This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
Europa Universalis: Crown of the North
A popular game in Western Europe, "Europa Universalis II" (EUII) does not seem to add much to the original game and I was about to say that we do not need another game of yore that a player most easily wins by killing off all resistance. However, "Crown of the North" (CoN) that comes with EUII has some irresistible aspects.
CoN is about a contest for supremacy in northern Europe from 1275 to 1340. CoN's real novelty stems from having four social groups with conflicting interests-- nobles, clergy, burghers and peasants. Burghers we can think of as merchants or the predecessors to the bourgeoisie.
For the years 1275 to 1340, Marxists would have to look forward a few hundred years to capitalism. Contrary to common ignorant opinion, the world was not always capitalist. In those years, the burghers were the new emerging force. MIM does not write much on that period of history, but Marx knew much more. On our website, readers can see the review of the Stalin era movie which is about Novgorod in 1242. Novgorod also appears in EUII from 1275 to 1340, so we have the approximately correct era.
Novgorod received its due from Stalin's Soviet Union through its portrayal as an advanced and democratically-minded city in the movie "Alexander Nevsky." Novgorod's attitude toward conquerors is not without controversy, but what is more important to us is that it's an example of something that was ahead of its time.
The Alexander Nevsky era is proof that there is no timeless morality. CoN makes it quite clear that burghers saw benefit to ending slavery and CoN also says the peasants actually opposed ending slavery. The burghers preferred to hire cheap labor according to CoN and some history of slavery.
So MIM condemns the bourgeoisie today, sometimes for trading slaves for profit, but more often for wars for profit. However, had MIM been there in Alexander Nevsky's day, we would have to sing a completely different tune about the bourgeoisie.
It is not possible in the game to instigate a revolution for the burghers or even against slavery. There is an option to declare some slaves free, but not a systematic abolition.
The decisions that come the way of the prince are also very historically informative. For example, how to handle the superstitions of the people at that time is one question. Some questions may be difficult for players to understand in context, so the object of the game is quite clear--"victory points" or "honor points." By pursuing honor points, while trying to appease the four social groups, the prince will know how to make various decisions.
The most annoying part of the game which ran quite well on XP in general is that it asks the prince (player) interesting questions in successive order, but it places the questions exactly over each other on the screen so that clicking "yes" on one question very often ends up clicking on the next question that pops up at that second, when one is playing in faster modes. The pop-up questions should appear on different parts of the screen.
The positive aspect of the decisions forced on the prince is that we learn to think of them as politically based. Without support from the four social groups, revolt is more likely, so the prince must learn what makes the various groups happy.
So the question for this game is whether such positive aspects are worth the context CoN occurs in. While shopping for this game, the reviewer went to a major chain store for video games. There, a Black child of five years, maybe even four was just tall enough to get his hands on a joystick demonstrating a TV-based video game. He looked up to the TV screen where he saw a squirrel dressed in a military uniform and helmet carrying a submachine gun. The joystick was to make the squirrel jump around and shoot at assorted live targets. When the squirrel lost the game, he fell into a pile of his own blood and died.
The drawback of CoN--aside from not being simple enough like the games that sell well today--is that from the beginning, the player must attack right away and grab provinces or soon lose. It's not so much that we question the historical accuracy of that particular scenario where timeliness of attack was essential. The real question is whether people are able to sort out the violence from the thought process. Whether a squirrel, robot fantasy or historical setting, the point is usually just props for militarism. One might think that no matter how well CoN did with history, many people would interpret it as just another reason that today's European and Amerikan militarism and random violence are positive.
How video games justify the crime of genocide is also strongly evident in the other games packaged with CoN. It's possible to play the EUII scenarios in the box as the Iroquois nation, but even then other natives will attack the Iroquois, and the only place it is safe to do trade and settlements is where there are no people: the natives will not trade or provide any benefit for interaction in the "Fantasia" scenario: They simply attack at random times. Settler-go-home would mean not playing "Fantasia."
Since the object of the game in "Fantasia" is expansion, the most secure way of expanding one's imaginary society is to build an army and kill the natives of each province. There is even a special button for "attack the natives." As we said about EU1, the resistance of natives in a territory taken over is more realistic than in previous computer games with simpler assumptions, so as programming and realism it's actually an advance. Now we need to go further in video game design and allow for natives to get along with other people-- at least sometimes after struggle! Creating an Iroquois player was a step in the right direction, but not enough.
The ESRB gave this game package a "mild violence" rating, because the details of violence are missing. What we see is icons representing troops clashing. EUII and CoN come together on the same CD. In CoN, we have the bourgeois minimum distinction between war and terrorism, because after a battle against troops, the conqueror takes the town including its people. It's not a genocide. In contrast, in EUII "Fantasia," the point is to clear the land of the people-- genocide. True, one can play without doing so, but the message is that not doing so will make one a "loser" in the game. Merely traveling through a province will lead to battles, so the positive aspects of exploration trade off with genocide. So "Fantasia" has some aspects brainwashing people to favor genocide, along traditional Amerikkkan lines.
CoN and even EUII are among the best software games available, because the standards in imperialist countries are incredibly violent. We advise readers to walk through a store specializing in TV and PC video games and look at each box to see what the game is about, before doubting MIM on this point. Then readers will understand MIM's temptation to recommend games of good historical content that may nonetheless have unintended consequences of supporting militarism.
