Parts of my worldbuilding are critical to the plot. If readers don't understand the world, they won't understand the stakes for the protagonist and the failure conditions.
Edit. Please don't assume this information is communicated as exposition. As I said, it's dramatized. But then again, one can't take endless pages to set up the plot before the plot even starts.
I need to make clear some parts of the world early in book to show what's at stake. The problem is that some readers seem to miss the explanation, which is split into bits and woven in and around dialogue. I dramatized these worldbuilding points, and when that didn't work, I actually summarized them in the protag's internal dialog 'oh, I see, so if I fail x I'm dead'. This technique of seeding bits of telling between the showing is recommended by editors to aid readers comprehension. Flew right past readers.
First example The Federation is a monopolistic oligarchy. If you have 1 groundbreaking innovation, it earns you a monopoly (e.g. if you make steam engines, no one is allowed to make steam engines with those parameters), and you can get Corporate Family status (which grants members legal immunity). If you have 2 such monopolies and over 10 billion market capitalization value, you can ask to join the Council of Primes (a CF leader is called Prime) that rules the Federation. In terms of decision making, it's like monarchy but with a council of variable size instead of 1 person. Much like you can gain CF status, you lose it if you can't guarantee your product (2 strikes and you're out) or if you go bankrupt. My protag is CF and takes a gamble. If they win, they become Prime, if they lose, they lose CF status, lose their legal immunity, and probably everyone will send assassins after them.
Second example In order to practice the magic, you have to become a sociopath. You take a course for it (it's a horrible course). This also generates the inability to grok human facial expressions. I explained this in dialogue to a trainee by illustrating sociopathic behavior (callousness, promiscuity) and then summarized into one sentence in internal monologue at the end of explanation 'this means sociopathy' (used the actual word). Some readers picked up on the inability to recognize expressions but took the sociopathy as a minor inconvenience.
How would you go about presenting/dramatizing this type of information to make sure readers get it and its exact magnitude?
Did you ever experience a similar situation with reader comprehension before, and how/why?
Are my problems because the worldbuilding is simply too complicated? It doesn't feel like rocket science to me. This stuff isn't new, only the way it's combined is. I purposely chosen terms that mean exactly what it says on the tin. The corporate stuff is what you find in cyberpunk, a dystopian extension of consumerism. Where am I going wrong?
I don't think there's a recipe for this situation so any advice, ideas, and life experience are welcome.