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.
Militarist fascination and computers
The main advantage of the "Civilization"-type games is that they are not the other mindless video and computer games people could play that are pure excitement of militarism for its own sake--the thrill of action-violence--enhanced by computer graphics that are an important art form. Strategy games used to be for programmers and other nerds who stayed in front of computers long hours. Now with Sony Corporation and others entering the fray, more shelf space at the store goes to simpler militarist games connected to the TV set.
The plus side of simple militarist games is that they are more active than passive TV-watching of militarist propaganda. On behalf of television, we might suspect that MTV is less harmful than FOX News militarism--in which case passivity might be better than twisted joy in video-game militarism, in which there is often not even an ideological reason to serve as a veneer for the glories of war.
At the moment, MIM can not stop the decadent fascinations of imperialism, but the spread of pornography hooks men on the Internet and the spread of militarist games is hooking some people on technical advances such as computers. So the cloud of imperialist computer culture may have a silver lining. Hopefully the masses learn fascination with computer-related things instead of just fascination with militarism and then graduate to higher-level games like RoN.
In between the simple militarist games and games like RoN are role-playing games where the brain may be at work in a complicated maze and journey, but emphasis is on the individual's combats or explorations. "Doom" and "Myst" fall in this category. These games reflect the state of the politics and economics of settler societies that focus everything on the individual--though at least "Myst" is non-violent. The entire category of role-playing games can be written off as brainwashing of the sort MIM seeks to avoid above- all; although in the future, under socialism it will be possible to teach useful concepts using role-playing games. Maybe in cultures where there is a stifling group-oriented conformity, it may be progressive to look at role-playing more before passing into group-oriented communism.
Imperialist country art and video game consumers are prone to believe they are not products of society and the vast majority of existing games does nothing to counter that deluded belief. The predominance of militarist and role-playing games is the reason that MIM finds something to cheer in RoN, because at least in RoN there is an entire economy, a political system and history. The outcome of the game does not depend on the action of one super-robot constructed by the player: as in "Tropico," we see all the citizens scurrying about their work and that work determines whether the player wins or loses.
Like most other strategy games, RoN cuts through the dense fog of bourgeois economics which focuses on consumer choices, markets and profits. In RoN the workers produce five goods and services--food, wood, metal, oil and knowledge plus various exotic elements. Five goods and services provide a dynamic underpinning for the whole game.
The RoN economy does not depend on individual choices, sales or profits. The marketplace does exist but it plays no directing role. It is the player who directs the economy and if for no other reason, that is why MIM has to recommend RoN.
Something we like is that the game starts with food and wood. These are analogous to what Marxists call the "productive sector" agriculture and industry. With work in these two sectors in the economy it is possible to expand. Universities and white collar production come only later in the game.
In "Tropico" we liked the effect of having transport workers included. In both "Tropico" and RoN we see the difference between role-playing games and strategy games: workers will set about work themselves and not each unit has to be programmed. In a role-playing game, each action of each individual is the key to the enjoyment of the game. As a strategy game, RoN goes the extra step and says that there is no need to program someone to deliver food or wood. That is the sort of choice that strategy game programmers make to allow focus on the bigger picture.
If the player completely bungles the economy, competitors will come to destroy him/her literally. Most likely, the player will achieve economic surplus and expand business into more territory. In all of this so far, Marx would have found himself in familiar intellectual territory.
The gloomy side of the game is that it is inevitable that some will expand the economy and that appears to lead to war. Economic surplus makes war possible, but RoN has no socialist solution. Even diplomacy is severely limited by the overall logic of the game. The most one can do is start the game by checking off the computer options that the computer competitors will be driven to economic expansion as their strategic focus. In this, RoN follows along in the recent trend toward non-violent options--not as arising from the game itself but by programming choice at the beginning of the game. For this, RoN again deserves some credit.
There are some parents who would like to buy the game that excludes the war option. We have to note that RoN does have scenarios where the "mission" is for an army to kill civilians--what is known today as "terrorism." The reason given for the slaughter is that they are settlers stealing "your" land. On the one hand, the mission terrorism will desensitize some people, but on the other hand, the depiction is historically accurate for many places including Palestine today. Hopefully people will question whether it is worth "conquering the world" or participating in a world with "rules" like that.
