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.
Here is a game composed of "Europa 1400" and a similar expansion pack that MIM Notes can recommend as solidly progressive at least in "free play" mode. It's a complex role-playing game with strategy behind it. It won't be suitable for very young children, because it's too hard. Perhaps some children can play this at around age 11. This review spoils some of the little jokes in the game.
Family and education
The beginning of the game has a cute little trick where the player chooses his or her parents, the profession of those parents and the relative strengths of the offspring. It's something a computer makes possible, to think systematically about that.
The game allows asexual behavior, but then the game will be over at some point when the player dies. Children must be 12 years old by the time the player dies or the game is over. That may not be today's attitude, but we can believe it would have been in 1400.
There are no gay couples, but we like how the game portrays heterosexual courtship in class-ridden society. The various people available for marriage come with varying degrees of being pre-disposed to the player and that is important. However, money plays the decisive role.
The program makes it look like children inherit certain skills from their parents. On the other hand, most skill comes from self-education through the purchase and study of books.
The book titles are pretty funny--"Capital (and lots of it)" no doubt is a play on the title of Marx's main work Capital, but is useful to trade negotiation skills in the game. Other books are instructions on how to make money as outlaws or to abuse the system as ordinary citizens.
Some may not like the fact that the player inevitably dies and has a funeral. Yet the object of this game is to run a dynasty. Dynasties can continuously expand and perhaps own whole cities through the accumulation of property by inheritance.
Labor theory of value
The reviewer started the game as a blacksmith. It's a good way to start the game and also it's a good way to fall into synch with what MIM has to say about the game.
The blacksmith must go to market and buy raw materials, bring them back to the shop and assign workers to use the anvil and other tools to process them. Then the workers produce items such as fittings, silver rings and swords and the blacksmith takes them to market to sell for a profit. We do not see food except luxury goods like beer on the market and the market in the game as a whole has a bias toward various products that the humyn can live without.
Starting with money from parents as in "The Guild," Marx would refer to as "M." Buying raw materials at the market and paying for apprentices and journeymen is "C." Then for workers working on those materials Marx notates "...". The resulting products such as rings and swords is called "C'" and then finally the money one gets at market for the swords, rings and so on is "M'."
What makes capitalism capitalism and not some other mode of exploitation is what Marx symbolized in the following line:
M-C ... C'-M'
We call M' minus M "surplus-value," the central concept of all of Marx on capitalism. If not all the C' goods manage to sell on a market, we say there is "unrealized surplus-value." Despite the "unrealized surplus-value," we say there was "surplus-labor" to create the C'.
Just seeing that much to talk about and how the whole economy can expand from that is what interests MIM about this game. The theory of prices and speculation in "The Guild" and also other trading strategy games is not Marxist but Liberal, because it starts and ends in what the individual economic actor sees, mainly, "buy low and sell high."
The "buy low and sell high" emphasis is an example why MIM generally does not approve of role-playing games (RPGs). RPGs are inherently Liberal, because of their focus on the individual instead of groups or classes. Liberalism still has some progressive value in the Third World, but not in the imperialist countries like the united $tates.
In Marxism, the question would become the "action points" in "The Guild" game, their average level and distribution among all people, because "action points" determine how well the trader negotiates in the market. The main point is that there must be a capitalist class average, and not just an examination of how some individuals buy low and sell high. While some capitalists do better than others and some fall out of the capitalist class entirely, there is no sense in which wealth originates at the overall social level from speculation according to us Marxists. Wealth comes from labor and it is a capitalist class cover-up to talk about speculation, hard-working bosses or even technology as an explanation for capitalist windfalls. Individuals make money in connection to speculation and technology, but the class as a whole does not generate wealth. At the class level, one capitalist's "buying low" is just a swindle of another capitalist who "sold low"--not very interesting for overall scientific purposes.
In the "The Guild," when one advances to having at least four workers plus a "master" managing a business, the owner can leave and do other things, provided the master is doing a good job. It is possible to make much more money simply owning the business, if the master runs production well, than by working in the business oneself. To this extent, the labor theory of value may come out: players may realize they are not working anymore in their foundries or tailor shops. Working not at all or perhaps only occasionally, the player may yet still be making more money than anyone else just by owning a certain business. That is the parasitic goal of the capitalist system and witnessing that becomes more likely, the further along in the game one goes.
Obviously, when M' - M < 0, the business is losing money and capitalists lose interest in capitalism. That can become a signal to move out of the way and allow socialism or it can be a signal in the year 1400 for example, that the world is not ready for capitalism.
Other modes of production that are more primitive might include production for direct use with no money--for instance when money did not exist yet. Under the feudalist economic system, peasants might also turn over product to the landlord without receiving wages. The land plays a central role in that situation.
When the game starts in "easy" mode, the player is a petty- bourgeois. The player does not work for wages but instead starts with an apprentice. The apprentice is what we refer to as a worker or proletarian today. At the beginning of the game, the player is not yet an outright capitalist though, because the profits from having one apprentice will not be enough to survive on until a certain level of advance in the game.
