The wisdom of anonymous shines through again. Wars are arranged for the benefit of kings and companies and executed at the expense of peasants and the ordinary people who join professional armies. Nothing shows the callous disregard of powerful interests for anyone and everyone in their path like a good old war.
The reason, in the real world, that people participate in war is a combination of economic necessity and patriotic fervor. Until this world is free from such levels of poverty and ignorance, ordinary people will not have the tools they need to resist the temptation to sign up.
But that's not what I'm writing about because we're not in the real world when logging in. Our wars here are supposed to be for fun. Are they?
"I spent a lot of my money on booze, birds, and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."
- George Best
Games are, among other things, a form of escape. People like to be able to forget their situation in life and have fun for a while. It's the same reason people drink and party.
Ordinary life presents us with the obligation to perform actions on a regular basis that we don't really like. Why? Because we like the results. We suffer to get there.
Game design has come a long way from hide-and-go-seek, spin the bottle, and pin the tail on the donkey. In the old days, when you were playing, it always felt like it. (Gambling was and is considered a bit dangerous because people could ruin their lives and may in the process not enjoy pursuing so doggedly the lure of reward.) There are games for every taste, including those that don't offer immediate rewards like those good old-fashioned forms did. Some of those games give you virtual lives, replicating a lot of the stuff you deal with daily.
"Hold on, I got to get to the next level."
And I'm not talking about your character sheet, with stats like strength and worker level. That's not something people really deal with daily. Nobody here really feels like they're getting stronger and better at doing work.
But I am talking about the grind, the responsibilities, and the general tussle for control offered by the game. This game is primarily social and the rewards are measured by who can get what. Whether that is in the ballot box or in the battle, you are offered a chance to fight for your side.
Your choice is classic. It is us or them, red or green, coke or pepsi; it doesn't really matter what. A few of us will have a chance to put some color on the brand of what we are fighting for. The rest of us will support the people we like and live the experience of fighting along with the rest for it.
The game has taken an interesting step, it must be admitted, in allowing people to identify with real world nationalities. It has been more apparent as the game has evolved that these allegiances are supposed to represent real world allegiances.
"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."
- Carl Schurz, 1872
In practice, not everyone is so discerning as Carl Schurz, giving us the quote for the soundbite era, "My country, right or wrong."
The game has co-opted one of the greatest forces for ignorance benighting humanity, patriotic fervor.
There are enough people in real life with a taste for that brand, and not enough choice in games for them on the web that do it better, so they have flooded into here. Some of the people who didn't fit the evolution of the game have trickled out. Certainly I would only be a statistic there.
These people are good people too of course. Friendly, fun people who I would drink a beer with. But just as they are willing to put up with a lot of pain in real life in the name of their country, they are also willing to do some extra in a virtual world on the side.
"Yeah, but I gotta pay the mortgage."
The other great motivator in the game is the other great motivator for war in real life: poverty. How do you get poverty in a virtual world?
It's astoundingly easy. Think about it a little. I heard recently that in China the poverty line has been drawn at $122 a year. In the United States it is about 100 times that. How can somebody in the United States be below the poverty line at $12,000 a year yet somebody in China not be below it making $200 a year?
Purchasing power parity is part of that story. But the other part is simply that being poor is having so much less than everyone around you. We are social animals, and being reminded several times a day of being a have-not doesn't stop at the bank balance and tax return.
Simulating poverty is thus really simple. Just set stats to zero on initialization, put in some increment functions, make sure they are limited by time (time spent in-game or time passed in real life or both), and you have poverty in your virtual world.
These indicators then become socially valid when you give some glitz to the people that have cranked the cogwheels long and hard enough, allowing them to demonstrate to others that they have more.
In real life this is called conspicuous consumption.
"You probably couldn't afford an iPhone."
The largest company in the world has gotten there fast with a lot of innovation centered around a powerful brand that says "my music player, my tablet, and my phone are better than yours." (This isn't the whole story, but let's not go there right now.)
So let's get right to the point here.
If you have an iPhone in the USA, you are paying over $20 a month for the privilege, on average, with most people putting it into their carrier contract. (Many don't really understand that contract.)
If you're an average person in the USA, that represents about an hour of your work. If you've ever been to the USA, you know that people have these phones, or don't, regardless of how much they're actually making.
So your signal of wealth (the basic point of conspicuous consumption) is not reliable at all. But it feels reliable, and that is good enough.
It is probably a reasonable investment for some people in order to earn more, but for most of them it represents a net liability.
So while you are trying to impress people with how well you are doing, every choice you make that is actually a net liability is dragging down your personal balance sheet.
You are making yourself poor by buying into all these ideas of what you have to do to keep up, not all of which you would otherwise want to invest in.
If you just said no to all these liabilities and started making investments that improved yourself and your future, you could actually realize your dreams of wealth.
Appearance is important. Education is important. So is shopping smartly for them and considering all your possible avenues.
"Just say no!"
- Nancy Reagan
So here is the tl;dr.
(1) Real war depends on poverty and ignorance to manipulate people.
(2) We have sickly invented games that do the same thing.
(3) So live your life the best you can.
And since you are living a virtual life, I say you should stick it to the virtual man. Don't show up to work. Don't fight in the battle. Don't train. Don't do anything you don't really enjoy doing, if you realize you're doing it for somebody else's benefit, and you're not really being compensated well enough for it.
You could buy some stock, buy real estate through a REIT, or you could buy an ounce of gold for $1600, you could buy a book for a quarter, or you could read one for free at the library or online. You could get a job, or you could start a business. You could even do both. Do it wisely.
And you can manage your spare time as you please. I enjoy spending it with people I care about. I also like reading (and sometimes writing) about interesting things. What do you enjoy?
"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
What is this?You are reading an article written by a citizen of eRepublik, an immersive multiplayer strategy game based on real life countries. Create your own character and help your country achieve its glory while establishing yourself as a war hero, renowned publisher or finance guru.