The other side of the coin is that diplomacy in RoN is undeveloped--perhaps a good thing that does not promote illusions. In fact, one section of the game makes explicit that conquering the world is the solution to the problems. Perhaps as a concession to the market, the detailed emphasis ends up on military battles. The military strategy is limited to what types of units to produce and what formations to put them in where. It is not connected the way Mao connected military science to politics and moving forward.
Perhaps RoN can bundle together with games that have non-violent options and create a pacifist combination pack. Although anyone able to play the game is "adult" enough to decide for him or herself whether war is fun or not, as a matter of gift-giving some would like the pacifist option.
As in a theater production, RoN makes use of historically specific props and images. The expansion pack offers Alexander the Great, Napoleon and the presidents of the u$a during the Cold War--probably months worth of playing time. The correct names of many political leaders pop up in the game--so at least at that slight level the game can acclimate players somewhat to international history.
When we play the "Cold War" scenario, an icon of Lenin pops up and the program throws about rhetoric such as recommending war to take over countries because the Communist Party is short on cash. It's another way of pressing the player to "conquer the world."
On the other hand, the cynicism is even-handed. Regardless of ideology or history, in the Cold War game, bribing states or taking them over by military force is the way to win.
The even-handed cynicism deserves to be called bourgeois internationalism. RoN has African civilizations--Nubia and Egypt, Middle Eastern civilization--Turkey and Persia, European imperialists, China and Korea etc. The expansion pack even makes it possible to fight as Lakota Indians or as members of the Iroqois Confederacy.
Of course we appreciate the attention to the various nations. What we find reactionary in the RoN context is the idea that civilizations just rise and fall. That could be a possible explanation for the focus on military conquest that will cycle on forever as it seems to have in humyn history as depicted by RoN. What is lacking is a sense of advance as opposed to circular conquests. This circular view of history especially suits Amerikans right now who can say, "they had their turn rampaging; now it's ours." RoN can be a typical excuse for conservatives with a species-death-wish: "that's the way it is." That's the way it cannot be anymore or the planet can say bye-bye.
In the "Conquer the World" scenario of the "whole world," all the players are trying to become global dominators. Those that do not can be wiped out. Those left standing are good at economic surpluses, diplomacy and military tactics. In a certain sense, the economy and technology advance in the survivors, but the question is whether "victors" geared to war can obtain peace. History answers that no empire has ever conquered the whole world and all attempts have ended in war. Even if Hitler's Third Reich had conquered the whole world, it would not have survived without internal war leading to new nations and another cycle of wasteful violence. Marx & Lenin turned to economics and science and said the dialectic would bring about peace unexpectedly by giving rise to an advanced class of proletarians.
In the expansion pack, there is a clock ticking toward nuclear doom--another bit of realism. What is missing is a realistic sense of how people can fight it. In this, RoN reflects the past, but does not develop or synthesize a theory about it to move forward. That's what Marxism offers. There is still no other answer for that clock ticking toward nuclear doom.
The Cold War
Historically-speaking, RoN is the most realistic of the games by the same people overlapping with "Civilization." Nonetheless, "Superpower" is far more realistic, an example of a competitor of RoN. RoN fans would probably reply that RoN covers far more history while "Superpower" is just recent times.
In playing the RoN Cold War scenario, again, peace or a new idea for peace was not an option. In the one scenario the reviewer played, the Amerikans attacked while the Russian side tended to economic matters. The Amerikans passed on the Korean War, but they did invade Vietnam. Eventually President Reagan also invaded Cuba in the game.
The marketplace knows about armaments and past wars. To sell a game modeling how to achieve peace and harmony is a lot to ask our gaming bourgeoisie at the moment. It was an advance for RoN and others to "assume" the world is non-violent and that the game occurs in that context, either as economic competition or cultural competition. Along these lines, "Galactic Civilization" is perhaps better in putting the problem on the table, because it builds the pacifist option into the existing world of competitive militarists. Although pacifists in that game arm themselves, they can compete directly with the militarists. The problem there is that most pacifists might not see the "pacifists" as very pacifist.
There is a vicious cycle where art imitates life and life imitates art. To become fully humyn, we must intervene to break the cycle of history, no matter how true up to this point. That's why we criticize the video games people play.
RoN has a "something for everyone" approach to strategy--with politics, economics, history and military science.