In the year 1400, capitalism has yet to conquer the world. So a point of confusion relating to Marx's depiction of history is that at that time, according to us Marxists, the shoots of capitalism such as a blacksmith's business as depicted in this game are revolutionary. When we argue about history of any society, a central point is at what point did enough people succeed in carrying out " M-C....C'-M' " and who was standing in the way of that.
The apprentices and journeymen of "The Guild" also have some class struggle going on. They are likely to complain without bonuses and sometimes have accidents. We did not see a socialist revolution option, but this game is about the year 1400, so it would be wrong to ask for one.
Government officials give out rights to expand buildings and conduct business based on whether they like the player or not. This is a beautiful insight into city government by the game developers.
The way that players gain favor is through bribery or entertainment or other various activities. Even the blacksmith is more-or-less a small mafia with the options of spying, bribing and physically attacking opponents.
Gaining titles such as "baron" is helpful to one's business. It is possible to bribe the emperor himself. The "easy" setting for the city London has the benefit of pointing this all out whereas other similar games leave the player to figure out how much bribery is necessary.
This reviewer's player outlived a spouse twice, inherited vast money from that and then earned a higher social title from the emperor. The old society had titles to give out, but the new blood ended up buying those titles. At some point, we can see how new bourgeois blood takes over the whole society.
On the one hand, churches in "The Guild" may have offices with people producing books of use to secular society. On the other hand, there is no sentimentality about religion as some quotes from the priests will prove. For example, one referring to books and poems sold by the church says, "Praise God! And if it's all the same to you, I'll praise my wares as well."
Appearance in church may also cause this little ditty: "9 out of 10 coins end up in my purse/ Help for the needy of course."
Because of the way the game works with multiple professions being possible, perhaps the best part occurs with thieves approved by the priests. Thieves are just workers in the game with a profession like anyone else's. They kill the transport workers in order to steal the goods of blacksmiths and others. At the same time that the thief employees are killing off one's workers and stealing one's goods, the thief boss may actually be on good terms with the player and recommending the player to others in social circles.
The state, religion and thieving are all connected together. By paying for "indulgences" at church, players may find relief from the implications of their sins.
Thieves and government officials receive pay and act as a drag on the whole economy. Depending on the success of thieves and the voraciousness of government officials and other parasites, the whole economy may go downhill. Paying for guards to transport goods is expensive and may mean the difference between success or failure for a business. MIM views the heroes of the story as the blacksmiths, tailors, loggers and miners and those who fought to protect their profits against other sectors of the economy.
Today, the situation is different, because in the imperialist countries people with training in productive professions also undertake parasitism on the global economy. Just as a player can start in one profession in "The Guild" and spread into other ones, so Amerikans still do a tiny minority of the labor in their economy while mostly benefitting from the other parasitic professions occurring much like the thieves, priests and government officials do in "The Guild."
Today, non-white-collar thieves are actually the downtrodden in the imperialist countries, the least successful of the parasites. The labor aristocracy's "fight crime" attitude justifying infinite repression would have been progressive in the circumstances depicted in "Europa 1400." Players can try their hands at blowing up or burning down thief dens, not to mention killing off the vermin. Now in real life the situation is reversed where the thieves we call lumpenproletariat are more likely to sympathize with the productive sector workers of the world than any other section of imperialist society.
We should mention a few drawbacks to "The Guild." The exquisite artistry of the graphics may have the effect of making people pine for Medieval life going into transition to capitalism. In "The Guild," ordinary people live in houses with interiors not matched in anything but the richest houses today. Likewise, the background music may entrance some people into wishing for a Medieval alternative reality.
If the militarism level is the same among proposed games to create, it may be better to develop games for the science fiction future than to glorify the past of class society. The past of class society is undeniably violent, whereas the future may be peaceful.
On the other hand, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it as the saying goes, so MIM is making an exception for this game, because of its overall characteristics. Like many other video games, "The Guild" has a high risk of encouraging people to become cynical wealth-chasers, but other conclusions are also there for the taking in "The Guild," hence its redeeming value. We would like to see games about the past inject a fantasy element of how to win a hard struggle for global peace.
Another weakness in "The Guild" is how at higher stages we start to see alchemists play important roles. Scientists coming up with miraculous methods of production and miraculous products come later in the game, but they trail off into pure magic. What we like about that is that hopefully the player realizes "it's not real."
Today's large and small exploiters often justify their economic position as if their contribution to production were indeed magic. One of our critics suggested that Amerikan workers might be 20 times more productive than their needs for example, with the rest going to capitalists --a pure delusion celebrating capitalism's supposed efficiency and productivity. So even on this question "The Guild" is better than what passes for most Marxism in the United $tates. Despite the many elements of alchemy in the game, "The Guild" has a more realistic view than what we see in most games or real life politics.
There is also some violence in the game, and there is a software bug in the thief routine that can cause a needless delay when transport workers die. Transport workers and thieves are expendable for the benefit of the city's leaders--a realistic feature of the game that may nonetheless spur the wrong conclusions. There is no option that can really bring about humyn harmony in the game, so in that sense this is just another game leaving violence as inevitable. Here we have to weigh the accuracy of a game about the year 1400 against the value of a future where children have learned to surpass their ancestors. Most of the hoary games about medieval times need to be repressed under the joint dictatorship of the proletariat, but we should keep a few of the best games about history.