that this involved too much busywork, so lengthened the turn to five years. If that first lengthening was a good thing, why not go all the way?
All these lines of reasoning suggest that I should reduce the game to a single turn. In other words, the game consists of many attempts to optimize results. I’m reluctant to do this. It will certainly impose a problem that I’ll have to reprogram the game to be restartable, which is always a pain.
What about the students figuring out the single best set of inputs and then spreading the information? I suppose that this problem exists with any number of turns.
I’m intellectually convinced but not yet emotionally committed to the change.
Further thoughts, December 12th
Here’s a counterargument: the student should experience the short-term panic that comes from immediate problems. For example, right now the effects of climate change are minimal; a student making decisions today should be affected by the situation today. If the student sees only the end results, they will plan only for the end time, ignoring the intermediate times.
One possible solution is to give the student a cumulative score. That is, the final score is based on all the points accumulated to the end. That makes a lot of sense, as it holds the student responsible for what happens in the middle years of the game. If it’s done this way, then the student gets to view the big picture.
I shall implement the cumulative score and see how that affects play.