Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Space: The Final Conservative Frontier



Have you ever noticed how every space game represents the conservative ideal?  Rarely do you find a space-themed game where the player needs a space ship just to pick up his government cheese at the nearest space welfare office.  Rather, be it Eve Online, the X-series, or Space Pirates and Zombies, the gameplay always revolves around the player setting out on a new life free from the hassles of the old world, one where he is free to pursue fame and fortune as he sees fit.

These thoughts were brought to mind after trying my latest space squeeze, Evochron Mercenary.  Check out the game's description:
Trading commodities while sneaking past hostile forces, racing the best pilots in the area, mining for diamonds, negotiating for survival, spying for a curious energy company, cleaning dirty solar arrays, transporting an impatient passenger... and that's just on a Monday. The life of an independent mercenary is rarely without excitement. At times, you may choose to work under contract, while at others, you may want to take matters into your own hands in a quest to build your reputation and fortune. Your spacecraft awaits. Your adventure begins in the Sapphire solar system.
Let's be honest here:  none of this would be possible if the game was set in a Leftist/Progressive/Marxist/whatevercodewordisbeingusedthisweek setting.  I mean, that whole paragraph would have to be re-written to something like the following....

Busting commodity traders sneaking past government regulatory forces, taxing the winnings of the best pilots in the area, shutting down environmentally unfriendly blood diamond miners, regulating for survival, spying on neighbors who didn't vote for the dear leader, funding green energy arrays that don't actually work, transporting Al Gore...all in a 15 hour work week!  The life of a government-dependent drone is rarely exciting.  At times, you may choose to form a union, while at others, you may want to take matters in you own hands and file a discrimination lawsuit in you search for reputation and fortune.  Your government-provided Space Trabant awaits!  Your adventure begins in the Public sector.
Actually...that does sounds like a refreshing take on the genre.  LOL!


Regardless, my take on EM's description represents the polar opposite of what we have come to expect from space games: sandbox freedom and career advancement.  It instead represents a Cass Sustein fevered dream; a game where the "sandbox" would just be a "box", and career advancement is only found in bureaucratic subservience.  In this Sustein space sim, before you could even leave space dock you would have to fill out 1300 pages worth of government forms, and complete a 90 hour certification course just to get your pilot's license (you are just a dimwitted Homer Simpson after all who needs to be carefully controlled).  Once that was done, a new screen would pop up demanding $1500 in fees from assorted regulatory agencies that you have never heard of before.  If you want to hire a crewman, well that involves mandatory healthcare, so that is another few thousand in fees.  Long short: before you even leave space port on your first contract, you have invested hundreds of hours in the game to just meet regulatory requirements, and are already thousands of dollars in the hole.  Oh, and if you want to arm you Space Trabant, well that just triggers a blue screen of death. Of course, if you are really committed to your space dream, you could invest in the $10000 expansion entitled "Space Lobbyist" to help grease the bureaucratic wheels.  After doing all that you just might finally be off on your grand adventure!  Unfortunately, though, you would soon discover that there is a catch:  while playing the game, you need to put up with a video of Barack Obama reminding you that you aren't smarter than anyone else.  It would play on a continuous loop on one of your cockpit's monitors...

Yup, that would be the type of game designed by a statist.  Not a pretty sight, is it?  Honestly: would you want to play a game like that?  Okay, okay: you masochistic sim buffs would probably love an ultra-realistic game like that, but those of us wanting to escape from the real world would probably want nothing to do with it.  In fact, we wouldn't want to live in a world like that...but that is another sad story.

Truth is: in a statist utopia, such an existence as portrayed in Evochron Mercenary or EvE Online is just not possible because statism always leads to the same outcome.  As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, unfettered government leads to a power structure that is:

"...absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for adulthood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood...it every day renders the exercise of free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within an narrower range and gradually robs a man of all his uses of himself....It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd."

In short: it kills the core essence of the freelancer space sim spirit.

Again, the point of all these space games is the same: to get away from the real world and put ourselves in an alternative universe where a rugged individualist is free to pursue fame and fortune - the exact opposite of what de Tocqueville described, and what used to be known as the American Dream.  Now, I am not saying that every space sim dev out there is American (X's Egosoft is most definitely German), or that every space sim dev is a conservative, but what I am saying is that realizing it or not, every one of these games distills what is best about the conservative ideals of individual liberty, or what John Locke called man's pursuit of "life, liberty, and estate", the foundation of the civil society.

[BTW: Want to dig a little deeper on this theme?  Have you noticed how many of these games involve some sort of revolt against "the Empire", or some other big government tyranny?    A lot...if not all. Yes, yes: sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but when you take the sum total of all the themes found in these games, you get a picture that is decidedly anti-statist.  Interesting, that.]

It is for these reasons that I have always been fond of space sims (hmm, I wonder if all those years spent playing the old classics like SunDog, Universe II and Elite made me a conservative in my politically formative years?), and why I believe they should be on the game shelf of every conservative.  Heck, some of these games are even actual embodiments of conservative ideals.  Take Evochron Mercenary:  it was developed by a single man with a passion!  It doesn't get more conservative than that as far as I am concerned.

Speaking about EM, I have only gotten a few hours in, but I am find this to be a wonderful space sim that every would-be Han Solo needs to check out.  I am enjoying the fact that it seems to walk the narrow line between mindless space shoot 'em ups on one side, and stultifying micro-management sims on the other.  It is a good balance between the two.  And then you have that cool ability to actually land on planets - how I missed such a thing!  All in all, EM is a fantastic indie game that deserves a much wider audience.  Hence, this blog entry.  :)

Here's the trailer for Evochron Mercenary:


Website here: http://www.starwraith.com/evochronmercenary/index.htm


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