According to the industry, 63% of Amerikans over age 5 play video games, which may be a self- interested falsehood. However, we can be sure that total sales of over $10 billion a year in the united $tates is not exaggerated. This figure is approximately the same as for the adult entertainment industry or the non-adult Hollywood films industry when either is taken separately, though both video games and adult films are growing very fast--another question where we have to get over preconceptions and where most alleged Marxist organizations are lagging far behind MIM.
For MIM, the investigation of entertainment in the united $tates is another experience like Mao's "fine" and "terrible" that started his scientific work on China's revolution. We cannot start with preconceptions.
The worst preconception about imperialist country people is that they are innocent "workers" who know not what they do in supporting imperialism. This is baloney. To spend $10 billion and play those games, you have to know what you are doing on an individual basis. While we might question whether a politician's speech goes over its audience's heads, we cannot question what the public goes out and buys for itself over and over again.
At least in Kanada, the number one selling video game is about a sport that gets its highest ratings for stick/fist-fights--hockey. That's very Kanadian of them and the preconception we have to be done with is the relative violence. NHL is very mild pornography in comparison with what else is selling.
The number one selling game in Amerika in 2002 was "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," with over 10 million copies sold. It's a game about being a mobster dealing in violence and prostitutes-- another variant on Amerika's obsession with mass murder. In contrast, in an entire day, the CNN website may get 6 million viewers for all of its various stories while Grand Theft Auto is just one game. When we make this sort of comparison, it's easy to see how Nintendo, Sony Playstation, Microsoft X Box and others are increasingly likely to leave all news reporting infotainment like CNN in the dust. (We hereby officially beg for reviews of even the dumbest games.) If we combine the games and compare them against the news stories, it's clear where there will be more attention over the long run.
To a large extent, these games are just a reflection of the real world. A top ten game about Navy Seals is obviously coming from somewhere real, but why out of all the things going on on earth the Navy Seals is a top ten game is the question.
The obvious answer is advertising-- the active outreach component of pornographic capitalism. People buy what they are familiar with and the advertising for the NHL, Navy Seals etc is already extensive. So games about heavily advertised movies like "Star Wars" and the "Matrix" arise.
On the other hand, in most cases, advertising is extensive because something sells enough to be profitable to advertise. So then we return to the question at hand--why is it that people buy into what they do as "fun." The "Matrix" raised choreography of violence to a new level and "Star Wars" came with special lighting effects for blowing up entire planets.
The monopoly capitalist corporations such as the NHL and the monopoly capitalists' government can compete at this level. NHL does well without real competitors and because for some reason newspapers have sports pages as if one band of people were worthy of daily news coverage.
The militarist games do well, because the imperialist governments have not yet gone bankrupt the way some businesses do. Against the anarcho- capitalists, we would say it's not just the governments in such a situation of existing through unfair advantages. Capitalism by its nature involves competition won through unfair means and mega-corporations like the NHL would not arise if they were not profitable. If the monopoly capitalists could not hire governments they would hire their own private people to do the same things.
Likewise, against the anarchist-pacifists saying we should not support games like CoN, we would say Lenin's violent revolution ousted Russia from World War I and pacifists have no such accomplishment to their credit. It has to do with whether individuals can really change the world through their spiritual purity or whether action needs to be collective and still requires violence to end violence.
MIM is the only organization calling itself Marxist in the imperialist countries working on the question of the independent substance of "fun"--not as merely derivative of class and nation but with its own dynamics. Catharine MacKinnon identified the eroticization of power as the problem in gender relations and pornography as the cause. We're still not sure if pornography is the cause or part of the effect, but we agree with MacKinnon broadly speaking on the question at hand. The problem we focus on is how violence became so "fun," that there is a whole newly arising multi-billion dollar industry simulating it.
In these games, they just do not seem to be "fun" without violence--with the exception of games about racing, professional sports and a handful of exploration games. A game out now with a teenage boy wedged between the breasts of two young wimmin looks positively quaint by comparison with most of the games glorifying total destruction. MIM tries desperately to understand this about thrill-seekers in hopes of finding a social causation that we can turn around and use against the exploiters and oppressors. By itself, the will-to-destruction culture is an example why the exploiters tend to self-destruction. They do not really have a rational plan they can follow. If the oppressors wanted to run a military without Abu Ghraib, they could not. So, the total nihilism of the imperialist culture spills back on itself, even while the imperialists make ample use of it to control other countries. It's just that we do not want to rely only on imperialism's self-destruction. If we can, we seek to speed up the process through other means.
MIM has set about studying the overall facts on video games. From this investigation, we have to wonder whether CoN is still pornography and if we recommend CoN are we siding with soft-core pornography against other kinds. Thus far, MIM's answer is that if something contributes to revolutionization, we support it. Hockey video games may be an attraction to parents of young children, but we are reluctant to say they revolutionize anyone just because they are very mild pornography relatively speaking. In contrast, like the "Matrix" or possibly even "Star Wars," CoN is also pornography making violence fun, but it does potentially contribute to the revolutionization of people, because it contains elements promoting scientific thought.