StarPower – Simulation Game with Helga Kromp-Kolb & Lisa Bohunovsky

Aug 3, 2017 by

by Katherine Perez and Shatha Hussein

StarPower is a simulation game of a system in which a group is given unlimited power to make and change the rules of the simulation. The aim of the game is to get the participants to rethink their assumptions about the use and abuse of power. In StarPower, the richest person wins. Money is accumulated through trading and bargaining. After a round of bargaining, participants are divided in three different groups according to their wealth: the rich, the middle class and the poor.

The interesting part of this game is to observe how the behaviour of the persons belonging to these different economic classes is shaped by the system they are embedded in. Intending the system as the structure that wealth and power distribution follow.

During the game, the rich group generally felt powerful and corrupted since they had the power of changing the rules but would do it only for their own interests. Some felt guilty too by the hopeless and powerless situation of the poor, although did not act in order to change the rules and improve their condition. This group was very careful to adopt rules that did not endanger their wealth and status. Concerning the middle class, their feelings were overall more relaxed. They were not stressed by the fear of losing their status as the rich group was, and at the same time, they felt relieved that they were not in the poorest group.  Unlike the rich, they experienced more sense of responsibility towards the poor, however this was not enough to make them fight harder in order to change the rules. On the other hand, the poor group felt sad and unlucky. They were helpless and too stressed to think of ideas for improving their condition.

The feelings and power structures recreated in the game reflect the values in which the above mentioned system is built on. The winners of the game were the three richest persons, making wealth the most important intrinsic value in determining success. We can clearly observe how the core values of the systems affect people’s perception of fairness and justice, determining the mechanisms of distribution of available resources.

Like in real life, in this game people’s quality and merit is judged according to their wealth or ability to do the best trade. It therefore makes the richest the ones with better qualities, measured by their success in accumulating wealth.

And again, like in real life, this was not more than “just” a story we like to tell ourselves: there was an essential but subtle trick in the game that affected the probability of success of participants according to their groups. The richest got to chose from special bags with higher value coins, increasing their possibility of success and wealth accumulation and severely reducing their chance of failure. We can see the same in our current economic system, capital owners accumulate wealth at an exponential rate, while those who do not have access to financial resources rely only on their labor in order to meet their needs and attempt to accumulate wealth.

By not challenging the idea that the core structure of distribution of wealth in the system is fallacious, people get in the trap of entitlement, meaning they tend to believe that they fairly earned their wealth, ignoring the fact that their position is based on an unequal system of distribution. Individuals are hence attributed with full responsibility of their position in society. This leads to the absolution of the system and whoever holds power, leaving the burden of poverty on some, and a clean conscience to others.