Today's rambling is brought to you by last week's dream. Skip backward to this post if you don't know what I'm talking about.
We'll call this "Stage #1," because I started this process almost immediately after I woke up. I started asking myself questions about the setting, and let my brain fill in the answers.
1. Who runs the Game?
A Company. The Game is for profit.
I'll figure out company names and things later.
2. Are the Players paid?
No, the Players pay for the right to play - like a WoW subscription.
These were pretty basic questions, and could be answered without much real thought by comparing logistics of the dream to real life.
3. Are the characters in the game (the Grinders) paid?
No, but they are provided with food and lodging. (See dormitories in the flashback of the dream.)
I feel like this is where it started to get interesting. I referenced the dream explicitly in my answer, but it also brought up more questions - so now it's not just a rote "I need to answer these questions because they're logical questions," but rather a deeper dive into the echoes and consequences of the answers I've already given.
4. Where do the Grinders come from?
Lower economic class. Below poverty line?
I started to get into uncertain territory here. I'm not sure of the answer, so I make a guess. It feels about right and it makes sense (more or less) so I go with it.
5. Why do the Grinders stay, if it's so dangerous and the life expectancy is so low?
Choice? (More consistent or higher quality food/living space.) Obligation? (Contract.)
More uncertainty. I discarded the first guess because it presented too many other questions that needed to be answered, and I wasn't ready to face that many question marks at once. The second was simpler and made an interesting dynamic between the Company and the Grinders.
6. If contractual obligation is involved, what rights are removed?
The right to travel (must stay in the Game),
The right to a fair trial (in-game justice is vigilante at best, and the Company handles all other disciplinary measures),
The right to private property (all items and objects manufactured for use in the Game are property of the Company and may be repossessed or demanded by said Company on any terms),
The right to medical care (Grinders partake in advanced or dangerous Quests at their own risk and the Player directing their actions is responsible for providing funds for medical care should such be judged necessary by the Player),
The right to a fair and reasonable bail (concerning imprisonment, as enumerated above concerning a fair trial),
The right to private living quarters (as all buildings in the Game belong to the Company).
In short, the Grinders are slaves of the Company and may not rise above their station except through excellence in the Game, which increases their value to the Company to the point that the cost of keeping them alive and happy is negligible compared to the income they generate.
Here, I had to start doing some research. I actually looked up the US Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution) to see exactly how unconstitutional this fictional Company would be. Because why not make it exist in America, right?
7. Where did this Company come from?
Guy works for company that fiddles with genetic engineering.
Guy finds old failed project to "improve" animals.
Guy proposes using this "failed" project to create monsters for people to fight.
Guy learns that people are more willing to pay to watch other people fight monsters than they are to pay to fight monsters themselves.
Guy uses company legal team to convince politicians that this isn't a "blood sport" and it's not "inhumane," because these aren't "real" animals. They're purchasable products.
Guy is allowed to ignore animal rights activists because the enormous popularity of new reality TV show centered around fighting monsters.
Guy recruits the homeless or financially impoverished to fight monsters in exchange for a place to live (rent free) and regular meals.
Guy starts selling show producers on "Quest" story lines.
Guy starts selling the ability to choose what the characters in the show do next.
Guy starts giving the characters the ability to hear choices in real-time and react to them on-screen.
Guy makes bigger and better monsters, longer and more complex Quests, stronger and more interesting characters (Grinders).
Guy buys land to make these Quests happen.
Guy keeps show running, but starts running multiple feeds, so Players can play simultaneously. Main feed shows the highest-level ongoing Quest.
Guy is now a multimillionaire and passes his company on to his heir.
Heir continues in the same vein, butting heads with national government as he buys entire states.
Heir slowly takes over the national government by inserting employees into influential positions, until the national government is basically a puppet while the Company pulls the strings.
The Game continues to grow.
This question took a good deal of time and thought to answer, and in the process I thought back on other companies I'm relatively familiar with, like Hoover, Gillette, and Coca-Cola. How did they start, how did they grow, and why did they grow the way they did? I didn't do any actual research for this one, but this is also only a rough outline. If I wanted to set in stone THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED then it would behoove me to do some actual research into the foundation and growth of various companies to make this one a bit more realistic.
This is where Stage #2 starts, because by now I've realized that this isn't a setting I'm willing to just put down. This is a fun thing, and I want to keep going. But I've built up this Company (that still has no name) to monumental proportions with little or no thought to how this effects other for-profit organizations.
What happens when there's a sudden and permanent reduction in the workforce that's willing to take minimum-wage jobs?
Where does the Company get all the food, clothing, and other necessary supplies needed to keep its by now hundreds of thousands of indentured employees alive and functional?
How much space would actually be needed to run a Game like this?
How do they deal with the attrition of Guild Wars and other events that pit Grinder against Grinder in a to-the-death struggle?
Once there's a precedent for contractually depriving your employees of their basic constitutional rights, what will other companies do with this knowledge?
Come back next time for some discussion about worldbuilding and more questions than I know what to do with.