the Fairgame Archive

2006-11-22: Mechaton Campaign
by Emily

There are more photos from the ongoing Mechaton campaign at the Fairgame photo gallery.

It is an interesting thing to be playing a war-game so closely related to current world events. The three-way split of factions is more than passingly reminiscent of the situation on the ground in Iraq: occupying army, ineffectual government troops, and freedom-fighter cum terrorists rising from the ranks. In the many asides and campaign backstory threads, the real deals of civilian casualties and propaganda machines are foregrounded.  I just posted some minifig atrocity photos.

Man...I can't believe I just did that.

So what's the deal? Are we going over the line? This is just a game, right? Nope, it's now art.  In a small way, we've crossed the line and though we are still lazer-shark/distanced up the wazoo (giant robots, right?), we're stepping through the shallows of deeper waters.  And when play turns into say, it's communication and art that are happening.

Ah, but I'm easy on what art is. The real deal is just getting to do more than draw parachutes on the Cobra pilots jumping out of their planes.  War games=war.

2006-11-22 22:39:10 NinJ

I don't understand your final equation there.

Also, I'm deeply suspicious of this "librarian".

But, yeah, I think it's interesting that we're addressing theme here, and all it took was some stakes-setting. Very interesting.

I find it hard to play without being really cynical, though.

2006-11-24 22:33:17 Vincent

I can't say as I'm on board with the "the Mechaton campaign game is a narrativist rpg" thing. Even if the Mechaton campaign game were an rpg (which it's not, and I'm prepared to back that up, and I'm talking to you, Ben Lehman!), I think it'd be like kill puppies for satan: all the reflection and moral judgement happens up here at the player level, with us drawing comparisons between the in-game events and real-world ones. No reflection or moral judgement happens within the game - the Tarkut aren't reevaluating their policies, for instance, and it wouldn't matter in play if they did.

I think that's (partly?) responsible for your cynicism, too, J. Adopting any kind of pro-human position would require you to reject the basis of the campaign. You'd sue for peace instead of playing! When we put civilians on the field as cover, the game forces us to treat civilians as cover. To do otherwise would be to, I dunno, charge less rent than the card tells you to in Monopoly, or decline to spell a high-scoring legal word in scrabble because of the word's definition.

Or, yes, blow off your goals in Keep Cool in order to protect the environment.

What would've happened if one of us (I vote Emily) had made all three of their agendas be positive? "If I win society & conscience, the people will become thoughtful, responsible progressives with a strong social ethic - slow food, smallmart, reduce reuse recycle, think globally act locally. If I win economy & jobs, I'll impose a generous minimum wage and aggressively graduated taxes, with lots and lots of support for small businesses and none at all for WalMart. If I win security & law enforcement, I'll purge the courts and the police of corruption and strike a strong balance between the rights of the accused and the needs of society, oh and I'll also abolish the death penalty."

Would that change the way the game feels to play? There was that one time when you, J, were like "women are totally not able to fight, they're too weak and soft, and the fact that you let women fight shows how weak and soft your men are," and you, Em, were like "I hope we DO liberate you." Would it be like that all the time? I don't know.

2006-11-25 06:11:45 NinJ

Oh, I completely agree that we're not addressing theme using the rules of the game. I think that's what's interesting; that we're talking about real war around the Battle for Tarkut, not through it. But the conversation is happening the way it is because a) it's science fiction, which gives us both the distance required to view the situation with some humor, and the tools to discuss it, and b) because the rules make horrible, but fictional, things happen.

I totally agree with your analysis of my cynicism. To say, "If I win Hearts and Minds, we live peacefully with our neighbors" means that I somehow think that living peacefully with my neighbors can be accomplished by blowing up the Prime Minister, destroying your soldiers, and hiding in civilians. I don't think that's true and some people I find really objectionable do, so I make my goals villainous but sympathetic.

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