We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Is real life starting to imitate computer games?

There is an interesting Boston Herald article about the draconian plans to, in effect, declare martial law in the USA in the event of a bioweaponized attack of smallpox.

Probably the best computer game yet made is Deus Ex, in which you, the player, take on the role of J. C. Denton, an ‘enhanced’ agent of uncertain background and shifting loyalties.

Initially you start out as a good little statist secret policeman working in the USA and supporting FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (which actually does exist in real life) as it tries to distribute vaccine to key people as a terrible disease ravages New York city in the near future… and fighting against the ‘terrorist’ bad guys who for some reason are trying to thwart FEMA. Eventually you end up working for these self same ‘terrorists’ and fighting against your previous employer when it turns out that the plague is really just an excuse for FEMA to mastermind a coup d’etat, suspend all civil rights and take over the US government.

Read the Boston Herald article and then ask yourself…is reality starting to take it’s lead from computer games? Scary thought.

Deus Ex is a superb game. Unlike most ‘first person shooters’ in which you interact with people mostly by shooting them, in Deus Ex you have to actually talk to them (and of course some you do indeed end up shooting). This is a game which actually has characters expressing political and moral views, from mystical totalitarianism to cynical statism to well armed libertarianism! Also, how many other computer games do you know of in which during a visit to Paris, you can find yourself being subjected to a believably idiotic existentialist argument? Likewise, whilst stealing some weapons from an arms dealer’s house, if you click on a book next to his bed you will find yourself reading a chapter of Common Sense by Tom Paine. Elsewhere, you may or may not encounter two utterly incidental characters who are clearly very closely based on The Story of O. This is a superb and intelligent game that does not treat the player like an ignoramus.

However let’s hope it is not also an accurate vision of the future!

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