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.
“Superpower” is a computer program —a video game that simulates the world economy, politics, demography, diplomacy and military in 1997 based on CIA and U.$. military databases. It deserves a prize as the most realistic world politics game yet available on the store shelf and a good candidate for best strategy game overall.
We are not a great fan of the gradation of government systems seen in “Superpower,” with “democracy” the pinnacle and something called “totalitarian democracy” encompassing Iran, China and many others. However, we are glad that the Dreamcatcher at least attempted to model this question. Players can choose their form of government and attempt to install similar governments to it in the rest of the world, but ideology does not play a very big role in the sense of coming up with long-term visions that can serve as a guide to a solution to the world’s problems. “Rebels” in each country are upset by the same things and their ideology is almost non- existing, dictated by geopolitics. Countries where the economy manages to employ everyone will have the least potential for rebellion.
In “democracy” there is supposedly some built-in opposition to war while other systems have much better design for war according to Dreamcatcher and other programming companies. On the “human development” graph, “democracy” does the best according to Dreamcatcher. The depiction of “democracy” as peaceful and prosperous is a common propaganda feature in strategy games on the market including “Civilization” and its successors. To its credit, Dreamcatcher lists numerous poor countries as “democracies,” because of their electoral systems. Many chauvinists use the word “democracy” to refer only to rich countries, thereby mixing together the results of exploitation with an electoral system.
We are sure that nations ranging from Armenia and Georgia to Tajikistan will notice that they are not included amongst 140 “important” nations in the game, while some much smaller ones are in the game. Several countries were lumped into “Russia.”
Nonetheless, the accomplishment of “Superpower” in incorporating data about 140 countries is unparalleled. The game simulates the diplomatic and military attitudes of each of the 140 countries. This introduces a much-needed “diversity” into the global picture. Whether the programmers got the diplomatic data exactly right or not for each country is not important compared with confronting such a reality, that each country has its own attitude towards the other 139.
That diversity does not mean that we can come to the anti-scientific conclusion that the world cannot be broken into two instead of 140. On any question, the world can be broken into two, with countries either being 50% or more pro- or anti-. In “Superpower” each country can be described as being in one of two camps based on its attitude toward the player’s country.
Today MIM speaks of the “Third World” which is a large collection of Latin American, African and Asian countries with similar interests opposing their own exploitation and super-exploitation at the hands of the imperialists. The common economic interests of the Third World override anything their temporary government leaders might say. The game starts with the United $tates in dominance with allies in Western Europe. Anyone playing the “conquer the world” strategy starts at a disadvantage unless choosing to play as the United $tates. Russia starts only with Ukraine as an apparent ally and China has no allies according to the Dreamcatcher. The ironic impact of seeing all the geopolitical conflicts that arise in this simulation of the 140 countries interacting is to remind communists of the bitter past in which N. Khruschev succeeded Stalin as leader of the Soviet Union and then proceeded to split the international communist movement by condemning Stalin in 1956. Various communist parties split away from the Soviet Union, because Khruschev and his supporters did not realize the value of what they had. In this game, we see that it is very difficult to make an ally while other powers contend and cause disruptions of various kinds. Even a very deliberate strategy aimed at alliance will be difficult for Russia and China now—purely on a geopolitical level. Khruschev and the people supporting him did not appreciate how far how fast Stalin had taken the Soviet Union and made the foolish mistake of “changing horses mid-stream.”
The best part of this reactionary game and a feature that redeems its many flaws is the depiction of what the CIA or its equivalents do each turn. The usual options of sabotage and spying are there. What is most excellent is how the secret services are linked to domestic politics and geopolitics.
The player has the option each turn of trying to rig elections in other countries, stage coup d’etats, assassinate other countries’ leaders and carry out acts of terrorism—each with the possibility of framing another country. Each action can influence public opinion globally. A successful election-rigging is potentially more effective than conquering a country for outright colonial purposes, because the country’s resources are at the disposal of the conqueror without the lack of enthusiasm and provoking of rebellion seen in countries where elections are not rigged.
People who have illusions about electoral politics need to understand that not only do secret services and militaries provide money, assassinate candidates, threaten others and rig elections and intimidate entire nations to vote in certain ways, but also they create terrorist incidents to manipulate public opinion. In the 1960s, the U.$. military made plans to carry out terrorism on U.$. cities to frame Cuba with.(1) If the reader is one of those naive people asking “why would they do that?” even playing this game will demonstrate some reasons.
