Jason Rohrer's card game solves America's inflation problem by destroying your money

At last year's GDC Game Design Challenge, indie developer Jason Rohrer created a game that doubled as religion. It got out of control, culminating in its sacrifice at the mouth of a volcano. This year, Rohrer presented something less blasphemous, but no less likely to ruffle feathers. His target this time: inflation.

At last year's GDC Game Design Challenge, indie developer Jason Rohrer created a game that doubled as religion. It got out of control, culminating in its sacrifice at the mouth of a volcano. This year, Rohrer presented something less blasphemous, but no less likely to ruffle feathers.

His target this time: inflation.

Frog Skins is a collectible card game for two players. Each player brings a deck of 5 cards, and plays them one at a time against the other players deck. Also, the cards are cash.

Highest amount wins a round: a $20 bill beats a $10 bill, a $5 bill beats a $1, a $100 beats everything. Ties go into a tie pool. At the end of the game, the player who won the most rounds wins the game. In the case of a true tie, the cash is returned to its original owner.

Breaking the game seems easy enough. If both sides stack a deck of $100, the game will result in a true tie. For that scenario, Rohrer has a solution, a player may rip a bill in half and use both pieces as a bill worth that amount. So a ripped $20 bill plays as two complete $20 bills — and loses its actual value in the process.

If a player runs out of bills, they lose a turn; so by ripping up all five bills, a player could extend the game to ten turns and effectively beat or at least tie a player who won all five first rounds, but didn't destroy a bill. In many cases of the game, destroying a bill may win a player more money than the value of the initial deck. At the same time, both decks may be totally devalued.

The goal of the game, to decrease inflation, or put another way, to deflate the currency, is accomplished in a real by players destroying their cash. (According to Rohrer's rules, all torn cash must be disposed of.)

To "put his money where his mouth is," Rohrer invited Zynga New York Executive and NYU Game Center Director Frank Lantz to play a match. Lantz had a trick up his sleeve: two dollar bills. Ripped in half, they made quick work of Rohrer's one dollar bill. One of the twos, from the early 1900s, was ripped, eliciting a gasp from the audience. That was just the beginning. In a last ditch final move, Rohrer was forced to rip a $100 bill. He lost.

The single match had taken over $120 out of circulation.

Frog Skins was one of three games in the Game Design Challenge, which charged its competitors to create a game that improved humanity in 60 seconds or less. At the end of the session, a winner was selected by host and NYU Game Center professor Eric Zimmerman and Dr. Constance Steinkuehler of the Office of Science & Technology Policy.

They were supposed to choose the designer who received the loudest applause. Rohrer seemed to garner the loudest cheers, but it was Richard Lemarchand, a lead designer from Naughty Dog, was crowned the winner. Lesson learned: it's not technically a crime to destroy money, in fact, it may defeat deflation, but it's probably not the best way to win the approval of a government employee.

Before rushing to the comments, you should know Rohrer pitched his project with a massive grin stretching from ear to ear.

Images source: Flickr user OfficialGDC

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