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P R A E S I D I U M
A Common-Sense Journal of Literary and Cultural Analysis
15.1 (Winter 2015)
Pop-Culture & Social Crisis
Dark Futures in Gaming: Some Further Explorations (Appendix One)
(This is an addendum to the article published in Praesidium, vol. 5 no. 4 (Fall 2005).)
SHATTERED STATES: The Game to Reunite the United States (Vienna, VA: Engelmann Military Simulations – EMS, 1990) Designers: Karsten Engelmann and David Spencer. 22″ x 34″ full-color map; 400 die-cut counters; 75 National Cards; 150 Foreign Cards (30 Canada, 30 Europe, 30 Mexico, 30 Japan, 30 Caribbean); 28 area-cards; four player-aid sheets; Gold Points in various denominations (42 x ‘1’, 22 x ‘5’, 21 x ‘10’); one rules booklet (8 pp.); four six-sided dice.
The boardgame, Shattered States (published in 1990), is based on premises that have, since September 2001, become very painful to Americans. Also, the game is, unfortunately, mostly an unsubtle derivative of the abstract, “conquer-the-world” game RISK – set on a mapboard of America. Indeed, it is premised on a highly fratricidal war erupting in America, in the wake of a “9/11”-type incident.
The initial premise is that a nuclear explosion carried out by “Arab terrorists” in Washington, D.C., takes out virtually the entire American political leadership. This theme had also been raised in a Tom Clancy novel: in Debt of Honor, a crazed Japanese airline pilot was shown as flying a jumbo jet into Congress during the State of the Union address. Clancy, among others, has pointed to the security dangers around the concentration of American political leadership during this address.
However, many might question if America would necessarily fracture in the face of such a terrible decapitation. The aftermath of September 11th – at least for a few years — resulted in a huge strengthening of American patriotic feeling. A hugely critical issue would be whether the hypothetical future incident was an act of foreign- or domestic-based terrorism (the former clearly far more likely). What might be expected, in the wake of such an attack, is that some kind of largely military “emergency committee” would emerge, presumably to direct the massive retaliation against those hostile forces that were implicated in such a “Pearl Harbor”. The situation would be seen as one of wartime, and a broad spectrum of security measures would be at least temporarily introduced. In the case of domestic origins, whatever grouping was identified as the instigators could also be expected to be remorselessly hunted down.
So the net effect of such an attack might be to highly “conservatize” and unify America, rather than to send it spiralling into separatist devolutions. Indeed, such a savage strike might be seen as possibly leading to the strengthening of American society. A philosopher like Hegel would appreciate the dialectical irony of a vicious attack on America actually resulting in the long-term strengthening of America.
Unfortunately, it now appears in retrospect that George W. Bush mostly squandered all the vast social and cultural energy of the patriotic surge after “9/11” – which has led to ever more deleterious outcomes for the American polity.
It should also be noted that there is a curious bifurcation of the use of the term “terrorist” in U.S. politics. Conservatives typically focus on the Islamist danger. Some liberals, however, tend to wish to pejoritize traditionalists and conservatives as “dangerous” – as seen, for example, in some documents of the Department of Homeland Security. The IRS had also been clearly deployed in a huge operation against the Tea Party groupings.
The setting in Shattered States (were it to be taken seriously) is highly dystopic. Americans in different regions of the country have so little fellow-feeling for their former countrymen that they are willing to use nuclear weapons against them! (I.e., the game includes rules for players launching nuclear strikes at each other.)
Separatist or secessionist devolution scenarios in the United States, if they actually ever take place, are far more likely to occur along much different lines. They are more likely to be played out in terms of legal, political, social, cultural, and economic conflicts. The use of military force, particularly of a high-intensity nature, would almost certainly not come into play.
In many states of the Union, what many persons pejoritized as “separatists” or “devolutionists” or “secessionists” desire, is simply what they believe to be the original intent of the “truly federalist” U.S. Constitution, as against the current-day Federal Government behemoth and its multifarious, highly intrusive instrumentalities. That so-called “states’ rights” has often been pejoritized as merely a defense of white Southern bigotry should not allow one to avoid serious discussion of the issues of the proper balance of local, state, and federal government functions in the U.S.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based freelance journalist who has often contributed pieces about pop-culture, science-fiction, futurism, and political theory to these pages.