One of the unspoken rules of gaming is that the player must always be moving forward. This is a sensible approach from a gameplay perspective. After all, it’s hard to enjoy yourself when you’re failing. But that frequently leaves the story trying to prop up the triumphalist gameplay with propaganda.
Society is a strategy game that makes this message explicit. You play as a great leader who is spreading her society to other towns, consuming resources and gaining culture to use to convert even more towns into your society. As time goes on towns get more set in their own ways, and their societies become more difficult to integrate. In order to not be overwhelmed by their culture, you need followers to help you. You get followers by revisiting towns you have previously converted and “harvesting” them. This reduces their culture back to zero, but gives you a follower and a lot of culture for yourself, culture which you can use to convert new towns. Your goal is to gain as much culture as possible before time runs out.
The message is pretty clear by the author, a society must always expand and always be converting people to its cause, or it will die. The subtitle of the game is “a game about progress,” and the loading screen says things like “You should feel pity for those outside your influence.” Not only does Society work as a strategy game, but it’s also clearly trying to communicate meaning with its gameplay.
Talking Points: Does the message Society sends with its gameplay match with the theme? Does the overt nature of the text help or hinder the message? Do the retro graphics help simplify and keep the subject matter symbolic?