Put me in charge.

I wanna be a great world leader;
Don’t want the people to have anything to fear.
Those at the top seem downright evil,
So let’s complain and be sure they hear!
It sometimes seems that
When they achieve their dreams,
The utmost stupidity is demonstrated:
Sense and reason defenestrated.
Poorly thought-out decisions,
Bipartisan divisions.
All of these are signs
We’re in for bad times.
I wanna be a great world leader,
So that I can be a teacher
For those that follow in my stead,
So our grandkids don’t grow up to be dead.
So put me in charge, I promise I can fix it
Put me in charge, I know what I’m doing, I swear
Put me in charge, don’t you believe me?
Just to prove my point, I’ll rig the elections.

Otto von Bismarck: Politics 101

In my history class at school, we recently covered the topic of the unification of Germany, and I think I need to draw attention to this subject. There are two main points which are demonstrated by this series of events: Firstly, Otto von Bismarck was a genius, and second, history can be comedy gold. The level of deceit and trickery at play is astonishing, and somewhat reminds me of Town of Salem, in that Bismarck kept enough secret that nobody really knew what he was up to.

After discussing Germany’s unification in class, we were assigned to draw up a graphic representation of how they unified the nation. This is mine. Apologies for the penmanship.IMG_20170310_131332855 A.jpg

I’ll explain more or less what’s going down, beginning in the top left and following the purple arrows. First off, Prussia invited Austria to attack Denmark and take back some land that apparently was traditionally property of the German peoples. Bismarck reassured the Austrians that if Denmark wanted to retaliate, they would have to come through Prussia first, so the Austrians were entirely safe. This also meant that the Austrian military would have to march through Prussia, and the Prussians would have every opportunity to identify their generals and observe their strategy.

When the Austrians reached the border of Denmark, the Prussians said, “Go get ’em!” and the Austrians did just that. Meanwhile, the Prussians sat back and watched. After Austria took the agreed area from Denmark, it was divided between Prussia and Austria. Note that Prussia took the northern half, leaving Austria’s territory sandwiched between Prussia and a Prussian exclave.

The Prussians sent small guerrilla units to harass the new Austrian enclave, in order to provoke Austria into a larger retaliation. Naturally, Bismarck covered it up so that Austria looked like the aggressor. Austria declared war on Prussia, and, because Prussia had been gathering military intelligence this whole time, surrendered seven weeks later. Prussia took Venetia from Austria, and gave it to Italy. (That was a deal that had been worked out in secret beforehand between Prussia and Italy.)

Prussia now had won some of its closest neighbours’ support in unity, but the southern German states remained unimpressed. To remedy this issue, Bismarck saw fit to create a problem for the southern states, then remove said problem to look like he’s helping. This problem was, of course, the French. Prussia forged a telegram from the French government talking shit about the southern German states, and published it. This got the German states riled up, and got the French riled up. Prussia decided to step in as the hero, and beat up the French.

The Prussians wiped the floor with France’s military and took a whole bunch of stuff. The southern German states were impressed, and convinced to join the union. They then changed their flag around and called it Germany, and everything was great for the next few decades.

Groggy Musings on Minecraft

I feel somewhat reluctant to talk about Minecraft, as it really seems to be an overdone topic, and because it’s half past midnight and I really have very little to say, but upon further thought, I remember that I’m writing for my own benefit, not for other people’s enjoyment. Minecraft is a game that I will always think fondly of. When I first played it in 2012, it was on my birthday. I had a few friends round, and one of them downloaded the client and logged in with his account so I could try it. I was instantly captivated; to me, at least, the freedom of building any structure in any place, and walking around inside said structure, was unprecedented. The closest I can recall seeing before was the LEGO Digital Designer, which was considerably less fluid to use and didn’t allow for the exploration aspect of Minecraft.

I recall that the first thing I built was a bridge. I used cobblestone stairs and slabs, with regular cobblestone being used as a pillar in the middle. It was only two or three blocks wide, across a small stream, but it felt like such an achievement. I had made a bridge, entirely by my own design, and it seemed effortless! One of my first endeavours in Minecraft was a castle floating in mid-air. I started with creative mode, and didn’t really take to survival until a while later.

