Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Extremism on the way

I’ve taken some time out of my GSB2 coding schedule to manage and test and work on another expansion pack for Democracy 3, called Democracy 3: Extremism. This is a huge big list of new policies and situations that represent more extreme politics. I can already predict that a lot of players will be annoyed it isn’t MORE extreme than it is.

What does political extremism mean to you? within a democratic context? I’m not talking armed mobs that overthrow the government, but parties with actual popular support. I’ve tried to walk the line between including some fairly extreme views, whilst also keeping it credible as a policy a western government might actually put into place. I’m also slightly wary of acting as fodder for any exploitative tabloid journalism along the lines of ‘Game developer endorses culling the elderly!’ for example.

When you sit down to analyze it, extremism is really a hard concept to nail down. One of the policies in the pack is ‘close all airports permanently’, presented as an environmental move. I’m sure a lot of people would think such a policy was insane, but there are quite definitely environmentalists who would argue it’s entirely reasonable. There are people who would ban private education and private healthcare, and others that would consider that practically stalinist. The base game lets you legalize or ban gun ownership, both positions that encourage cries of ‘extremism!’ in different parts of the world.

french cheese and guns

Obviously a lot of this is skewed by where you live and your background. I’m from the UK. In the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty liberal country. You can have state or private education or healthcare. Gay marriage is legal, we have pretty good freedom of speech. Divorce and abortion are perfectly accepted (abortion less so, arguably). We have very strict gun controls, and fairly strict (but not strongly enforced) drug laws. All of this gets reflected in my own prejudices. I don’t find the fact that we make gun ownership very hard to be at all extremist, yet if you banned private schooling I’d consider that an extreme move. (I went to a state school FWIW). I’d consider outlawing homosexuality insane, and consider scrapping the state health service equally insane. There is no real pattern at work here, we are all skewed by what we are used to. My position on healthcare is to the left of my general position on state-provision, almost certainly because I’ve lived all my life in the UK…

What I’m getting at is that extremism is very culturally dependent, and often entirely illogical. I consider a ban on divorce or homosexuality nuts, but many such bans exist in the world, even in the rich developed western world. Sex toys are illegal in Alabama, abortions are illegal in Ireland. It’s not a simple case of the left wing wanting to ban stuff, or the right wing wanting to ban stuff. there is no logical pattern. Stuff seems ‘extremist’ because we aren’t used to it. One of the policies in the pack is national flags on every street corner. A crazy idea in the UK, but in the USA? probably not so. Another is compulsory church attendance, seemingly crazy in the UK, maybe not in Alabama? Subsidies for new cars. Extremist? maybe a bit? but we have experimented with that in the UK. Forcing the unemployed to do community work? I bet that sounds extremist in some countries. Public Tax returns? A punitive wealth tax?

I look forward to peoples debate and discussion when the expansion gets released. My politics are very fluid. I think a lot about what I think, and my politics change over time. Twenty years ago I was against positive discrimination, but now I have finally changed my mind. Analyzing your opinions on political issues, putting them into context and rationalizing them against the backdrop of your other views is a fascinating thing to do. It’s always good to re-examine what you believe.

Except Free to Play, that’s just evil :D


11 thoughts on Extremism on the way

  1. Man, the Steam forums are going to love this. I willing to bet you’ll get at least one person with a post along the lines of:

    “This policy that I endorse is in the Extremism DLC, clearly the creator hates me and everything I stand for and is trying to suppress my rights and freedoms. This other policy I’m against is also in the Extremism DLC, clearly the creator is promoting that way of life by bringing attention to it.”

    Games should have a secondary rating based on the number of Steam forum comments that make no sense when read by a rational person.

  2. And the second type of poster will show up in that forum to judge him with the popular morality.

    “Games should have a secondary rating based on the number of Steam forum comments that make no sense when read by a rational person.”

    Left or right, PC or not, “rational” is just as subjective when you consider cultural relativity and yet you’ll notice it’s used in place of other words in order to condescend. That’s not explored very much when people talk about extremism – the people with a knee-jerk reaction to one group’s extremism only add more civil unrest, which creates maladaptive behavior. Now, I’m not just posting to rag on Kemp, I’m suggesting some mingling between the Extremism and the Social Engineering DLCs.

