April 2020 – May 2020
Hyperinflation is an incremental (or “clicker”) game where the value of the money you are printing continually decreases. The player embarks on a quest to become a trillionaire not because they want to be the richest being on the planet, but just to be able to afford food for the day.
I originally conceptualized this game sometime in late 2018 or early 2019. I had been playing a number of incremental games, and noticed that, despite the exponential growth, the scale of this seems to get lost on the player over time. At some point, you stop thinking in having billions and trillions of things and start thinking, “Hey, I just reached the next power of ten. Neat.” I wanted to make an incremental game that gave the player a better impression of things snowballing out of control, as well as make a game that better instills a feeling of tension and release. So, inspired by the Venezuelan economic crisis ongoing at the time, I came up with Hyperinflation.
In Hyperinflation, you must buy a loaf of bread each in-game “day” in order to continue playing. This provides a sort of fixed-value item to compare the value of your banknotes (called “Shellen”) to as they become more and more worthless. Unlike, for example, the one-Shellen printer, which eventually becomes quite useless as the game progresses, the real value of bread does not decrease. If anything, it increases, since the player would eventually lose more progress if they aren’t able to buy a loaf.
The game is split up into four-minute days, with the player only able to print money and buy food during the day. This is to give the player a break and let them take a moment to breathe before continuing with the game, as the pace is frantic, and letting up for even a moment could hurt you down the line.
There’s no end state to the game — you keep going until you eventually lose. Real-life hyperinflation crises typically end in the afflicted country switching to the U.S. dollar or some other foreign currency, but I did not implement that here. The game is not a race to some goal; it’s about outrunning the inevitable for as long as you can. The player works harder and harder, produces more and more, and in the end makes no progress, as all their effort is spent buying the same loaves of bread as they did on Day 1. Perhaps Hyperinflation is a metaphor for a wasted life, spent doing rote, meaningless tasks, before ending in death, having accomplished nothing.
…unless you’re a nerd like me, in which case the question nagging at the back of your mind is probably “How can I optimize this? What strategy will let me live as long as possible before I fail?” Success, both the destination and the road we take to get there, is something we must create ourselves.
Also, if you ever figure out how to optimize Hyperinflation, please tell me what you came up with! I’d be very interested in hearing how you figured it out.