Part 2 of my Resources in Strategy Games post, this time Theming and Resources. If you haven’t read the first part about resources and numbers in games read it here.

My second point is that resources, and thinking about strategy in terms of numbers, leads to irresponsible/thoughtless choice about theming.

It is extremely common for strategy games (and all games really) to exploit resources for their personal gain. The genre 4X games (Civilisation, Age of wonders etc.) means eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. These last two, exploit and exterminate, have so many links to the harmful events in the real world.

In most games, like the previously mentioned StarCraft, resources exist for the player to take until there is nothing left, often themed as mining.

Image result for civilization 5 game

Our lives (including mine as a snake) revolve very closely around resources on a personal and universal level (food, shelter, money, power, land, fossil fuels, energy etc.) so I don’t think it’s very helpful to have consumption and exploitation the key to winning.

If we (as an individual or group) treated any of these resources like we often do in strategy games :for personal gain, we might have an excess but at the cost of everyone else. In the real world, if you take more than your fair share, or are irresponsible with what you do have, people will suffer. I think it’s unfortunate that we landed on this as such a common theme because of the message it communicates, whether the designers intended it or not.

There is nothing about strategy games (or any other genre) that means they have to be about killing and pillaging for personal gain.

When thinking of themes to suit your gameplay, also consider the message that will be mirrored to the real world, outside of your game.

Fun exercise

Design a mini strategy game in the next 20 minutes :D

Whilst you are designing, spend extra attention on the themes you come up with. What does your theme say to the player?

Develop the mini strategy game into a little paper prototype with only some paper and pens :D

I’ve always wanted to write game design articles and stuff so please give me any feedback and I’ll try and make these really good :D

Thanks so much for reading

-Happy Snake

Interested? Check out these other articles:

Video game violence dehumanization (Keith Burgun)

Violence glorification (Keith Burgun)




2 thoughts on “Resources & Numbers in Strategy Games: Part 2

  1. The eXplore and eXploit X’s come together from probability theory. They’re related to learning in general wherever one needs to try strategies to evaluate them.

    Explore = try new strategies to find out how well they work
    Exploit = repeat the best known strategies to rack up points/resources/wins/whatever

    In the context of a single round of a 4X game, the “strategies” are locations for harvesting resources. The Explore/Exploit dynamic is most relevant in a cold and mostly unpopulated game-world, where the available locations greatly outnumber the harvesters so settling on a good one is more important than competing for space.

    Therefore, the Exploit X has a much milder connotation than this article implies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for pointing this out Bucky, I hadn’t thought about it being exploiting a working strategy.

      Exploit is a pretty gross word to use I still think.

      I think there is a problem with theming the game as mining a 1/a million resource heavy, unpopulated planet, but I do agree that if people don’t mean exploit in this way, the way I write about it is harsh of the wrong thing therefor incorrect.

      I’ll make some changes next week to fix this :)


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