Check your balances of wool and linen. Will you sell them to the merchant from Milan or the one from Venice? Oh, also, the church wants you to buy some of their overpriced alum. Do you accept? These are the questions that ARTé Mecenas asks while you try to build your banking empire during the Italian renaissance.
Develop your reputation as a banking boss and eliminate other competing families, and also, change the course of art history by choosing what works to commission, all within a turn-based strategy game. You play as a member of the Medici family who is starting a bank in Florence. You can check the map to see your standing with other city state governments, and you can purchase items from the market to sell. Each turn, you’ll be presented with three messages, asking you to sell something, buy something, or commission an art piece. Occasionally, you will get special events that can significantly impact your reputation. You have to balance your relationship with merchants, various governments, and the Catholic Church in order to keep your business afloat.
As you play the game, you need to watch your reputation level, which represents your standing in the community, and your soul level, which represents your piousness. If your reputation level depletes to 0%, you will be exiled, and if your soul level depletes to 0%, you will be excommunicated from the church— so failure to maintain high levels of both means game over.
This game definitely taught me more about economics and finances than it taught me about art history. In the beginning of my playthrough, I was making poor buying and selling decisions. I found that by checking the market price for items and comparing it to the desired buying/selling price of the merchant’s, that I could determine what was a good decision or not. But even if you manage to avoid bad buying and selling decisions, this still may impact your reputation. For example, choosing to trade with Milan but not Venice may impact your relationships with those city states.
My playthrough was challenging from the get-go. By the end of Level 1, it wanted me to have a soul and reputation of 40. This goal was a tad overwhelming for Level 1 of the game, and I had to retry several times in order to progress. I tried to keep up my reputation and soul meters in Level 2, but after I was exiled from Florence by some business rivals, I was unable to recover. When I was exiled, my reputation took a significant hit, and the citizens of Florence continued to hurt my reputation even after that. I replayed Level 2 over and over again, unable to advance despite my best attempts.
Despite that, I still enjoyed the game. I liked being able to manage my resources, make money, and also manage my business relationships with other merchants and city states. Turn-based games usually don’t hold my attention for very long, but I was glued to this game for a few hours.
The games were designed to be supplemental material for college level art history courses to teach students about the relationships between local and international economies, and how those economies influenced the arts during this time period. As a recent college graduate, I can definitely say I wish that part of my learning had involved interactive content like ARTé Mecenas.
Triseum also has an open world exploration game called Variant, which seeks to teach students calculus through solving puzzles.
You can only play the game if you’re a student affiliated with a university that has purchased the game. In August, Triseum will launch a new store where any individual can purchase any of their games. ARTé Mecenas will be available for both Mac and PCs, and can also be played in a Google Chrome browser. You can check out the company’s full list of games here.
(Update August 21 2017 12:34 pm - ARTé Mecenas along with Variant: Limits are now available for direct purchase on Triseum’s online store.)