Monday, August 2, 2010

My Five Favorite Conservative Games

While going through my Rook's Bailey blog entries, I rediscovered an entry that listed my five favorite conservative games from 2008.  For the most part, I still stand by these nominations (one has changed... read the article to see why).  What do you think?  What are some of your favorite games that you would consider to be "conservative gaming"?


There has been a lot said about the manifest left-wing lunacy of Hollywood, but it has always struck me as very interesting that another portion of modern entertainment media, indeed, a portion that is beginning to eclipse Hollyweird itself, is largely free of preachy left-wing nonsense [starting to change in 2010! - ST]. No, I’m not referring to television; I’m speaking about gaming. Why is it that the average game is actually quite conservative in its outlook? Perhaps it’s because liberalism is just incompatible with the highly-competitive world of gaming (after all, how do you make a game where no one is allowed to do better than anyone else?)? Or maybe it’s just because gaming is still under the radar of the left (who has time to play a game when there is so much to protest in the world?!?)?

Here are my top five conservative games:

#5: Warhammer 40K: Jeez, how does one quickly explain the complex world of Warhammer 40K? The twenty year’s worth of lore surrounding this game universe makes Middle Earth’s lore seem absolutely superficial by way of comparison! Suffice to say, Warhammer 40K deals with galactic warfare during a dark, brutal time when man is fighting against its own extermination at the hands of implacable alien and deamonic enemies. Begun as a tabletop miniatures game, today 40K has expanded into the world of PC gaming with four (soon to be five) successful RTS games and one MMO currently under development. What is more, the 40K universe has become so popular that the game has spun-off a thriving publishing operation (the so-called Black Library) that has proven popular with both fans of the game and those who have never played it.

Why is it conservative? For me, it has to do with two reasons. First, it is the unrelenting and unabashed way in which the heroes of the Imperium, be it the elite Space Marines or the grunt Imperial Guard, seek the total defeat of their enemies. At a time when America is at war, it can be very refreshing to have a game that abandons the ‘politically correct warfare’ that so many in politics and media seek for us to adopt – no matter how much is harms our cause. I can assure you in the world of 40K, you won’t find the defenders of mankind weeping over a little water boarding or seeking a modus vivendi with their foes. For example, one of my favorite 40K quotes is found in Dawn of War (one of the PC versions of the game) where a Space Marine captain is want to shout “This is the judgment of the righteous!” as he guns down enemy upon enemy. Another great quote from that game is “Victory needs no explanation, defeat allows none.” And we can’t forget the truism “Success is measured in blood; yours or your enemy´s.” True. In a feminized world, 40K is testosterone-laden refuge of larger than life heroes who make it their life work to obliterate evil.

My second reason is the religious faith that binds the Imperium of Man. While some complain that the religiosity found in 40K has fascist overtones (a not inconsiderate point), I like to look on the brighter side (if there is a bright side in 40K!). The faith of mankind in the “Undying Emperor” is what binds a million disparate worlds in common cause against the hellish enemies that come out of the blackness of space (there’s no multiculturalism in 40K!). What is more, it is this faith that serves to inspire men of all walks to life to heroic deeds that faithless men would never be able to achieve. Again, some of my favorite quotes: “Fear denies faith!” It certainly does. And who could forget that “the difference between heresy and treachery is ignorance.” Lastly, “Educate men without faith and you but make them clever devils.” Good stuff!

 #4: World in Conflict: Does any conservative not love the movie Red Dawn? Combining the classic virtues of minuteman vigilance and patriotism, Red Dawn is the conservative movie of the 20th Century. Well, now you can play the game too! World in Conflict is Massive Entertainment’s unabashed tribute to Red Dawn and puts the player in charge of commanding American and NATO forces as they fight off a Soviet invasion of Europe and America circa 1989 (sure, you can play the Ruskies too, but who wants to do that?). Combining innovative 16 v 16 multiplayer gameplay along with graphical realism that could almost be mistaken for news videotape, World in Conflict gives every conservative an opportunity to find out that the only good commie is a dead commie.

Author's note:  This is the game that I would remove from the list for the simple fact that WiC died an early death.  Massive's publisher, Sierra, was sold to Activision who had no interest in this title.  Ultimately, WiC was left without a publisher until Ubisoft acquired the franchise at the last minute.  Unfortunately for WiC, it was too little, too late and died an early death for such a popular game.