The U.$. military is still denying that the U.S. Government arranged its own navy ship the “Maine” to be sunk as a pretext for the war with Spain in 1898. In any case, no one denies that the sinking of the “Maine” and other spectacular incidents can mobilize public opinion for war. As long as there are secret services —which means as long as there are states—there will be motivations and pretexts for creating incidents that mobilize public opinion for war. The crucial catch is that they are “secret.” There can be no way of knowing all of what governments do and this creates a sufficient impulse for species self-destruction by itself.
One reason for such manipulation of the public by government leaders not included in the game is corporate bribery of politicians—what Amerikkkans refer to euphemistically as “special interests,” so as not to rock the capitalist boat. It should never be forgotten that people ranging from the oil business to arms contractors to secret services gizmo manufacturers benefit from war. The latest is that robot manufacturers are making money selling remote-controlled weapons like the “Predator” that killed six people in Yemen in November, the Lockheed Martin “Micro Air Vehicle” that has a six-inch wingspan for spying, the former lunar device the RATLER designed for shuttling bombs etc.(2) Elections today only prove what people say when their arms are twisted behind their backs (the Third World) or what they say bribed with the super-profits of exploiting the Third World (imperialist countries). Democracy is not a solution to political problems or a method of solving them. Electoral politics do not serve the majority, so we must learn how to discern scientifically what the majority’s self-interests are and not accept diversions, regardless of how the majority votes or government leaders manipulate public opinion.
Political economy of strategy game production
The production of games like “Superpower” is corrupted by the capitalist system. Simple arcade games are much easier to program and support than strategy games like "Superpower." This Kanadian-made simulation game deserves honors for its realism and we're sure it took a lot of work to get that realism. Not surprisingly, the store shelves show that strategy games recede further and further in market share despite continual advances in programming and computers.
The question of people’s tastes in computer games is the same as in magazines. The trashiest pornography magazines sell the best and in video games the most militarist and simple-minded also sell the best, a very rare “Mysts” game notwithstanding. Addressing consumer demand issues, the “Superpower” programmers generously allow that the player have the option of playing “only” to stay in power and not be overthrown or to “balance” a Third World country’s budget and resources or to destroy rebels or to “take over the world.” The advance here—kudos to post-modernism and Dreamcatcher—is that people are allowed to play the simulation as the poorest country in the world just trying to make it. This is a far cry from taking the joystick, piloting an F-16 and shooting up tanks, which is the stuff of most computer games.
By the way, seeing the poorest countries’ budgets, quirky diplomacy and unwillingness to trade with anyone in some cases—this will cause the imperial-minded to consider taking over “basketcase” countries for “their own good.” In contrast, MIM supports the smallest of nations in their struggle against imperialism while still retaining hope for the possibilities of international economic cooperation. There are errors possible in adopting a “small nation” mentality, which overlook the possibilities of global cooperation: it’s just that imperialism can never make these advantages self-evident.
Although the game’s screen interface is quite attractive, the bottom line is that “Superpower” is a game of numerical tables. The player’s understanding of graphs and tables determines the outcome of the game—in addition to qualitative aspects of politics and the military. For this reason the gap between educated and uneducated people continues from the world of books and reports that the CIA data lives in to the world of video games. On the other hand, educational video-games like this one may have more potential than books when it comes to including the game-playing public—perhaps even those pleasure-seekers MIM refers to as the men and “gender aristocracy” that dominate the Internet.
Numerous strategy games crash (cause the computer to terminate the program without the user’s asking) before any reasonable completion and the company ceases to “patch” it, which means that the company does not attempt to fix the software based on consumer input. We played with the “1.3” patch; however, “Superpower” still crashes repeatedly— particularly as war and secret service operations become more developed in the game. What that means is the consumer can put in long days playing the game only to get the simulation to a certain stage and see it crash. As in many softwares it is best to “save” the file every turn.
It’s easy to see how the public has an interest in supporting the extension of more educational video games. What may not be profitable might best be termed “education.” As it stands now, games like “Superpower” are part of the superstructure reinforcing ideologies of imperialist militarism.
1. http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/ DailyNews/jointchiefs_010501.html has a story about the declassified U.S. Government documents on faking Cuban terrorism as a justification for war
2. See the “exciting” pictures cast in the midst of soft-core pornography in Gear magazine’s “The Model Issue,” July/August 2002, p. 22.