Mars Colony 12 Principles of Play — No. 9

Remember Optimism. It’s okay for Kelly, her colleagues, or the players to be optimistic and believe in something. When you are playing a game about failure firmly planted in the mire of contemporary fear, it’s natural to allow the game to descend into a similarly dark place. Exploring cynicism is a fine way to play Mars Colony, but try to stay connected with a sense of humanity and hope. Failure isn’t really failure without loss — especially if that loss is accompanied by the erosion of hope. Hope, though, isn’t something that needs to die. A fundamental conceit of the game is that Kelly really wants to save the colony. She may be an idealist, or she may be an opportunist. Good or bad, what doesn’t change is an underlying desire to see the colony succeed. If you lose track of that fact, the game will transform into a fatalist exercise in passing the time. Don’t allow that to happen.

As Governor, one of the most powerful things you can do is introduce a character who reminds Kelly of what she’s fighting for. It may be a counterintuitive realization, but, if Kelly seems to be stuck in a cycle of negativity, the best Opposition Scene may be one where Kelly is forced to encounter unlikely optimism amidst the struggle to survive. This may come in the form of her Sympathy character. It may be more powerful, on the other hand, to show Kelly the citizens of the colony most affected by the over-stressed infrastructure, poor safety conditions, draconian restrictions on speech, or the like. But don’t stop there. Show Kelly one or two specific characters with likable personalities who refuse to give up, who are still fighting for some of the things that Kelly gave up on. In other words, in extreme situations, the best opposition may be unwelcome inspiration to do better.