Looking back at how the game was when I first got into it, it’s really changed quite a lot while keeping the same fundamental theme, and that is quite an achievement. Some people argue that adding more content is unnecessary and a waste of time, because the game was already good before. To some extent, I agree. I certainly understand the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, but having more options is always nice. Some of the new blocks are quite useful, even if only for decoration.

One thing about Minecraft, however, will never change. The ability to create whatever you want. That is precisely why I love this game so much. With a bit of time, I can make a castle from scratch, and it will be my castle in every way. Not just that it belongs to me, but that it was entirely my design. Even with the limit of Minecraft’s blocky nature, it’s rather a restorative practice to have a semi-tangible visualisation of an idealistic residence. All the hard work of mining and crafting pays off with an end result that truly feels like a home. Sure, I have a home in the real world. I have places where I feel at home in the real world. But I didn’t design any of those. It wasn’t my work alone that made them exist, and that takes quite a lot away.

A Materialist’s Last Moments

I am trapped. Held prisoner in a small metal box. My body is free to go wherever it may, but I can only breathe what air is in this safe. I can only eat what food is in this safe. I can only drink what water is in this safe. I’m parched, starving, and beginning to suffocate. The air is stale and my lungs are empty.

I see the safe every day. It’s in my own home. So close and yet so far. Without the key, there is no escape. No escape at all. I breathe the last of the air, and I die of asphyxiation. I drink the last of the water, and I die of thirst. I eat the last of the food, and I die of starvation. I die again and again, yet I somehow live.

The reaper of souls approaches, in whatever form he may take, and I know my demise has come at last. Yet, before he takes me, he produces a small metal object. Thin and flat, with an unevenly serrated edge. This is it. This is the key. He releases the lock, and opens the safe. He takes something out: A stack of money. He holds the bills in one hand, and with the other he conjures up a flame. Benjamin Franklin’s portrait crumbles to ash. I feel air re-enter my lungs.

He now takes in his right hand a stack of paperwork from the safe. All manner of bureaucratically binding documents and dossiers. A sinister fire reduces the paperwork to nothing but ash. And I see before me a glass of water.

The third item is a cell phone. Again, fire reduces it to… well, a slightly singed cell phone. So instead he conjures up a hammer and smashes it. Still having no luck, he carefully dismantles it instead and responsibly places it in an e-waste bin. Now, regretting my $80 case as it disrupted the flow of an otherwise dramatic moment, I see an appetizing meal appear in front of me.

I’m ecstatic; I leap to claim my reward – my reward for putting up with life’s misery. Finally, I get to enjoy myself! But he stops me. He stops me and says, “This is hardly an appropriate time – at the 59th second of the 59th minute of the 23rd hour. The fact of the matter is, you are dead. You’ve had your time. To breathe, to drink, to eat; you’ve had every chance.”

The food is gone. The drink is gone. The air is gone.

A Letter of Complaint

Jeþarïlle, Theistic Governor of Natural Order
Office of Theistic Sub-Executors
Feb. 11, 472 β
Consult The Holy Book of Theistic Bureaucracy for contact address

Mr. Edward Alistaire
Chief Executive Officer
Alistaire & Co. Industrial Magic Provisions
1 Alistaire Lane
Eymið, Hovbyr

Dear Mr. Alistaire:

It has come to our attention that your company, Alistaire & Co. Industrial Magic Provisions, has engaged in destructive behaviour such as to knowingly perturb, befuddle, and confound the natural order of things, and the Minister of Natural Infrastructure has complained that your endeavours to extract magical resources from the very ground are disturbing, vandalous, and unapproved.

It is by no means our intent to disrupt your enjoyment of mortal frivolity, but we must ask you to kindly refrain from such acts as clearcutting, damming, and quarrying without first requesting AND OBTAINING permission from the Ministry of Natural Infrastructure. Please note that our rules do not only prohibit the three aforementioned disturbances, and that the full list of prohibited activities can be found in our publication The Holy Book of Guidelines and Prohibitions, a copy of which is mandated by theistic law to be held in your local library, to be accessed FREE OF CHARGE.

