In the past few years, simulation games have become so popular that, no matter where you look, you are likely to stumble upon a business game or some kind of management simulation, many of them alike but each unique in its own way, with popular titles ranging from “Roller Coaster Tycoon”, to “Hotel Giant” to “Sim City”. One of the titles that really caught my attention is the widely renowned “Tropico“. Now it’s more relevant than ever, with the upcoming release of the third game in the series, you guessed right, “Tropico 3″, which is already tipped to be one of the strategy game highlights of 2009.
Tropico. Management Simulation Game.
Tropico is strategy simulation game with a philosophical approach, developed by PopTop Software and published by Gathering of Developers. The game was first released in 2001 and is considered one of the finest construction and management simulations ever made and is influenced by other business game masterpieces, such as the aforementioned “Sim City” and “Railroad Tycoon”. Tropico packs up addictive construction-oriented game play combined with Latin American politics and economics, which together make an easy to learn, hard to master habit-forming package.
In Tropico, the Cold war is in full throttle, as the player takes on the position of the all mighty one “El-Presidente”, the newly-installed ruler of the obscure Caribbean paradise island country of Tropico, whose rise to power is doubted to be, how can one say, oh yes, democratic.
Once the game begins, the player must design the characteristics of the island’s leader: how he inherited the mantle of power, if he is allied with the Soviet or Western bloc,what are his strong points and on the contrary, his flaws. You may select a predefined character from a list of real life personas including America’s sworn enemy Fidel Castro, his comrade Che, Argentina and Hollywood’s sweetheart Eva Perón and many more. This phase of the game is a tradeoff, where each decision that the player makes influences the entire course of the game and the leader’s relations with the different factions of the island, so one should carefully plan his strategy if he wants to last in power. This is similar to a small business or entrepreneurship, where much relies on the CEO’s characteristics.
Enough messing around, leading an island is not a child’s play, as the governor you will have to take on all fronts, both domestic and international. Altogether, you have very few resources when you start (like most ambitious startups have in the beginning) and choosing priorities is the name of the game. You must decide whether to play out as an unscrupulous dictator and use brute force to secure your regime, or turn your island into an economic powerhouse bringing in tourists from all around the world, or perhaps become a modern industrial nation marketing yourself as an export giant. No matter which path you take, you must remember that as a leader, you are on constant trial and the jury is the people.
In order to last long, you must please that jury, or find ways to eliminate it if there is no other way. Your style of rule is entirely up to you. Running the island, is much like dealing with HR, finance and management issues that every CEO must take into account. The developers of the game did a fine job of creating balanced political, religious, economic and social factors in the island who spark up tensions all the time, that delicate balance (allowing victory when playing right) is a very complicated accomplishment, that each business game much deal with.
Furthermore, you must struggle to shape your vision, fight off and outlast your political rivalries either by “re-education” or by honest means and secure the people’s happiness by providing food via farms and fishing, housing, jobs and careers, human services like hospitals and schools, building island infrastructure, entertainment and even churches and cathedrals. Tropico provides over 100 of these structures, and many edicts and policies you can choose from and as the population grows and gets scattered around the island you must issue more and fast.
Don’t let your lust for Yankee dollars or a fat Swiss-bank-retirement account, fool you. You shouldn’t let your guard down; you must keep a sharp eye out because danger is always seeking you out, whether it is a coup d’etat led by militant guerilla forces or the private ambitions of the Uncle Sam or the Soviet Union for the island. It’s important to point out that game is not a real time strategy (RTS), at least not in the classic way, but the game is influenced by real historical events such as the Cuban missle crisis, earthquakes, visits from the Pope and more.
In short, the name of the game is cleverly plan ahead to stay in power. Ultimately, the CEO will be held responsible for the success of the company, because he is the one who dictates the way. The question for each CEO is whether he can play that role in history. Can he make the right decisions and invest heavily when needed in the right place and on the right time or cut short bad investments, before it’s too late? In a sense running a business resembles running a Banana Republic, just like the Caribbean island simulation shows; plan your growth well and lead a thriving stabile enterprise to gain your people’s favor, or plan your growth badly and watch as your resources decrease and your opponents get richer while they fantasize about teaching you a lesson in mob justice. Remember, if all fails there is always martial law.
The CEO Game.