PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Gaming the Indian nuclear threat

One of the most frequently played political-military simulations of modern times has conclusively demonstrated that India poses an enormous threat to world peace. In particular, it seems that Gahndi is even more likely than Genghis Khan to initiate use of nuclear weapons.

As the Matt Gurney at the National Post reports:

On Thursday, The Globe and Mail‘s editorial board was roundly mocked online for writing an editorial condemning historical inaccuracies in the video game Assassin’s Creed 3. In that game, the player assumes the identity of great native American warrior, who fights British Red Coats to help the 13 Colonies break free of Britain’s rule during the American War of Independence. The Globe was annoyed, because native Americans sided with the British in that conflict. They took the opportunity to provide readers with a historical lecture on what really took place 236 years ago.

Anyone who feels that video games have a duty to be historically accurate should never settle in for a nice game of Civilization II (Civ2), a turn-based strategy game released in 1996. It would totally freak them out the first time Gandhi came along and hit them with a massive, unprovoked nuclear first strike.

But there was one exception to this rule: If I ever made contact with the Indian civilization, I’d marshal all my forces and set out to either conquer or exterminate them. Not because I have anything against India or Indians in real life. But because my (in-game) survival depended on it: Simulated-Gandhi, leader of the Indian civilization, was a nuke-happy psychopath.

It didn’t take long for fans of Civ2 to notice this … oddity. Simulated-Gandhi, known in real life for his peace-loving ways and promotion of non-violent resistance, really seemed to enjoy dropping nuclear bombs on his neighbours’ cities, often without provocation or apparent motive.

Whatever the reason, it made the game really bizarre. You’d spend thousands of “years” building your civilization. You’d build great wonders and found a dozen mighty cities. You’d build farms and roads and forts and send out ships to explore the seas. You’d engage in commerce and diplomacy with your neighbours, including India, perhaps never fighting a war. And then India would discover the technology to build nuclear bombs, and the next thing you know, WHAM. Thermonuclear Pearl Harbor. Without so much as a declaration of war, your biggest cities would go up in mushroom clouds.

It was like clockwork. It didn’t matter if you were friendly with India. It didn’t matter if you were trading partners. It didn’t matter if you were much more powerful, or much weaker, or located around the world. It didn’t even matter if you had your own nuclear stockpile to retaliate with. If India could build nukes, sooner or later, someone was getting vapourized. The only real way to handle this was to hit them first. Even if I encountered India in the game equivalent of the Bronze Age, I’d go after them with everything I had. It was the only way to avoid a nuclear holocaust later….

You’ll find more on the classic bug/feature at the Civilization Wiki. The AI values table below (for Civ5) is from here (click to enlarge).

One response to “Gaming the Indian nuclear threat

  1. Ronald Skip Cole 17/11/2012 at 12:39 pm

    Snikee!
    Computer glitch, ironic game-designer, disgruntled programmer or warning message sent from the future (or from aliens). It is a mystery.

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