Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Politicians and games

Metro has a fluff piece about Conservative party leader Colin Craig, which includes an interesting surprise: Craig is a fan of the game "Diplomacy".

For those who don't know, Diplomacy is a classic strategy game based on pre-World War I Europe. Players assume the role of one of the era's Great Powers and compete to control all of Europe. Like most games of its era, its zero-sum, where victory can only be gained by trampling over the corpses of your enemies. The catch is that there is no randomness - the game has very simple mechanics, which are completely deterministic. So you can't rely on luck of the dice and gamble your way to victory. Instead, in order to win, you need to carefully build alliances, and then betray your former allies. It is therefore a game which rewards deceit and treachery - a training tool for sociopaths (its telling that it is also the favourite game of war-criminal Henry Kissinger).

Which I think tells us something interesting about Craig. But it raises a question for the rest of us: do we really want politicians who so openly enjoy treachery? Yes, its a value the political class admires (witness the popularity of the original "House of Cards" among them). But is it healthy for our democracy to be run by self-admitted sociopaths? Do we really want those sorts of people making decisions on our behalf? Quite apart from the obvious concerns about the sorts of decisions they will make, its not particularly representative, is it?

Meanwhile, I'm now wondering what our other politicians' favourite games are. And I think I'd like politicians who enjoy "Pandemic" (where players must cooperate to beat the game) or "Settlers of Catan" more than those who like Dip, let alone "Risk" or "Monopoly".