Watch the Skies NYC Rookie Day – Additional Thoughts from China’s Chief Scientist

As a follow up to David’s post from the point of view of China’s Foreign Minister, I expanded on a few of his lines from my vantage point of Chief Scientist.

Trading technology

“I am not 100% sure what happened to the economies of the other countries, but I know that by the end of the game China was carrying the weight of more than half of the world at the UN, and that the Science Ministers for our allies Russia and India were essentially living off of a grant from the Lisa Radding (China’s Science Minister) Science Foundation as they could not afford to successfully conduct their own research.”

For at least the first half of the game, I took for granted that I had money to spend on researching technology. I had only a vague notion of how brilliantly/ accidentally my team members crafted our economic success.  As we approached the final turns, our allies were increasingly eager to trade technologies. I couldn’t see why we shouldn’t, given that trades were mutually beneficial. Thus I spent a lot of time discussing technology trades with India’s Chief Scientist. This was a nice addition to game play, because by then I had optimized my consultant choice and mastered my artifact searching strategy. And I’d realized that searching for artifacts had become pointless.

Lisa and David

Artifacts and money

Although the economics worked for China, I don’t think the economics worked for Science. Every Chief Scientist had an abundance of artifacts. We spent the game looking for artifacts, but I frequently found myself wondering why I was even bothering, as the barrier to gaining more technologies was always the money, even in China’s economic position. I think the balance needs to be reworked because otherwise a substantial part of the science game loses its meaning.

Goals and scoring

It wasn’t made clear to us whether it was better to have more technology in general, or more advanced technologies.

I’m still not sure how they scored technology advancement.”

Figuring out what technology to research was an interesting challenge, and at times, quite frustrating because different goals were at odds with each other. For instance, I started researching spy technology, because China. But then my Deputy Head of State had more technology than she could use. When she did use it, she didn’t find that she gained any useful intelligence. So I abandoned that technology path in favor of military technology, which my Military Commander was increasingly interested in. But switching technology tracks might have been a less efficient way to win technology, which was a stated goal.

At one point in the game, I was in the lead for technology because I got to roll the dice for some technology bonus set up by the UN, but by the end of the game, after I switched from spy technology to military technology, I ultimately didn’t win.

Watch the Skies - International Science Conference

At first I was frustrated that it was unclear what any given technology was before I researched it, but as the game progressed, I came to enjoy the surprise of opening each new prize.

Artifact hunting

The science game of searching for artifacts was intense, and really exciting, at least for the first half the game, when it was meaningful.

We were searching the world (a world map) for artifacts left by aliens. These would be located at the places where Military Commanders had engaged with aliens in the previous round. It makes sense that we would go to these locations after the military skirmishes, but for the first two rounds, nobody understood this. Our Deputy Heads of State would rush in from the Military room to relay information about alien landings right as we were about to scour the map for artifacts. Game Control straightened that out pretty quickly. By searching after, we could easily chat with our Military Commanders in the second half of each turn, in preparation for the next turn, but I missed the rush and intensity of needing information from the Deputy Heads of State.

After we understood how it worked, Science was more isolated. My Deputy Head of State would poke her head in to ask if I needed anything, but I never did.

“This is a game that requires a certain type of player. It requires intense, prolonged attention, quick thinking, and a commitment to seeing the game through, regardless of where the game takes you.

If you’re prepared for this level of gameplay, then I cannot recommend this enough.”

This is true for every player, in every role. But the roles take different types of prolonged and quick thinking. Where the Foreign Ministers negotiate and verbally spin political situations at the drop of a hat, the Chief Scientist must calculate dice rolls and strategize turns in a more traditional table top game sense. The Science game takes intense strategic play, but it’s a very different game from that which the other players experience. It doesn’t actually involve much interaction with others, be they your own cabinet members or other Chief Scientists. And if you don’t strategize well, nobody knows but you. Unless your cabinet members wonder why other teams can do cool things that they can’t.

This was the perfect role for me because I am not a diplomat. I’m organized and strategic within set goals. I like to learn a system and then master it. I don’t excel with shifting goals and situations that change instantaneously. I’m also not a great liar.

This is why I never intended to speak to press.

My near catastrophe with the press

The Reporter from the science newspaper points this out in a comment on the blog post by the Brazil Deputy Head of State:

“… the Chinese Head Scientist basically confirmed to me on the record the existence of aliens, telling me she was out of the country chasing alien artifacts during the contaminated rice thing, basically trying to spin the fact that her scientists f’d up the food research while she was out Indiana Jones-ing … That actually happened twice in the game, non-political players telling me about aliens…”

Yup, I did that.

This was the first I was hearing about bad rice, so the goal in my head was spin this conversation away from rice. That, and Where is my Head-of-State-or-Foriegn-Minister-PR-Mastermind? My entire perspective was my science game, which was about hunting for alien artifacts, and which I was still focused on mastering because it was really early in the game. I simply forgot that the World didn’t know about aliens; I forgot the larger goal of the game; PR wasn’t on my radar. I’m quite thankful that Game Control wouldn’t let him publish that. I won’t make the mistake again as I have learned the words, “no comment.”

It can be challenging to balance the goals of each role with the overall goals of the game. And it should be.

Watch the Skies - China in a box

Be ready to play

“From our perspective, Brazil was on a short list of teams that really showed up to play, and we had a lot of respect for them.”

It was really exciting to play with the people who really came to play, from any country, in any role. There was something about spending the game in heels, an Asian jacket, and a chopsticks hairdo that made my experience that much better. It was fun to trade technologies with a man in a lab coat and plastic gloves. I loved seeing my boyfriend strut out of the UN in his suit, red tie, and Chinese flag pin. I liked that I knew the Brazilians were Brazilian or a Military Commander was a Commander. If you are going to play a Megagame, do it 100% down to your outfits. It elevates the experience.

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