My replacement would be Gearbox's Borderlands.  If you want to learn why, read my editorial called Six Shooter Capitalism.

#3 EVE Online: A conservative sci-fi video game? Yes! EVE Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game where around 40,000 people at a time (out of a base of 240,000 registered members!) play together in a violent future of factional warfare across a virtual galaxy almost as big as the real thing. But while the combat is fun, what makes EVE Online qualify as conservative fun is it’s robust, player-driven capitalist economy. Unlike many other games, everything in EVE is mined, designed, or manufactured by EVE players for EVE players! What this means is that EVE has become one of the most complex and realistic simulations of a supply and demand-based economy. How complex and realistic? CCP, the game’s developer, has needed to hire an economist to help control real-world issues such as inflation and monopolistic practices by player-run corporations (and yes, in EVE, forming and running massive corporations are a big part of the game’s fun).

This capitalist economy has a very real impact on the players. For example, unlike other games where you are just given everything gratis, in EVE, players are forced to make a living and purchase everything they need. This makes for an interesting dynamic where, as in real life, the player is always on the make for a more lucrative job (be it as soldier, smuggler, manufacturer, trader, corporate CEO or any other occupation that a player finds to be profitable) so he can afford to purchase that bigger ship with better guns, a more efficient mining rig (don’t forget the insurance policy!) or those implants that are all the rage. In EVE, you quickly learn the value of a dollar, er…ISK, and the need to work hard to get where you want to be (so much so that you often see a lot of kids quit EVE because, as they put it: “this game is too much like a job!”).

Another reason why EVE is a conservative game is the story of CCP. A group of scrappy programmers committed to their vision, despite an underwhelming launch and some unfortunate publisher problems, CCP persisted with their dream and have succeeded in creating a landmark of MMO game design.

#2 Chess: Chess will always be the king of games. Over 1400 years old, Chess spans human history with an enduring strength that defies lesser games. But why do I think it’s conservative?

First and foremost, a quick glance at the two opposed chess armies will reveal a very ordered society in which everyone has a place fitting their abilities. You have the pawns, the most common of all the pieces (albeit, technically, a pawn is not a piece in chess lingo), which despite being on the lowest rung of society’s ladder, are nevertheless willing to form the first line of defense. And why shouldn’t they? While they are lowly, they possess the seeds of greatness within them that, after much hard work and bravery, can germinate and elevate the pawn to any other greater role short of the king himself! There’s a classic conservative lesson in that.

Let’s not forget the king and queen either. They stand side by side as they lead their armies, inspiring their soldiers with personal example. Also, they represent the strength of man and wife as one (politic) body, defending each other and the land. In short, the king and queen are the physical manifestation of harmonious civil governance.

Just to their left and right, we have loyal bishops advising the regal pair. Contrary to modern leftist thought, God-given right reason is essential to the functioning of any kingdom and we see that represented by the close proximity of the bishops to their betters.

Knights…well, what could possibly be more conservative than the image of the brave knight? Brave warriors sworn to God and King, the knight is the epitome of conservative manliness.

Then we have the Rooks. With the medieval influence upon chess, this former chariot has come to represent the classic medieval architecture of the castle – perhaps the closest the world has ever come to achieving the perfection of form and function. The rook represents the conservative notion that in truth, there is beauty.

Lastly, even the chess board is a reminder of conservative beliefs. Comprised of white and black squares, Chess is reminder that gray has no lasting place in the world of ideas.

And the #1 most conservative game is....  

Monopoly: If The Price is Right is the “all American game show,” then Monopoly has to be “the all American board game.”

Created during the Great Depression, Monopoly was the brainchild of Charles B. Darrow. Initially, Mr. Darrow tried to sell the game to Parker Brothers, but they rejected it because of a reputed “52 design errors”. Undeterred like the good entrepreneur he was, Mr. Darrow sold 5,000 copies of the game to a department store soon thereafter. It proved so popular, that Mr. Darrow couldn’t keep up with the subsequent demand! Those initial sales were the beginning of a flood that has not ceased, totaling some 200 million copies to date!

