Kingdoms, Castles, and Video Game Cruelty
Also, have you heard the word of Mass Effect?
Broke: First-person shooters make you violent.
Woke: Resource management games make you authoritarian.
I’ll be fair, that isn’t really my thesis here (it’s a bit reductive). But it is what I’m thinking about.
I recently reviewed Orwell’s Animal Farm. At one point, in a harsh winter, I had the choice to let the sheep go hungry in order to increase the overall food supply. Orwell’s Animal Farm isn’t a resource management game, but it has some elements of them to move the story forward. Which is to say: Obviously I let the sheep go hungry. The sheep’s comfort was one resource, and so was my food supply; ruthless utilitarianism wins out.
It had enough of the trappings of resource management games that it tapped into that part of my brain. Suddenly I remembered all the times in Northgard that I got annoyed at my settlers for starving, because if they would only work harder… until, of course, they'd start dying of starvation, so the clan needs less food overall. Then I welcome the "re-balancing of resources". And it’s not like they get a break when they’re doing well, either! In Kingdoms and Castles, a happy population of peasants is simply one I can tax more highly. A 5% ding in joy is worth a couple hundred gold, at least!
Obviously I don’t think this effect extends to changing someone’s real life ideologies, but it's an interesting artifact of game design. I feel hopelessly guilty about picking mean options in RPGs, but suffering in resource management games is a metric to exploit. As I saw in Orwell's Animal Farm, it doesn't even need to be the core gameplay to change the way I make choices in games.
So that Mass Effect teaser trailer right?
I’m holding out hope that it will still be tied in with Andromeda’s story, and it doesn’t look like I’m completely wrong to think so. (Because Andromeda was good, actually!)
Ruth Cassidy is a writer and self-described velcro cyborg who, when not writing about video games, is probably being emotional about musicals, mountains, or cats. Has had some bylines, in some places.
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