Sunday, January 20, 2008

Naivete: The Essential Fuel for War

Frontlines: Fuel for War is a new video game that is about one thing: A world war in 2030 fought for the last supplies of oil.

In a CNN Money article "Peak oil: The video game" there is the usual marketing-hype-as-news. What is more pathetic than the free advertising came from the the sole academic in the news story.

"They could in fact lead to changes in attitudes, beliefs, and ultimately, changes in behavior," said Craig Anderson, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University who studies the effects of video games on people.

"It may well change attitudes towards the use of these tactics as a political tool," he said. Players may think "of course we have to use military tactics to go take oil."

Is Craig Anderson an adult? I mean the kind that can vote, pay their own rent, watch a movie with some sense of timeline coherence? His multi-faceted confusion about politics concerns me, and I find it strange he is deemed an expert/gatekeeper on the effects of games on our psychology, and politics. He doesn't even have the meaning of politics in his head.

In the the early 1990's war between the US and Iraq that took place in Kuwait, President Bush mentioned oil resources as a reason for war in a general public speech. This is one of many public utterances regarding military tactics to take resources. But this acknowledgment of a long history in which politicians talk about war for resources misses a major overarching semantic distinction:

Politics is the process by which humans decide the allocation of resources, with war and trading as fundamental and eternal subcomponents of the term itself.

Not knowing the above is appropriate for someone that never visits a voting booth.

Knowing the meaning of politics and agreeing with the narrative assumptions in a game such as Fuel for War are two different things. e.g. Believing we should both 1) Develop other means of powering industrialized society 2) Find more cooperative ways to negotiate and pay for oil resources. I am thoroughly in that camp. Fuel for War has America fighting China and Russia. Such an uncool scenario to me.

But I wouldn't be thinking it is "uncool" if I had the mind Craig Anderson assumes I have. I wouldn't know the problem domain at all.


The Serpent Lord said...

When choosing between trade and war, the nature of Empire demands that world leaders only choose war when it will benefit trade. In Iraq War I trade was threatened by an economic nationalist seizing resources beyond his own borders. Iraq War II was justified on the (appropriate but as it turns out false) premise that the same economic nationalist was going to nuke wall street and a hidden cabal of Iraqi traders was ready to replace his regime with what Empire calls Democracy.

Here's what I make of those who want to substitute the abstract concepts of Empire, trade and war with the more concrete and juvenile notion of "war for oil": these folks are zero-summers. Zero summers don't get abstract processes. They equate money and political power with simple measures of mass and heat. Zero summers include many but not all hawks and tree-huggers. While adults may see our age of peak oil as a time of dangerous instability but also opportunities to invest in rapid change, the zero-summers see it as the last chance to grab territory before we are forced to resort to cannibalism.

LanceMiller said...

"Zero summers don't get abstract processes. They equate money and political power with simple measures of mass and heat. "

Ok, this statement rocks like early Van Halen.

B. F. said...

Let's be clear about who we are talking about here with Dr. Anderson:

I hope that games DO make kids more aggressive. What is the difference between this highly-participatory election and others? A big part is "young people" - why are there so many more "young people" participating? Why are so many generation Y kids getting political an generation X kids did?

Because they are A) expecting interactivity in their engagement, and B) they are magnitudes more aggressive on average than Xer's are. A and B are do to a higher number of gen Y's playing computer games regularly growing up than gen X (and the only evidence I need to site here is Anderson's study linked to above.)

Computer games are probably saving our democracy, do to traits that Dr. Anderson regards as great social evils.

For every change, there is resistance. This is of course true with social and technological changes. Right now people get their PHD's on computer games making little kids misbehave (as if that were a bad thing. Also, we are seeing serious MySpace/FaceBook fobia emerging as well.) Before this it was Television, and before Television it was the Movies and Radio. Some still just whole-sale reject electricity. If you go back far enough, I'm sure you could eventually find religious opposition to the wheel as a socially corrupting influence.