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LETSplay - opening understanding

A LETSplay game will normally begin with a meeting to open up the basic ideas and explain why playing through a game is worth the time and effort involved. That might take 30 minutes to an hour. It then takes maybe another 30 minutes to fully explain and begin the game, making sure that everyone knows how to play and track their trading. Then maybe another 30 minutes to make a few plays and check that everyone has it. When people first play, they have to think quite a bit about the process but most are comfortable with it in 3 to 5 plays.

You can play the game through there and then - games in a meeting can be completed in about 45 minutes to an hour - or players can arrange to play the game gradually over a few days by phone or email.

It's important, when a game finishes, that there is a review and explanation as soon as possible, as the point of the game is to show what happens. A full review can take up to an hour, or longer, and players should include this in planning how and when to play.

What happened? What did players manage to buy?

The real thing in an economy is what actually happens, the goods and services that are exchanged. The money is just what lets it happen.

Generally, in the 100% sector, everybody manages to buy something and most players are able to buy the most expensive item. The same is true for the 90% and 80% sectors where only a little conventional game Yen is needed to make a purchase, so almost all players can buy something.

However, in the 10% or 20% sectors, it's different. Some people can't afford anything, and others can only manage one of the cheaper items. The competition for the "conventional" Yen in the game becomes more evident in areas where it's a larger part of the transaction.

In clear contrast, there is never any evidence of competition between players for the cc Yen.

Where did the money go?

First a simple check. Everyone starts the game with zero ccY - how many players now have more ccY and how many have less than zero? Generally the numbers are about the same. Sometimes, in a small game with only a few players, there might be a 60 / 40 division but the more players there are the more it will tend to 55 / 45 or 50 / 50.

In the conventional Yen, however, the same question has a different answer. Always, there are more people who are poorer than those who are richer. And sometimes the skew can be as much as 30% richer and 70% poorer. This isn't because people are greedy, but just because this is what happens with a limited amount of money spread around many players. There's no hard limit to how much someone can have. But there is a very hard limit to how little - you can't have less than nothing. And the more some have, the less others do. That's what happens with normal money.

Going into more detail, the cc accounts will generally be distributed on a "bell" curve around the zero. People will usually be quite interested in knowing who has the largest negative account, as they think somehow this person may be taking advantage, or harming the system in some way, but few care who has the highest positive balance.

Of course, neither of the extreme positions really matters. The balances in any particular accounts, and whether they are active or not, have little or no effect on the trading others can do. In a mutual credit system all the users can create money when they want to trade - they don't have to wait for others to spend first.

In the "cash" side it's very different. At the end of the game we count the "poor" people first, and usually find several who have no Yen at all. As we move up the scale - "who has between Y20,000 and Y40,000?" It's clear people are very interested in who has accumulated all the money. And this interest has a real basis - the people with the most money are determining how others can - or cannot - play.

In a limited supply money system this is unavoidable - those with money control those without. It's not a moral issue, a question of right or wrong, it's just the way it is with money like that - uneven by its very nature.

Avoiding risk.

So, when considering actually using cc, if the potential benefits and the general process are clear, what about risks? If a system fails, who loses and how much?

Really, it's only those on the credit side who can lose - they may find the "cc" they have is useless. Those with accounts in commitment, those who have issued more money that they have yet earned, are totally safe from any loss caused by system failure. They have responsibilities, of course, to return to zero, but they are not going to lose anything.

On the credit side - people should only go as far as they feel comfortable. Since the cc has no guaranteed value, people concerned about risk should make only small excursions into the positive and confirm for themselves that they can spend before earning again. Try to maintain a balance and a sense of humour - do what's comfortable.

LETSplay shows how people can use cc, either with complete freedom from risk from system failure, or at a level of risk where the extent of the potential loss is considered acceptable.

For those trying to introduce cc into a community, the value of the game is that it provides a simple, pleasant and effective way to communicate the key ideas. The game takes away the need to explain, to argue, to persuade. It let's the players see what is involved and come to their own decisions.

The game also gives system operators an opportunity to "play" at running cc systems before offering full operational services. The same software (essentially) is used for both the game and full-scale systems, and the operational procedures are almost identical.

Finally, the new release of the LETSplay game, a web-based version, will soon be on-line at www.openmoney.org.