When I was a lot younger, I watched a documentary, the thesis of which stuck with me for a long time after. It was about a young woman, a teenager, who had inherited a vast sum of money when her wealthy parents had died. The documentary was focused on her life, the circumstances of her parents demise, but none of those details stuck with me. What stuck with me was something the young woman was quoted as saying:
“I wish there was no money. All my money does is cause problems. If there was no money, there would be no problems.”
When I first heard this, I rebelled against it. What entitlement! To have been handed the world on a platter and to want to give it back. Or at least say that you do.
But as I grew, I got more leftist and more radical. And ironically, I found myself agreeing with this rich girl more and more. After all, don’t I believe that life’s problems flow from the existence of money?
The role of wealth in young people’s lives is at the center of “#Rich Kid Problem$“, a Powered-by-the-Apocalypse game by Maria Mison. It starts with a decidedly capitalist-sounding theme:
Play the sons and daughters of warlords, mafia bosses,
monopolist media houses and your favorite corporate
hegemony. That’s right! Be born Filthy Rich TM
But this is an immensely anti-capitalist game. It takes the theme that wealth, for all it’s advantages, is a prison for young people. The idea, that I subscribe to, that eliminating income inequality would be to both the spiritual and material benefit of rich and poor alike.
A few caveats as I dig in. This game is very much the product of a lived experience I have little exposure to. The author is a person of color, living in a country I have never been to (the Philippines). What income inequality is to me is likely very different from what it is to them. I’ll be giving my own perspective and interpretation of the game, and how it landed with me, but I hold no illusions about having the “correct” interpretation of this work.
At it’s core, #RKS is a game about empathy:
LET’S PLAY #RichKidProblem$
Not because the privileged nor the abusers need empathy, but because
people do. But because we must take down the divisions from the inside
But because teens* are a glorious mess of learning, rebellion and
realizing your family/world/dreams aren’t exactly how you thought them to be. And how to move forward with that.
I struggle with empathy. I’m an intensely angry person. Angry at injustice as an impersonal force, and as a million faces that benefit from injustice. But when I shoot that arrow of anger, it inevitably turns back towards me. I struggle, most of all, to have empathy for myself.
I am ensconced in privilege. From my race, to my class, to my gender to my sexuality, all the way to my nationality. I am what I purport to hate. I hate, a lot of days, myself. But self pity and white guilt is of no use to anyone. Poor me. Get over it.
So more than any other impact, #RKS invites me to have empathy for myself. It invites treachery, against class, against race, against injustice that I benefit from every day. In #RKS, players move between Assets and Liabilities, between their Clan’s Power and their Own Power. Over the course of play, characters shift between the two poles, and if they ever reach one pole completely, their story ends. In freedom, in ascent, in individual death or collective ruin.
Through the moves the players can make, it invites examination of how power and privilege can be used wisely, or at least to fuck up the system from within. Each move, through failure of success, asks you to consider what it costs to use power, what consequences and fallout there is from using it improperly, or, perhaps more damningly, frivolously or not at all.
I also want to mention that this game drips with style. From it’s layout, to it’s aesthetic, to it’s visuals, it evokes the feeling of a tabloid magazine or a hashtag-instagram-influencer account.
Not everyone needs to sympathize with Rich Kids. I’m not going to stand up and say we need to win over X amount of bougie rich kids to win Y revolution. But that’s not really what this game is about. Empathy is important for empathy’s own sake. It need not be a calculation in some greater mathematical cause. And for me, empathy is a necessity, because if I can turn it outward, maybe I’ll find it easier to turn inward.