For assistance in requesting permissions or other theistic services, contact our client support staff by carrying out the ritual described in Chapter IV of The Holy Book of Theistic Bureaucracy under the subtitle “Disambiguation and Other Inquiry” and support staff will respond within 14 (fourteen) business days.

Condescendingly,

Jeþarïlle, Theistic Governor of Natural Order

The “Bad Guys” Are Really Nice People, Once You Get To Know Them.

When I was in elementary school, I played a whole lot of Starcraft and Warcraft II. I also played the LEGO Star Wars and Indiana Jones video games. In these games, while I enjoyed playing through the levels and accomplishing objectives, I also took a certain pleasure in idling and enjoying myself just by watching soldiers milling about their posts. After every victorious round of Starcraft or Warcraft, instead of going to the score screen, I would always click “continue playing”, and just build up my base to cover the entire map. I’d train up as many units as I could, and order them to patrol around my base. In the LEGO games, I spent many hours in Free Play mode (where you can play as any character that you’ve unlocked) dressed up as a Stormtrooper, Darth Vader, a Luftwaffe pilot, or a Russian spy, so that the enemies would see me as one of their own and I could just hang out with them.

This was further perpetuated by the dozens of easter eggs in the LEGO games which more humanise the enemies. For example, in the 6th level of LEGO: Indiana Jones, there’s a door which (if I recall correctly) can only be opened if you’re playing as a German soldier, and inside this door, some enemy soldiers are holding some sort of celebration, with balloons and cakes and all that sort of stuff. Similarly, in the second LEGO Star Wars game, in one level on board the Death Star, there’s a secret room accessible only to Imperial troopers or officers, where you’ll find a bunch of Stormtroopers relaxing in a hot tub.

I bring this up because I recently decided to try out Dungeon Keeper. Not the mobile port, but the original. (Well, the Gold Edition, actually, but you get the idea.) Assuming that you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s a real-time strategy in which the player is in charge of a D&D style dungeon, and must orchestrate the defence against so-called “heroes” who would destroy the dungeon and loot it for treasure. The main substance of the game is not so much in directing battles as they occur, but rather in preparation. The majority of the game consists of digging new tunnels, fortifying walls, enticing new minions to join your ranks, and training your warriors.

Due to this, a large part of the game is simply watching your minions mill about and prepare, while you consider the layout of your dungeon and the like. There’s something about this which I find mesmerizing – like the Pipes screensaver from some of the older versions of Windows. This interest in watching a military at work outside of combat has largely influenced me to this day, and is certainly one of the reasons that Empire: Total War is among my favourite strategy games. While the gameplay is relatively hands-off and slow, there is the benefit of watching regiments of uniformed men marching about in even formations.

Perhaps I’m reading into this more than is reasonable, but the LEGO games, since I played them at such a young age (although I am still quite young), really cemented the idea that “hey, maybe the ‘bad guys’ aren’t actually bad.” After all, they need their R&R just as much as anyone else. Marching around in that plastic suit and being shot at all day, I can hardly blame them. This brings me to a point which I hadn’t planned in advance, but now that I consider it, I think it’s certainly noteworthy: The LEGO video games – at least the two I’ve been talking about – really contain some valuable lessons which ought to be learned at a young age. Perhaps being given the option to play as the “bad guys” is really an important thing to have. However, I don’t want to be misinterpreted, so I’ll reinforce that being allowed only to play as the bad guys is really far from ideal. The benefit is not in seeing the other side’s perspective, but in seeing both sides’ perspectives.

So, I’ll wrap this up with one final thought: Video games are – or rather, can be – an effective way to teach a child one of the most important abilities: seeing things from another person’s perspective. It’s one thing to point at the Galactic Empire or Nazi Germany and say “these are evil people; they are the villains,” but it’s an entirely different and, I’d say, better thing to say “these people had a different idea of what’s right and wrong. We generally agree that they were wrong, especially those in charge, but the majority of them were ordinary people like any other, just forced into unpleasant circumstances.”