Standard Disclaimer: I'm a wannabe video game designer. From time to time I come up with ideas that are on the brink of plausibility. I've decided write my ideas up on E2. I’m hoping that one day it will be read by a real games designer, who might actually make this game. In return I would promise to buy it when it's on sale in my local Electronics Boutique.

The pitch: “Pokémon for executives”

The inspiration for this idea came whilst I was bored, waiting in an Executive lounge in Heathrow Airport. Suited executives would pass time by beaming business cards between their pocket computers. The execs were bragging about how well connected they are, and who they knew.

I overheard a movie industry exec boast that Anthony Hopkins had beamed him a virtual business card. The actor had recently purchased a Palm Pilot and had beamed his details to the exec. Obviously, it’s a cool thing to have a famous actor’s details in your Palm Pilot. Collecting a rare virtual business card creates similar emotions to owning a rare Pokémon card. It occurred to me that there is potential for a game based on swapping virtual business cards.

The objective of the game would be simple; collect virtual business cards of the great and the good. Become the most influential networker in your community. The more people you know, the higher your score. The higher your score, the more people want to know you, because you become more important in the network.

Of course, not every business card is worth the same. Some are more desirable than others. For example, we would expect the famous actor Anthony Hopkins to be worth more than my unknown housemate Ben Barringer. However, each time you swap a card, its value would depreciate. That’s because it’s cooler to be somebody who knows a celeb, rather than somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody etc… who knows that celeb.

So if I knew Anthony Hopkins, and were to pass his virtual card onto you, that virtual card might be worth significantly less to you than it is to me because you had it second hand. Getting Anthony Hopkin’s virtual card 4th hand might be about as valuable as Ben Barringer’s 1st hand.

I wouldn’t want the game to be limited to Hollywood celebrities. I should like the game to encompass all fields where celebrities exist. Business, Geeks, Models, Doctors… anybody who has a virtual business card should be tradable.

Also, I would quite like there to be a combative element to the game – people could battle their collection of celebrities against one another – in a similar way that Pokémon players can fight as well as trade their monsters. One player might pick a team of 6 celebs from their set and wager that their team are more famous than the other player’s team.

This is how I imagine it will work:

Business Exec: Trade you Martin Sorell for Anthony Hopkins?

Film Exec: No way, Anthony Hopkins is worth far more than Martin Sorell!

Business Exec: Okay, I will fight you for him… If I win, you beam me Anthony Hopkins. If I loose I will give you Jeff Bezos…

Film Exec: Okay lets fight!

Unresolved problems:

Of course, there are a few technological flaws in this concept at the moment. The biggest weakness, is that today’s palm computers provide no way of verifying that a business card is genuine. It would be easy to fake a celebrity’s business card and ruin the game for other players.

The makers of this game would need to provide an updated version of the address book application that applied digital signatures each time a card is beamed. In this way business cards would be subject to an audit trail. It would be easy to work out the exact sequence of swaps that allowed an individual to receive a card.

Another difficult problem is deciding how much each virtual card is worth. The only solution I came up with was that there should be an Internet based conduit application that would upload part of the digital signatures to a central database. The most keenly traded cards could be recognised and would be worth more points. This still does not solve the problem that fame is relative. Every geek knows who Linus Torvalds is, but how many consultant surgeons have heard of him? It would take quite a bit of research to develop a fair reputation system.

Apart from the rather obvious privacy issues, there is a hidden benefit to this scheme. If I passed on my business card to somebody I would be able to work out how many other people had received it. I could inform other users that I had changed my details or even opt-out of the system entirely, removing my personal information from other people’s databases.

If you liked this idea, you might enjoy reading about The Game where you get to Shoot People on TV.

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