What conservative wouldn’t like a game where you can become a millionaire by buying and selling real estate? Where you start with a modest house but work your way up to hotels and, ultimately, buy the whole neighborhood?!? For all its simplicity, Monopoly manages to capture the essence of American capitalism and entrepreneurship within its elegant confines. Simply, it is the American dream in a box!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

LiverLip Louie

Hey all,

Not much to report today.  I've been busy catching up on some indoor chores now that the epic heatwave of '10 has broken for a few days (could AlGore be right?!?).  Also, I needed to knock out a few pages on a new article I'm working on for (it's about eight games that all PC gamers should keep an eye on - there's some potentially good stuff coming down the pike at long last!). gaming news, but here's an interesting vid from a guy who calls himself 'LiverLip Louie'.  I don't know why his lip is made of liver, or why he looks like rooster made out of shaving cream, but his sentiments are right on.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Curious Curfew

So there I was, sitting in a limey burger joint, eating ‘micro-burgers’ and trying to figure out how to kill some time.  Oh sure, I played the government approved game where I got to shoot peace protesters and non-conformists to my heart’s content (seriously, that was in the game!), but it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.  I needed a proper thrill for a Brit teenager.  Perhaps some fish and chips would fit the bill?

As I “queued up” in front of the ‘B’ citizen counters, one of the hired help offered to help me get my hands on a copy of Grand Theft Auto 13, a most definitely not government approved video game.  It was at that point that I…fell asleep.   Well, that’s not entirely true.  I did revisit the game later that night with the intent of seeing just where this browser-based game from the UK’s Channel 4 was taking me, but after sitting through what seemed an eternity’s worth of propaganda (I mean the propaganda of the game, not the propaganda in the game), I reached the mini-game where I needed to knock out a security camera with a slingshot that was about as accurate as a peashooter in the hands of an asthmatic.  I mean, trite politically correct propaganda is bad enough, but bad mini-games are simply intolerable!

Now, to be fair, Curfew does initially have a few charms.  When I first started the game, I was having a good time.  In many ways, Curfew reminded me of a Flash-based Orwellian take on those classic text-based adventures from Infocom of many years ago.  The premise is an interesting one:  figure out which of the four people trapped in a resistance safe house with you are trustworthy enough to deliver a secret package.  You go about this by engaging in some standard Q & A that will be familiar to any RPG player.  However, the game doesn’t stop there but actually takes the player through the story for each of the four occupants, showing just how they wound up in the safe house on the run from Big Brother, allowing the player make some choices and shape the game along the way, of course.  That is…I am assuming this is where the game was heading as I never did get beyond the awful slingshot mini-game for the “Boy” character.  Heck, for all I know, he could have ran to the safe house after his parents found out he blew his university fund on soft-core cable porn.

Of course, the idea of making a video game to warn against the dangers of governmental tyranny (in this case, brought about by a failed terrorist attack – how original) is a potentially good one.  Unfortunately, where Curfew falls flat on its face is that it has confused teen angst with tyranny.  To see this, just take a look at its cast of characters:

•    The Boy:  he’s on a quest to get his hands on a banned video game!
•    The Immigrant:  tastefully from Iraq (of course), and seeking to stop her parents from being deported.
•    The Dissident:  How dare the government stop her non-stop orgy of sex and drugs?!?
•    The Ex-Policeman:  He’s corrupt, don’t you know.

Wow, how thoroughly…threadbare.  I mean, these anthropomorphic fears sound like they were cobbled together by a group-think panel made up of MTV suits, the Weather Underground,  and Code Pink (well, their British counterparts, I suppose).  I mean…really?  This is the hallmark of tyranny in the modern world?  In a nation that has bona fide food police, I would think a game such as Curfew (the name of which references another adolescent fear) would tackle much bigger fish.  Then again, the game does have “micro-burgers”, so perhaps the later stages of Curfew does take to task Britain’s real signs of encroaching statism, such as with the aforementioned food police.  To its credit, Curfew does seem to take a swipe at Britain’s more than four million cameras that track its citizenry’s every move (Eric Blair is probably spinning in his grave), so I suppose it could be in there somewhere.  Would it be too much to hope that Curfew might also warn of the dangers of a government that enjoys iron-fisted control over the very bodily health of its people, as does the National Health Service?  Perhaps, as there is a less than encouraging scene where “the Boy” visits an old man’s rundown home and sadly laments how the government isn’t taking care of its citizenry.  I guess the lesson here is that one person’s tyranny is another’s cradle-to-grave welfare state.

