Opium => Silver => Tea
February 13, 2011 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Recreate a part of history in High Tea, a game where you trade Indian opium in China to supply tea to England. Part of the High Society exhibit at Wellcome Collection.

Via Reddit.com/r/Webgames, where every day has Friday Flash Fun. Sorry if you had work to do.
posted by mccarty.tim (39 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
I noticed there was a post on the exhibit, but it didn't seem to mention the game, which appears to have come out later.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:21 PM on February 13, 2011


Game is really tough - watching the prices of transactions is no guarantee of success. Having beaten it now a few times, skill is not enough - luck is the dedieing factor at the end game.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:33 PM on February 13, 2011


The beauty of the glass eyes, but this is cool.
posted by clavdivs at 7:35 PM on February 13, 2011


I could definitely sink a lot of time playing this.
posted by nel at 8:52 PM on February 13, 2011


Welcome Trust is a curiously unusual organization, more than games.
posted by stbalbach at 8:56 PM on February 13, 2011


Previously
posted by gingerbeer at 9:06 PM on February 13, 2011


At first, I tried to play according to prices, but by the time I had four boats most of the ports were risky and I was frantically offloading my opium in order to try and fill the massive tea orders.

Didn't work. Wish the British public had been keen on opium instead, would've been much simpler.
posted by djgh at 9:26 PM on February 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


full-screen-ish

Wish the British public had been keen on opium instead, would've been much simpler.

In case you weren't just talking about the game: they were, and opium was legal to consume in Britain at this time. It was just much more profitable for a British merchant (or any Western merchant, for that matter, but the British monopolized the trade) to bring opium to China because the Chinese had most of the money in the world at the time but were completely uninterested in paying in specie for crappy manufactured goods from a relatively poor country way beyond the edge of the civilized world.
posted by XMLicious at 10:06 PM on February 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This game is so addictive. I've been playing it for a few days (usually I just get the easy achievements and move on, because I'm silly like that) and haven't been able to beat it. The last shipment is super tough to fill.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:16 PM on February 13, 2011


Much like the dope-bourbon biscuit trade of the present day
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:09 PM on February 13, 2011


Took me about four times to get through to the end. Just holding back from bad offers and risky ports generally gets me pretty far, but pacing yourself and buying tea whenever you can at decent prices is necessary too. It's hard to resist over-purchasing at low prices, but if you pace things there too, it helps. But some luck really came into play too.
posted by disillusioned at 11:09 PM on February 13, 2011


Substitute slaves, molasses, and rum for opium, tea, and silver and this would have been a whole lot less appropriate but just as educational (is that the point?). Not sure what the equivalent of "chests" would be though.
posted by halogen at 11:43 PM on February 13, 2011


This game is so addictive.

Yea, kind of like opium.
posted by adso at 11:54 PM on February 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate that at the end of the game, it tells you how many opium users you have caused to be addicted.
posted by honest knave at 12:11 AM on February 14, 2011


The shame of it all is that the best tea actually comes from India.
posted by Artw at 12:27 AM on February 14, 2011


Imagine if there's some sort of Ender's Game thing going on and we're actually successfully trading stocks behind it all. (I don't think that's really plausible, though I suppose that some sort of very simple machine learning thingie might be getting trained somewhere, but it's cool to imagine.)
posted by XMLicious at 12:32 AM on February 14, 2011


I'm just next to the Golden Triangle, and flash makes my connection sad.

I suppose I'll just go and stock up on both tea and opium...
posted by pompomtom at 12:44 AM on February 14, 2011


Substitute slaves, molasses, and rum for opium, tea, and silver and this would have been a whole lot less appropriate

Really? The Atlantic triangular trade may have been despicable, but the combination of drug-running, indentured Indian labour and textile dumping that was the tea run wasn't much more moral. To push the point, perhaps the game should also feature a modern-day equivalent in the form of a Mexican drug baron moving blow, guns, hostages and money around the world.
posted by Skeptic at 2:00 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not a tea connoisseur so I can't speak to what country produces the best tea but wikipedia tells me that India wasn't producing Darjeeling tea until the mid 1800's. Until then China pretty much had a lock on the type of tea that the British wanted.
posted by rdr at 2:01 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, it's worth noting that much of that Chinese silver came from South American mines, which the Spanish Empire had been trading for centuries for Chinese manufactured goods through the Manilla Galleon. (Globalization isn't new, and neither is it new to send vast amounts of money over the Pacific in exchange of manufactured goods).
posted by Skeptic at 2:09 AM on February 14, 2011


I appreciate that at the end of the game, it tells you how many opium users you have caused to be addicted.

I didn't cause them to become addicted. It's the Invisible Hand of capitalism. I provided the goods and it was up to the poor, uneducated, desperate consumers to make an informed choice whether or not to buy it. I'm such a nice, consumer-friendly guy that I instructed my agents to give away the initial dose to people unfamiliar with the product so that the purchaser could make absolutely sure that they wanted it.

"Caused to be addicted." What are you, a communist?
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:34 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


back in the day of the PDP-11, this game was called "Ultra Taipan".
posted by telstar at 2:42 AM on February 14, 2011


An history professor of mine when I was in undergrad called the Opium Wars a "Just Say Yes" campaign on the part of the Brits; a joke that is perhaps lost on more students as we move further and further away from the Reagan years.
posted by dhens at 3:03 AM on February 14, 2011


I still fondly remember playing Taipan! on my fathers Apple ][e. Originally ported from the TRS-80 there is now a Browser Port as well.
posted by debagel at 4:19 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


To push the point, perhaps the game should also feature a modern-day equivalent in the form of a Mexican drug baron moving blow, guns, hostages and money around the world.

