StarPower is an educational game for ages 12 to 25, designed by R. Garry Shirts for Simulation Training Systems in 1969. The game combines chance and skill at trading to establish a score. Players are assigned categories based upon their relative scores, with the highest scoring category being able to change the rules. The game is designed to illustrate the behavior of human beings in a system that naturally stratifies them economically or politically.
Each round, players draw random colored chits and trade them for sets of points. At the end of each round players are assigned one of three groups and given an associated badge based on their score. The top scorers are purple squares, the middle are red circles, and the low scorers are green triangles. Starting on turn two (the first turn in which players are assigned to groups), the purple square players draw from a bag with higher scoring chits, while the green triangles draw from a bag with lower scoring chits. As a result, movement between groups becomes uncommon. Starting on the third round, the purple squares are free to change the rules any way they like.
Key to the game's educational effectiveness is for those running the game to withhold details about the true nature and implementation. That the purple squares can change the rules is only revealed to players when the ability is added to the game.
Starpower is by design a very unbalanced game. Game designer James Wallis has gone so far as to describe the game as "broken" "by all conventional standards of game design." The unbalanced nature of the game reduces its replayability. Shirts views StarPower as more of a simulation than a game and as a result does not view replayability as an important goal.
Another commentator notes similar results. The purple squares create oppressive rules that make it difficult for lower groups to advance. Lower groups turn to cheating. The commentator also noted the lower groups becoming apathetic.
The official site for the game lists eight lessons that StarPower teaches, mostly focused on the results of inequal distribution of power.