All in all, what I saw of Curfew makes it out to be little more than a cobbled together list of politically correct fears set in an interactive game environment that gets old almost as fast as its pretentious lecturing.  It is little more than e-propaganda.   When you stop and think about it, how ironic:  Curfew is a propaganda game that warns about the dangers of authoritarian propaganda!

You can’t make this stuff up!

Curfew will soon be forgotten.  Unfortunately, those of its kind will keep coming.  As I mentioned in another entry, it is only a matter of time until gaming is fully seized upon as the next, great method of political indoctrination.  No doubt, the statists will be there first, as they are always quicker off the mark than their liberty-loving counterparts (when dealing with self-evident truths, you rarely have a need for mind-bending propaganda – hence, the speed discrepancy).  Issues of liberty and tyranny are serious matters, especially in these dangerous times where statism is on the rise around the globe.  The question is:  will the champions of a mature vision of liberty (or tyranny, for that matter) seize the high ground this time, or will they be forced to, once again, charge up the hill long after the statists have entrenched themselves and made a mess of things?

Feel free to check the game out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Starcraft II is Here

The big day is here for millions of fans:  Blizzard has released Starcraft II!


Okay, okay…to be fair, there is nothing wrong with Starcraft.  I just don’t care for it.  I played the original and found it to be a fine RTS (with great cut scenes!), but it never really hooked me in the way it did others, especially those crazy South Koreans.  I think part of the reason is that I am a fanatical Warhammer 40K fan and Starcraft comes across as a thinly veiled copycat of that awesome game universe (if I recall correctly, one of the original devs even admitted that they did base Starcraft on 40K after learning they couldn’t afford the GW license…how things have changed over the decades).  It does have its own merits, but I just can’t get over the glaring similarities (e.g., Zergs = Tyrannids;  Protoss =  Eldar;  Terrans = Space Marines).
This does not mean, however, that I won’t be giving it a try at some point.  I’m a sucker for big budget (estimated dev cost: a record-breaking $100 million!) sci-fi games, and Lord knows that Relic’s 40K-themed Dawn of War II was a dud of boring proportions (how is it even possible to make a boring 40K game?!?).  So, I definitely could go for an old school RTS game with all the modern glitz added on top. 

Now for the political connection….

There isn’t one.  But perhaps one day WikiLeaks will release thousands of pages worth of documents that tell us stuff we already know about the Terran war against the Zerg.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome to Burke's Joystick!

Hi all!

Welcome to my new blog, Burke's Joystick!

Now, you are probably asking what this blog is going to be all about.  Well, that's a good question.  As a writer, I can tell you that these things take on a life of their own.  My plans for this blog is to merge my two passions in life: conservative politics and gaming.

It's a strange mix, I know.

But not as strange as you might think.  Gaming is following in the footsteps of cinema in many, many ways.  Like cinema, gaming began as an obscure hobby for technophiles and has since evolved into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today.  Also like cinema, the art of game design has evolved from incredibly simplistic beginnings (Pong, anyone?), to massively complex programs that are herculean efforts of human genius (many candidates here; let's go with EvE Online). 

As far as I can tell, there is only one area where gaming has not - yet - followed cinema in a big way:  and that is the use of the medium for political purposes.

Part of the reason why this hasn't occurred yet is because gaming still has some maturing to do when it comes to the art of storytelling.  As such, gaming as a means of political indoctrination hasn't taken off...but it soon will (there have been some attempts already).

And that is the reason for this blog.  There aren't  a lot of games explicitly designed as political exercises yet, but there are an increasing number of games that do touch upon real world issues in a somewhat abstracted way, and I intend to cover them here.  I also intend to explore how gaming can be a useful tool for exploring economics and politics for both adults and kids.  And last, I intend to cover politics.  Period.  [The times are too exciting not too!]

So, I don't know where this is quite going just yet, but it should prove interesting no matter where we arrive!