Looking back twenty-five years at a 1994 game and magazine about U.S. civil conflict (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
Magazine: GameFix: The Forum of Ideas (Sacramento, California: Game Publications Group) no 2 (November 1994)
The game offers seven scenarios, with differing force-mixes for the two opposing players (unlike many political games like Diplomacy, this is strictly a two-player game).
The seven main scenarios (p. 20) are:
In GameFix no. 9 (p. 26), a further scenario is added, "The Militia War":
Many of these scenarios are clearly rooted in a specifically American experience of the world. Although all of them point to identifiable social and political realities, the U.S. fortunately seems rather distant from any of these metamorphosing into an actual "shooting" civil war.
One questionable aspect of the game would be what could be seen as its huge overrating of the impact of "the Cybernauts" and Internet. The "Cybernaut" units should probably be re-interpreted as representing the media in general (or at least its most senior and activist persons). If a "Cybernaut" unit was seen as standing for a massive agglomeration of media-leaders, such as film producers and directors, key television network people, hundreds of newspaper, book or magazine publishers, and the best-known investigative journalists, as well as the Internet activists themselves, then such a projection of power would seem more warranted.
The merger of AOL with Time Warner in 2000 showed the hunger for “hard content” as part of a successful Internet strategy, albeit much of what Time Warner offered then and today is, admittedly, so-called “mere entertainment.” Nevertheless, that merger proved to be a disaster, mainly due to serious missteps by AOL – and the combination of the “high-tech bust” and the impact of “9/11” in 2001. Very many people today, however, fundamentally live and define themselves by their varied entertainments. And much of entertainment today carries obvious social and cultural messages.
It could be argued that another game inaccuracy is the zero ratings of military units in "Data Conflict". While the military might find it difficult to initiate political struggle, they are certainly among the most cohesive groups in society. Propaganda might degrade a military unit somewhat, but never to the point where it comes over to another side, with fully intact combat and movement capabilities. It would probably "break" completely before changing sides. The strengths of irregular fighting formations also seem rather overvalued in relation to disciplined, cohesive military units, with heavy equipment.
It could be seen that the onset of a period of high prosperity and low unemployment in the mid to late 1990s, put to rest the dangers of major upheaval in the U.S. “9/11” plunged the U.S. economy into a tailspin – which George W. Bush tried to counteract by stimulating the construction industry. At the same time, the wars abroad, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, proved highly costly, and, particularly in Iraq, disastrous – rather than leading to the hoped-for, more positive evolution of events. There followed financial malfeasance when low-grade mortgages were touted as high-grade investments, and passed off to banking institutions around the world. Since about 2008, the U.S. economy has been in near-permanent crisis. It could be argued, however, that the developments in social and cultural matters are also very troubling. Indeed, the U.S. continues to be engulfed by a series of bitter and highly divisive “culture wars.” These certainly exacerbate the impact of the economic crisis.
Insofar as the normal democratic process of change is not given an opportunity to take place -- with a Republican Party that is mostly too timid to oppose the current-day Democratic Party excesses – or with certain policy options, such as non-interventionism, or lower immigration -- ferociously opposed by the “deep state” -- a frustrated electorate might begin contemplating ever more radical solutions – such as the arising of a major third party, or even the threat of secession among some states.
GameFix/Competitive Edge Issue Topics/Games, 1994-2000:
# 1: Thapsos and Alexandria (two battles of Julius Caesar)
# 2: Crisis 2000: Insurrection in the United States!
# 3: Chicken of the Sea: Naval Warfare During the Punic Wars (Rome vs. Carthage)
# 4: Bombs Away!: The Air War Over Europe (card-based game)
# 5: Winceby: Battle of the English Civil War
# 6: Redline Korea: Potential Conflict in Korea
# 7: The BIG One: The War in Europe, 1939-1945
# 8: Greenline Chechnya: The Current Conflict in Chechnya
# 9: Among Nations: International Intrigue in the Modern World (card-based game of current international diplomacy)
# 10: Edson's Ridge: World War II, Battle for Guadalcanal
# 11: Cybernaut: The Duel for Cyberspace
# 12 der Kessel: Escape from Stalingrad/Battlechrome: Fire and Steel
#13 Main Event (professional wrestling)/Hatfields and McCoys (satirical hillbilly game)
In #13, Joe Miranda’s Neuro Predators: Hyper Reality -- “a hex and counter boardgame pitting the military forces of a frightened empire against those of the cyber-chaos” -- was announced for the next issue (#14). As far as the author of this article is aware, issue #14 has not appeared yet.
In 2007, a “re-implementation” of Crisis 2000 -- also designed by Joe Miranda -- was published by Victory Point Games – Crisis 2020: America Divided.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.