Magazine article Risk Management

Die, Hippies, Die!

Magazine article Risk Management

Die, Hippies, Die!

Article excerpt

There is a popular nation simulation game on the internet called CyberNations, in which geeks such as myself create and manage their own fictional countries. You choose a style of government, trade with other nations, collect taxes and invest in national improvements like factories, banks and schools. Since war is an ugly reality of this game, you must also manage your military and maintain a vigilant defense. Or, if you want, you can go on the offensive and raid other nations for their resources.

To hedge against this risk, nations often form or join alliances, which also provide benefits such as better trading opportunities. But the funny thing about alliances is that the people who belong to them tend to treat them more seriously than a game of this sort would suggest. The biggest alliances in the game have actually become distinct microcultures, complete with their own chat channels, webpages and wikis. When alliances clash, the game goes from a simple exercise in resource management to a weird form of competitive social networking. Suddenly, the benefits of being in an alliance turn into the much greater liability of getting roped into an huge war that chews through individual nations like a shark in a school of tuna.

This is exactly what happened back in February, when the largest alliance in the game--the Green Protection Agency (GPA)--was attacked by a coalition of alliances called the Continuum. The GPA is a neutral alliance so dedicated to peaceful isolationism that its member nations refer to themselves as "hippies." On the other hand, the Continuum is an alliance of alliances whose players model themselves in name and in deed, creepily enough, after real-life dictators and warmongers. The chief Continuum alliance, the New Pacific Order (NPO), is so cultishly devoted to its leader that one of its members actually commissioned a real NPO flag to be made, was later found to have treated that flag disrespectfully, and was ejected for life from the alliance by his fellows. I guess that's the internet for you.

Anyway, the NPO wanted the top slot in the game, decided it had to destroy the GPA to get it, and built a case for war by claiming that the GPA government had become so dangerously unstable that it posed a threat to every other alliance in the game. …

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