Saturday, August 13, 2005

planetarion- simulating politics

in the true spirit of computer gaming i thought id cue u guys in on a little game i played in high school called planetarion. it was free back then, and now has an entry fee to be paid by dredit card. the site is
basically when u sign up you can either be placed into a designated galaxy or a random one. you are the 'ruler' of a planet, and you have resources from which to build your empire. within your galaxy you must collectively vote in a prime minister, a vice, and ministers of war, finance and communications. with your resources, you can invest in defence, offence, technology or more resources, to be simplistic.
what makes this unique, as opposed to the large variety of role playing games available on the net, is that it deals with numbers and text, without any animation, and maintains a high level of anonymity, with only your planet and ruler name as an alias. you log on, decide to build ships, research tech, harvest asteroids for resources, and then contribute to the galactic forum. from time to time you can choose to attack someone, in the hopes of assimilating their resources and attaining a higher score. i could go on about the games inner workings but thats beside the point. id suggest having a look and then coming back to this. basicallythe ultimate goal is to build up a huge army and dominate the universe.
performed as a social experiment, this would certainly give a lot of insight into the way we choose to manage ourselves, be it capitalist, communist, anarchy, whatever.
just think about it- a random collection of strangers, forced to cooperate for the benefit of them and those nearest to them. politics idealised, i suppose, as i personally have witnessed the ministers of finance doling out the galactic funds to finance their coup de tat.
the appeal for me, i guess, as i entered into a galaxy with friends and the 'cooler' elite of my year, was the chance to erase my previous profile and become an arbitrary equal.
through the looking glass, playing the numbers game, its seems obvious why someone would want to attack someone with a low ships:asteroid ratio. if youve got a bigger army then him, and hes got asteroids that you want, freakin take them. the only people that matter are the ones in your own galaxy, and they wont do anything because youve got the most ships and happen to be the prime minister. of course we're allowed to be shamelessly greedy, its only a computer game, right? there arent real people in those ships. has anyone read the book enders game?
here we start to find the ethical dillemma apparent in the very core of computer gaming-simulation. truth without consequence.
to end with another planetarion anecdote- when i was playing, my friends had a party one night and managed to crack the password of our prime minister, who also had the highest score. i saw him every day in my english class, but i never really talked to him. anyway- we sent his entirefleet to attack the strongest planet in the universe and he was completely annihilated, particularly with the counterstrike. he threatened to beat me up and i kept my distance from him for quite a while. i guess these things have consequences after all. anonymity's dark side is most definitely a lack of empathy

marc t


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