DopeWars
posted by LogicalDash at 4:24 AM on February 14, 2011


I'm about halfway through For All the Tea in China by Sarah Rose, which is a fascinating book about how the British stole tea plants and tea-growing methodology (through industrial espionage of the day) to establish their own growing operations in India.

One of the bits I wasn't aware of: The Chinese were able to get higher prices for green tea if it was actually very green in color. In order to enhance this green color they'd prepare two batches of green tea - a virgin batch for consumption in China, and another batch for export market:
[Robert Fortune] watched each step of the processing carefully, saying nothing, making notes, and occasionally asking Wang to put a question to a manager or worker. At one end of the factory the supervisor stood over a white porcelain mortar. In the bowl was a deep blue powder, made finer and finer with each grind of the pestle. The superintendent was in fact preparing iron ferrocyanide, a substance also known as Prussian blue, a pigment used in paints.
... Fortunately for the tea drinkers of Britain, Prussian blue is a complex molecule, so it is almost impossible to release the cyanide ion from it and the poison passes harmlessly through the body.

Elsewhere in the factory, however, over charcoal fires where the tea was roasted, Fortune discovered a man cooking a bright yellow powder into a paste. The smell was terrible, like that of rotten eggs. The yellow substance was gypsum, or calcium sulfate dehydrate, a common component of plaster. Gypsum produces hydrogen sulfide gas as it breaks down. While the gas is produced naturally by the body in low doses, in high doses it acts as a broad-spectrum poison, affecting many of the body's systems simultaneously, particularly the nervous system.
... Consumed over the long term it might produce fatigue, memory loss, headaches, irritability, and dizziness.

Fortune estimated that more than half a pound of plaster and Prussian blue was included in every hundred pounds of tea being prepared. The average Londoner was believed to consume as much as one pound of tea per year, which meant that Chinese tea was effectively poisoning British consumers. The additives were not included maliciously, however, for the Chinese simply believed that foreigners wanted their green tea to look green.
posted by odinsdream at 5:27 AM on February 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Definitely luck-driven. If you get the wrong events at the wrong time, or the right prices fail to show up, you're basically screwed.

Which is pretty much how things go in real life, yes? You can do all the right things and still lose.
posted by valkyryn at 6:28 AM on February 14, 2011


If any game is a honeypot for trading insights for the stock market, it's this one.

Warning: A bit NSFW, and a message game.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:08 AM on February 14, 2011


Kind of reminds me of Taipan, an old TRS-80 game where you did wheeling and dealing with opium, tea and other products.
posted by jadepearl at 9:11 AM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Definitely luck-driven. If you get the wrong events at the wrong time, or the right prices fail to show up, you're basically screwed.

Which is pretty much how things go in real life, yes? You can do all the right things and still lose.


Not only that, but it actually sort of appears possible to me to play the game too well, or perhaps have too much luck, increasing the demand for tea in Britain so much that the final shipment grows to be impossibly large... I've had at least one losing score that was higher than all of my winning scores.
posted by XMLicious at 9:24 AM on February 14, 2011


... man, I don't know what problems you've been having, cause I just won like four games in a row. It seems like avoiding risky ports (except when you have the bribe card), buying tea whenever it's remotely reasonable regardless of whether you need it, and making sure to do something else, or just take a deep breath, before repeating a buy (to avoid the "your frantic buying has caused a price spike!" effect) seems to work reliably.

Maybe it's that I'm suffciently bad enough at exploiting the market that I never trigger the increasing demand for tea effect that XMLicous mentions...

also, why did I just play four games in a row of this thing?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2011


debagel, the original is better because you can game the loans to your favor--hunt down the disk image and play it on a Mac using the OSXII Apple II emulator app.
posted by blueberry at 11:12 AM on February 14, 2011


Suggested listening material while playing: Marcy Playgrounds debut single
posted by mincus at 12:12 PM on February 14, 2011


I'm not having any problems winning, it's that I've had at least one losing game where my score is a good deal higher than any of the winning games I've had. I also didn't trigger the "your frantic buying has caused a price spike!" effect during that losing game at all; things just went so perfectly, luck-wise, that I was able to constantly buy both opium and tea at low prices.
posted by XMLicious at 12:18 PM on February 14, 2011


the original is better because you can game the loans to your favor--hunt down the disk image and play it on a Mac using the OSXII Apple II emulator app.

Thanks for the tip, blueberry. But even better would be to get one of the ][e in the cellar working. How long are Floppy Disks supposed to last again?
posted by debagel at 2:18 PM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder when a game that roughly approximates the industry -> lobbyist -> government cycle gets written and gets popular online.

Being ethnically Chinese, I've vaguely upset about playing a game about (but not really historically correct) the opium trade, but totally <shrug>. Similar with Japanese actions in China during WW2. Not fucking right, but, it's history.

Wonder, though. WWII Japanese rape and murder and brutality in Shanghai/Hong Kong game. Ok or not ok?
posted by porpoise at 8:38 PM on February 14, 2011


I can't buy tea fast enough without triggering a price spike. Literally, I either induce a huge price spike or I can't make my shipment on time. This game is one I can't win.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:20 PM on February 14, 2011


OK, never mind. I wasn't buying enough at a time. *head thwack*
posted by Foam Pants at 11:44 PM on February 14, 2011


porpoise, I don't think that this game is intended to make fun of China or the suffering of Chinese drug addicts or make light of the Opium Wars that occurred after the period the game covers. It's really just a game about market arbitrage. It would be nice if the historical vignettes presented during it more clearly made the analogy between British "merchants" and modern Mexican or Afghan drug lords, though.
posted by XMLicious at 10:02 AM on February 15, 2011


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