"Do You Want to Play a Game?"The Contrarian: Why We Fight"Do You Want to Play a Game?" - RSS 2.0
Starting with the original Castle Wolfenstein game on the Apple II, I have personally shot, stabbed, driven over, detonated or otherwise killed thousands of Nazi soldiers. I have slain at least hundreds of Japanese and Italian soldiers. And through incompetence, negligence, callousness or bad luck, I have doubtlessly caused the deaths of at least dozens of American troops through friendly fire. All of this slaughter occurred between about 1939 and 1945.
More recently, I've shot and killed countless Arab "enemy combatants" and outright terrorists, gunned down North Korean soldiers in their missile bunkers, executed rogue intelligence operatives from my own government, and even fought alongside John Kerry. I've felt the Call of Duty, received the Medal of Honor, fought with my Brothers in Arms, done my Ghost Recon, been over the Rainbow Six, joined Operation Flashpoint, escaped from a Splinter Cell, and have both Commanded and Conquered. If you made a charnel pit of all my varied dead, from the flickering pixel-men of that long-ago castle to the latest normal-mapped shrapnel victims, it might blot out the sun. Such is the magnitude of my carnage.
All of this is to say: me too. The following indictment of our crimes does not exclude the present prosecutor, who is both accuser and among the accused.
I believe the seemingly endless popularity of these particular games, in which players take the role of soldiers, spies and other enforcers of government policy, can be attributed to the inherent appeal of a particular ideology. The practical implementation of this ideology can include myriad bureaucratic and cultural details but whose fundamental appeal to the human animal comes down to the notion that might makes right.
I'm talking about fascism.
Put simply, fascism is a political system that advances the worth of the state above any other consideration. Your life, your freedom, your work, your family, your property, your expression all serve the state at its whim and can be used or discarded as the state wishes. This is why fascism is inextricably linked with violence: When the individual and the fascist state come in conflict, violence is how the state achieves its aims. Where the democracy relies on representational government and capitalism values the market and the rule of law, fascism is ultimately rooted in the belief that those in charge know what's right and have the authority to manifest their will by force.
And it feels really, really good.
The gun settles all arguments. The boot silences criticism. The tank crushes protest. When the world is quiet and you are the only one standing, your opinion is the correct one because there is no alternative. You are right, because there is no competition to prove you wrong.
How many times have you looked at a situation in the news, whether a political dispute or a terrorist attack, and thought, "If they'd just make me dictator for a day, just one day, I'd straighten this mess out." I'm sure you would. You're a good person. Your ideas have merit. If you could just cut through all that debate and get something done for a change, people would understand why you had to raise your voice. Sometimes somebody has to shout a little, push a bit, jab with the sharp elbow, just to make the other fellow see sense.
A friend of mine studied political science at Yale. In one class, the professor posted a game scenario: You are the newly empowered dictator of a third-world country. Your people face famine, plague, poverty and unrest. What policies would you enact to solve these problems? (Fans of Tropico, you know how this works.) My friend's solution? Death camps. Round up the sick, the lame, the infertile, the ignorant, the useless, the unproductive and execute them. Bring the workforce and the job market into sudden alignment. Reconcile the mouths to feed with the supplies of food.
The rest of the class was horrified. Their reports contained economic incentives, requests for aid, plans for a staged restoration of democracy, summits to bring the eggheads together, earnest ideas by the wagonload. By comparison, my friend's solution was ghastly.