PeaceMaker Review - Part 3

PeaceMaker Review - Part 3

In part 1, I discussed the game as a game; in part 2 I talked about the limitations. I ought to say something about lessons a person could learn by reflecting on this game. None of this is particularly profound.

One lesson is a lesson of sympathy for elected leaders generally, especially in bad situations. The initial response to anything you do is almost always a speech or protest by someone who hates you for doing it; and the people on both sides will gratuitously protest against you now and again. You receive lots of blame for things you can't possibly control. And the worst thing you can do is try to react to all these protests on a turn-by-turn'll be accused of vascillating, and your ratings will plunge. The game is simple (a good thing for playability), so you aren't hit with information overload, endless reports and lots of pestering from advisors - but what you get is quite frustrating enough. Almost never will you see a news story about someone who likes you - not until you are getting close to victory. It must be even worse for an extrovert (who might actually like campaigning to get the office in the first place). Sometimes we seem to give our elected leaders all the responsibility, but none of the respect, of pharaohs and God-kings. It's good to keep our ideas of what they can do realistic, especially when they are checked by voters and legislative process.

Another is the importance of resolution. The game itself, in tutorial mode, gives you this hint. You have a long term goal that requires repeated actions (such as increasing police action against militants); you've got angry protestors calling on you to do the opposite; if you react to the protestors instead of staying the course, you're hanging yourself. You might have to moderate your pace, and alternate one goal with another, but you have to keep to your goals. In cruder computer games, a news story about public opinion would be a clue that you needed to act immediately; in this one, it may be better ignored. Perhaps a player could remember not to be too distracted by the story of the day, nor judge events too superficially based on the headlines.

Another thing is something I referred to in part 2. At some times and in some places, the fate of millions rests in the hands of a few. Here, in the game and in reality, the fate of millions seems to rest in the hands of the millions themselves. It is the attitudes common in quite a large population that have to change in order for peace to "ensue." In Iraq, as of last year's opinion polls, only a tiny minority supported Tawheed Wa'al-Jihad (a/k/a al-Qaida in Iraq), yet it wasn't hard to see how much trouble they could cause - now take the problem to a country where a majority voted for Hamas. We aren't in a situation that can be saved by a few great men in a few months or years.

As I said, nothing profound, but these were my thoughts when I played. Earlier this evening I tried the hardest levels (= highest level of violence) and got pretty badly creamed, so I may not have understood the winning strategies as well as I thought, or else the designers didn't expect the game always to be winnable when the militants were too numerous and too active. If so, that may be the most realistic aspect of the game. If not, well, imagine the level of violence a little bit higher, and the game would most definitely be unwinnable within the strictures it sets. That's more insight than many commentators bring to the issue. So, at least, a tip of the hat to the designers of this game. And a low bow, and profuse thanks, to Grim, for inviting me to play and write.

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