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A Force More Powerful

23 May 2007

This is a game that sets out to change your take on life, and explicitly aims for its players to carry what they experience in a virtual world into the real one. However, with any luck it will not be named in any lawsuits involving dead policeman.

City

AFMP is the game of non-violent conflict; a strategic simulator, it places you at the head of a civil society group which has come into conflict with an overweening government. It could be about minority rights, it could be over an unpopular war, it could even be in protest against an authoritarian military dictator. Whatever the situation, it is your job to get your points across and make your views count, but without resorting to violence.

Want to infiltrate a government compound and assassinate an enemy general? Want to use guerrilla tactics to cut off government troops from supplies? Want to undermine your country’s energy infrastructure with a series of carefully time acts of sabotage? Well you can’t, and shame on you for thinking like that.

Instead you’ve got to hold peace vigils outside the army base. Harass the enemy general with a leaflet campaign. Blockade the road the government troops are coming along. But you better watch out as well, because the government isn’t playing by the same rules. If you’re protests aren’t carefully timed, or your newspaper isn’t carefully worded, your supporters could be lined up against a wall and shot before most of the public are even aware of your existence.

The amount to do is simply mind-blowing, and immediately the distinction between studying politics and actually doing something about it becomes frighteningly clear. The need to coordinate an ever expanding staff, which starts off from around 10 and keeps growing, takes up a large slice of your time. Each person has their own skills and experience, which can be improved by training, but watch their enthusiasm and fear levels, or they’ll be off to the other side!

All that before you can even have time to think about crafting your message, deciding your policy on the environment, or entertaining the chief of the corn farmers’ guild at your party. With all these things to manage, can you bring the population onside before the government cracks down on your group? And, most importantly, can you prevent things from descending into violence?

I couldn’t. This is a tough game, and intentionally so. The sheer range of things to do can be a little overwhelming. For most people, at least those who are not cyberathletes, computer games are nothing more than an occasional distraction, but this is a game that requires commitment. Thanks to my lacklustre planning, my leaflet campaigns went awry, my rock concerts dissolved into riots and my members were quickly rounded up or sent out of the country. Elections went unwon, and wars unhalted. Dictators remained in power



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