Friday, September 18, 2009

Mafia Wars is life

Video games are great in that they are entertaining and enlightening. In my quest for the biggest, baddest mafia of them all, I've run into some rivals who wanted to take me down. They attack me, rob me, and even punch me in the face! What really gets me though, is when I am robbed by a weaker mafia. The game designers decided that you can only defend yourself in proportion to your level - call it the escalation doctrine. Even though I am absolutely stronger than my opponent, I am unable to protect my property. What's a mobster to do? Kill! Kill! Kill! Because I can attack my rival with impunity, I go after them with everything I got. Alas, my vengeance is tempered by the genius game designers. For some reason, I cannot kill my opponent, only continuously nick them. This leaves me and my rival in a pickle. We are left with begging and bribing other players to do our dirty work for us. So often have we put "hits" on the other, that we are scant to expose ourselves in the open. Right now, I am typing this from an undisclosed location.

What lesson should be learned from all of this? To find out, we need to turn to that seventies cult phenomenon, Star Trek. In episode 23, "A Taste of Armageddon", Kirk and the gang land on a planet at war, only it's a very "civil" war. Instead of bombs and bullets, they fight their wars using computer simulations. People still die, by voluntarily committing suicide, but society and culture remains intact. Kirk sees the inhumanity in fighting a humane war. He destroys the computers and forces a decision: Fight for real or make peace. They make peace.

Back to my mafia. My hands are effectively tied, and I am only allowed to use proportional force. If the game designers had allowed me to use my full strength and punish my opponent, he would quit. The irony is that the cost to my opponent is far greater with this prolonged conflict than if I had obliterated him. A lesson applicable to real life as well.


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