Age of Donkeys

As part of my college course we were required to play a online RTS with the class and write about the experience. For me this did not work out well.

Survival of the fittest, I believe is the phrase uttered by Darwin in the Origin of the Species. Darwin never played video games, indeed the species were probably living off board games at this time. I am sure that he turned, nae, spun in his grave at my epic (cough) attempt at Age of Empires.

I must confess to never having played this, RTS (real time strategies) never being my forte, and they do say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Who are they? You know, them. So I was pleasantly surprised when I started the game, logged onto a local server, and found an intuitive and self-explanatory control system waiting there for me. And lo and behold, my Stone Age land lay before me. I dub thee “Donkeyland”. My own land, finally I can realise my dream of a beautiful Eden, filled with well fed and housed people, living in awe of me, their kind and generous King. With magical all knowing donkeys roaming everywhere searching for edible paper Airplanes. Or something like that. Maybe without the last bit about the Donkeys.

So I send out a man to tend for food, my food gatherer if you will, and let him hunt creatures to feed my soon to be sprawling population. With wood as a resource I create a few villagers and make a lovely Stone Age town center. Soon they had houses and a storage place. Then I explored and all was well, with a growing population I was ready to get an upgrade to the next age, and maybe a few magic donkeys. All was well and my people looked happy. Food was a problem, but exploration would soon sort that.

15 Minutes later, Donkeyland is an ever growing pile of ash, with flames and terror, citizens milling around in confusion like shoppers in the January sales, but the January sales with flames and death. Something my food gatherer had disagreed with ate him. Food was non-existent and the population was rapidly dying in a rain of arrows. So what was the problem you may ask, where did this god like smiting come from on a land that was at peace, and wanted donkeys. Well I never counted on my neighbors. You may have guessed this already, but a rain of arrows is not really a common meteorological event. Indeed a rain of anything that kills is very uncommon. Unless you are made of salt or something very unfortunate like that, then normal rain will kill, and even then a rain of arrows is not good for your long term health. So to summarise, a neighbouring country passed my borders, and without so much as a “how’s it going lad” started a systematic smiting of my people. Very upsetting, with no food to spawn villagers and no villagers to build, I left the server and the dreams of a Utopian society behind.

There are 2 strong points that can be made from this. Firstly, Age of Empires is closer to real life than you think. Survival of the fittest often favours the species that had a very good head start. If you have a lot of resources you will advance to higher levels and can survive, if you have problems getting food or housing material, it is likely you will move elsewhere or watch as your neighbours thrive as you shrivel into oblivion. Because you have a small amount of resources and are showing promise, it is very likely that neighbours will take advantage of this. If they are advancing technologically and need more resources to progress this is especially true. Nations like this have little need to integrate the more unfortunate into their progression and nurture them to the same level. Why, ethically, would a nation with arrows kill a nation with nothing more than rocks and not even one donkey? That my friend, I will leave to you to ponder. But know this, the scenario above is happening in this world today, I don’t need to go through a history of the world here to point this out. All you need to do is watch the news.

The second point is also pointed at online games, or any type of multiplayer. More so in the RTS online bullying is very common. Those who log into a server game, capture all strongholds, hoard all resources, and crush all newbies (noob’s in web speak) who come into the online world to flex their muscles against human opponents. With ample practice you can hold your own, but I read many articles about unbalance in RTS (Real time Strategies) when played online. Even in games like Quake, on certain servers I have had the experience of being slaughtered by everyone logged into the server, as they did not know me and so ganged up on me to get rid of me. This is in essence bullying as well. I have even read articles about people sing MMORPGS (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, phew) being “ripped off” for goods and equipment by experienced players who figure out they are new. This is appalling to me, as it seems the school ground bully’s have found another place to hang out.

Online gaming in this country is only in its infancy. With many more broadband connections being installed every day the online gaming world is becoming more and more accessible to the Irish gamer. So lets use some ethics here people. Never say anything to anyone on a game server that you would not say to persons face. Always treat the new players with respect, don’t gang up on them in a game. And if they admit to being new in any other game, give them a hand, never know, later you may have a gaming clan and they may be a valuable player in your team. Let’s kill bullying once and for all. Also let’s have more games with magic Donkeys, Peace out, respect and all that. Except to the person who crushed Donkeyland owned by “Master_Shake’. You know who you are. I hope you feel remorse for your evil ways. I shall defeat you soon.

PS: From this article, if you are made of Salt I meant no offence. Also if you are made of salt and your friend who is not falls in a ditch full of thorny briars, resist the sadistic temptation to pull him/her out.

PPS: Kill bullying, but a little taunting never goes amiss J

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