    For instance, forced multicultural integration is a problem for English-speaking world nations because of an equal amount prejudices and ethnocentrism. It would seem like madness to us to restrict that and clamp down on immigration but it wouldn’t for others, who would probably balk at the social justice awareness campaigns you can add in the Social Engineering DLC. Extremism… oh man, the possibilities.

    1. “And the second type of poster will show up in that forum to judge him with the popular morality.”

      I didn’t say anything about what opinions people should or shouldn’t have about anything. I didn’t say anything about the morality of any given choice.

      “Left or right, PC or not, “rational” is just as subjective when you consider cultural relativity and yet you’ll notice it’s used in place of other words in order to condescend.”

      Actually, “rational” can be perfectly objective. Read my comment again. That is the type of post that comes up on the Steam forum. In my hypothetical example, the poster is essentially just looking for reasons to be outraged and is on the verge of being self-contradictory (“I like this policy, so it shouldn’t be in the DLC because it’s not extreme. I don’t like this other policy, so it shouldn’t be in the DLC because no one should be allowed to impose it”).

      tl;dr – you may have a valid point, but I’m not sure why you felt the need to create a reason to attack me.

      1. “tl;dr – you may have a valid point, but I’m not sure why you felt the need to create a reason to attack me.”

        The point of addressing you and the DLC simultaneously was just convenient timing since you posted something that gets me riled up. After the initial wave of “how dare you believe X or Y,” there’s an immediate reaction by a group of people that condescend to and diminish their arguments. It’s something you see not just on Steam forums but in the streets (or at least here in the US). Someone is outraged about event A or cause B, a group that believes more in stifling them than their own opinion on the matter joins, an argument begins. Whether it’s a dastardly spin campaign or the human terrain system at work (future policy ideas to use media as a means to control opinions, wink wink?) or it’s just hyper-opinionated people in a very PC era, it’s something I see that annoys and fascinates me. When the first comment on a blog about a sociopolitical game is targeted toward a group of people, the timing couldn’t possibly have been better to get on a soapbox about it. I do hope you don’t take it too personally.

        1. I don’t take it personally as such, I was just quite confused. Just to make sure my angle is clear, I wasn’t saying that people should or shouldn’t have any particular belief or opinion, nor was I saying that they shouldn’t express those beliefs/opinions. I was commenting more on the inevitable “outrage without a real target” and self-contraditory posts that always come up.

          The Steam forums generally give the impression of being a Bad Place due to the usual self-selecting bias problem with feedback, where only people with a very strong opinion have the motivation to bother giving any.

  3. Is the price point you are targeting the same as the first DLC?

    I still haven’t bought that one, and I hope that this DLC would be a tad cheaper?

  4. It would be interesting if there was an element of slippery slope (or hedonic treadmill?).

    For example, banning automatic weapons makes a segment of the population happy, but that subsides and you have to ban rifles, then all guns. Or ban cheese aged less than 60 days, then all cheese, then all dairy products, etc.

  5. Along with the extremist pack, I think it would be pretty cool if you added a new “extremist” country. I’m thinking China since it’s very prominent in the world today. Haha, I was gonna right North Korea but that would be pretty controversial. The reason I would like another country is because I’ve played out the limited amount of countries that are already there and I see no fun as to playing them more.

  6. FWIW *mandatory* church attendance is one of the few things expressly forbidden by the US Constitution, but the several states have made a lot of progress skirting the “make no law respecting an establishment of religion” clause.

    And Cliffski, if I was in your position I’d make an “Extremism” expansion pack just for the opportunity to become a historical source in 50 to 100 years… imagine archaeologists debating the history of political extremism in the west, when one suddenly pulls out the “Democracy 3: Extremism” trump card :P

  7. One of the issues that I have with Democracy 3 is that there are too many traditional lines of separation Capitalist versus Socialist, Liberal versus Conservative etc… I’d like to see more policies that pit groups against each other that you’d otherwise wouldn’t expect. With the ‘What’s extreme’ theme in mind; for example…

    – Animal Sacrifice: In some areas of Mexico, South Africa, and Peru this occurs due the combination both Catholic (Lamb of God) and Traditional Pagan traditions. It would be interesting to see a pro environmentalist government institute a ban on animal sacrifice being in conflict with the beliefs of indigenous peoples.

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