Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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December 3rd, 2006

Game Idea #49: The Confidence Game

High Concept:

The name says it all. The Confidence Game is the game where you play as a smooth-talking, document forging, and disguise-wearing con-artist. You make your living separating those more rich than clever from their money. Pull off simple cons like switching briefcases with someone on the street, all the way up to “the big con.”


Home Console

Why it needs to be made:

Every time we play a game we step into the shoes of someone else, either a character the game designer has come up with, a character we know from a movie or tv-show, or sometimes a character of our own creation. So I figured why not make a game about a character who does nothing but step out in the shoes of other people? There’s something really interesting about a game about role-playing… instead of just a game of role-playing.


Your goal in The Confidence Game is to earn the trust of other characters in the game. In each con one particular character is “the mark,” or the character you need to convince to either give you a bunch of money, or at least trust you enough to trust you in the same room as his money, diamonds, bank-codes, etc.

While each con will take you to a different location and have you dealing with different people, they all follow the same basic formula. First, you find an excuse to bump into the mark. You could disguise yourself as a former classmate, accidentally drop your wallet next to him on the train, or rescue him from a mugger (who happens to be on your payroll).

Once you’ve made his acquaintance the rest is up to you. You have to weave your web, telling the mark stories about yourself, your past, and your latest get-rich-quick scheme. Be careful not to contradict yourself, as nothing will blow the trust you’ve earned worse than a slip of the tongue. After you’ve established your story, stick to it! With enough persistence you’ll eventually talk the mark into going in on this little investment with you, at which point your job is complete.

Why it will be fun:

Part of the fun of games is seeing the world through the eyes of different characters. The Confidence Game lets you see the world through the eyes of several different characters, all of the fake identities you create! It’s also fun to feel tricky and clever in games, and while I’ve seen some games dabble in it before, I’ve never seen a game strictly about deception before.

Final Thoughts:

One thing this game idea needs is just a bit of moral high ground. I don’t much like the idea of playing as a ruthless grifter taking money from little old ladies. But if you were pulling cons on corrupt billionaires and then using the money to do some social good… that’s an idea I can get behind.

7 Responses to “Game Idea #49: The Confidence Game”

  1. Erin commented:
    posted December 4th, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    I love feeling “tricky and clever”! I’m in!

  2. Patrick D commented:
    posted December 4th, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    I’ve considered this idea before after watching the BBC turned AMC show Hustle, which you should consider renting on DVD. It provides the sort of moral high-ground you suggest, and is intricate enough to suggest a palpable sense of play.

  3. Patrick D commented:
    posted December 4th, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Oh yeah, my original point: this might be feasible as a licensed game using the Hustle IP, thought I’m not sure if the show is promulgate enough in the US to warrant a publisher’s attention.

  4. Chris commented:
    posted December 12th, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    Great idea this. I love the show Hustle, being a UK resident. One episode had two of the hustlers in competition to see who could con the most money in a day, starting with nothing.

    Also thanks for all the posts, it has made fascinating reading - I think will be an inspiration for many who aspire to design and develop games.

  5. Patrick commented:
    posted December 18th, 2006 at 3:13 am

    Thanks for reading the site! It’s been a ton of fun to do, even if it is a little nerve-wracking on Sunday nights. :-)

  6. erik commented:
    posted December 19th, 2006 at 1:22 am

    it’d be fun to see what happens when a grift goes wrong, and you get found out, a-la Hitman.

    also, what if you’re not careful about how much you take, or how well you cover your tracks? i.e. if you wire millions of dollars straight into your own swiss bank account, will you have bounty hunters on your tail for the next few levels, until you lie low for awhile?

  7. bill commented:
    posted October 30th, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Found this site really late. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say at GDC08.

    I’m wondering - is the big con something like the one perpetrated in ‘the Sting’?

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