Political games

Posted on March 18, 2009

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Last Sunday we played the third game in my series of political games. ‘Political’ does not here mean that they included political action by the characters, but that they had in them political situations reflected from history. Basically, I took historical situations and placed them in a hypothetical future realized in a dystopian cyberpunk-setting.

The first two games were about Vietnam 2.0. In these games Vietnam was devastated by war and still collecting itself after Chinese occupation. The UN was trying to keep peace in a situation where part of the country was in Chinese and part in Vietnamese rebel control. We watched parts of Full Metal Jacket and Rambo to get to mood for a sweaty journey through a hostile jungle. The characters in the first game were independent contractors trying to rescue American construction workers that had been in Vietnam to aid in its reconstruction. The construction workers had been captured for ransom by Vietnamese rebels, led – ironically – by an ex-Chinese general. The company they worked for decided that the ransom was not worth it, so workers’ families collected enough money to hire some mercenaries. The game ended with a lot of dead rebels, a wounded general and rescued construction workers.

The second game portrayed the situation again from the perspective of outsiders. The game was set a few years prior the first one. This time around the player characters were professional soldiers, working for a company trying to secure its foothold in the area. After a brief firefight with some Chinese troops harassing some soldiers sent by the company earlier to the area, the game focused on showing the same Vietnamese rebels encountered in the first game how to defend themselves and control the area. The purpose of this game was to first show how alien the world was to the soldiers trying to cope with the jungle and then to slowly dispel this feeling of alienation. Sadly, the game was never finished. This may have also been a boon; it wasn’t a very successful game, due to bad planning and even worse scheduling.

The third and last game was inspired by the Eichmann trial and Hannah Arendt’s account of it, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. I haven’t actually read the book (yet), but I’ve been reading and hearing both about the book and Arendt. I used the character of Eichmann and how Israel secret service kidnapped him in order to judge him in trial. In my game, set in Bolivia and Argentina in 2060, there had been a Bolivian dictator that had tried to conquer South-America and ethnically cleanse it of the minorities within. He didn’t succeed, and he was sentenced to death for his crimes against humanity. My “Eichmann” succeeded in escaping judgment for 30 years, before being found by Bolivian intelligence. They contracted the player characters, independent mercenaries, in order to capture him while keeping themselves out of Argentina as much as possible. The war-criminal was eventually found and extracted, despite resistance by Argentinian border guard and military.

None of these games actually used the political possibilities in the setting very much, concentrating mostly on problem-solving and combat. It was still inspiring to use a setting with a strong political tone. It made the game more meaningful for me – I don’t know if the players picked any of this up. I didn’t mention the metaphorical relation to history explicitly.

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