Archive for the 'politics' Category

GWOT Boardgame

September 29, 2006

Risk is a great board game, but it’s so 20th century. Wouldn’t you prefer whiling away a lazy afternoon at the cottage with a more up-to-date tabletop conquest game that better reflects the non-state-based nature of contemporary warfare? If so, War On Terror: The Boardgame might just be for you:

It’s got suicide bombers, political kidnaps and intercontinental war. It’s got filthy propaganda, rampant paranoia and secret treaties…and the Axis of Evil is a spinner in the middle of the board. You can fight terrorism, you can fund terrorism, you can even be the terrorists. The only thing that matters is global domination – err, liberation. (War on Terror: The Boardgame)

The designers of this game have a very dark sense of humor, and the game’s website has lots of little descriptive gems and rulebook entries like this one:

The end game

There are a few possible endings to the War on Terror…

1. An empire liberates the world

The scream of a winning empire. They grab enough land, they build enough cities, they drop enough nukes, they manage to keep the terrorist threat under control and they liberate the world! This is the most common ending.

2. The terrorists claim the planet for their own

Terrorist Victory. Through cunning use of political kidnaps, plane hijacks, terrorist attacks, suicide bombers – and all the other vicious strategies available to them – the terrorists destroy all the Empires and the world has no governments. Perhaps.

3. World peace

World peace, man. A rare but strangely satisfying end to the game. When there are no terrorists on the board, all remaining Empires can claim world peace, give each other a hug and go home knowing that they’ve learnt something special. This has happened once so far.

4. Never ending war

Is there no end to war? The game descends into chaos and the players sacrifice finishing it to save their minds. Luckily, after two years of development and an unhealthy disregard for our own sanity, this doesn’t happen too often anymore. (War on Terror: The Boardgame)

Via Water Cooler Games.


Banksy hits Disneyland

September 13, 2006

Prolific UK graffiti artist Banksy switched gears this week, following up on his cheeky hack of Paris Hilton’s CD launch with a disturbing attack on that bulwark of all things wholesome and good, Disneyland. Somehow, Bansky managed to get into the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Ride with a life-size figurine of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The figurine was positioned behind a fence so as to appear imprisoned to passers-by. According to the BBC, the figurine stood for about 90 minutes before the ride was shut down.

Flickr user madeofchalk has a banksy photoset with a couple shots from the installation. Also, if you’re going to be in LA between September 15th and 17th, keep an eye on Banksy’s site for the location of a secret “three day vandalized warehouse extravaganza.”

Chinese Gold Farmers Documentary

September 13, 2006

Ge Jin, a PhD student at the UCSD Department of Communication, is working on a documentary about “Chinese gold farmers” — MMORPG players who gather treasure and experience in virtual worlds to sell via eBay. A trailer for the video is available online here.

Tietou went from Shanghai to Amherst College in the US to study computer engineering in 1999. However, he felt very alienated in the US and spent most of his days playing online games in his dorm, often trading virtual assets on Ebay. One day in 2002 he suddenly realized that he could use cheap Chinese labor to produce virtual assets, so he quit college and came back to China to establish gold farms. Although he was very successful at the beginning, now his gold farms have collapsed because of the fierce competition in this business… (

Nick Yee, founder of the Daedalus Project, a major series of surveys and statistics about virtual worlds and online gaming, comments on the video in a Terra Nova post entitled, “Disembodiment, Hypermobility and Labor:”

In watching the video, I am most struck by the intertwined empowerment/disempowerment that is occurring simultaneously for these Chinese workers. Their lives in these virtual worlds are brighter, but yet their interactions with American players (and associated slurs) are a constant reminder of their inferior socio-economic status. The disembodied hypermobility granted by these virtual worlds is, to a certain extent, dispelled when they are labeled as “Chinese gold farmers”. For them, it is a double-edged sword. (Terra Nova)

…to which Ge Jin himself adds a handful of evocative questions:

Is the gold farmer phenomenon a step (probably not the first) in creating productivity out of pleasure? A parallel example is how the military uses immersive games to prepare soldiers for war.

If we get rid of real money trade in the game world, the American gamers will have pure immersion and a level playing field. But many Chinese gamers will lose access to a place that compensate many things they don’t have in real lives, because they depend on real money trade to afford gaming facilities. If we consider the virtual world a public space, can we take into account the issue of “access”? (Terra Nova)

Political Games

September 12, 2006

Activists, political parties and special interest groups have used games to spread their messages for a while now. While artists such as Italian collective molleindustria use Flash-based web games to interrogate economic and sexual politics, and satirists such as those behind the Bush Backrub game use interactive web toys to poke fun at public figures, more mainstream groups like the California Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights are getting into the, er, game with diversions aimed at specific issues of public policy.

Other games use less direct but equally powerful methods to push for political change. The forthcoming Left Behind: Eternal Forces presents the dystopian world-view of fundamentalist Christianity in game form, insidiously targeting children with a staunchly anti-United Nations, pro-apocalypse point of view.

Great coverage of everything related to politics in gaming can be found at the regularly-updated blog, Game Politics.