Accuracy in Media

A game released in October is teaching young, impressionable players that communism works. And gaming site Kotaku is helping popularize it and defending the indoctrination.

The game, Victoria 3, is an economic and civilization sim game, and the way to win – to be more productive, richer – is to enact communism. Which is absurd, obviously. As Kotaku points out: “apparently even the game’s numbers agree with the so-called radical left that communism is the most economically efficient government system.” Given that we spent much of the 20th century testing this idea – it turned out to be incorrect – that’s not a responsible thing for a game to insist players follow it.

Of course, any game depends upon the rules that are coded into it. Sid Meir’s original Civilization, the starting point for these economic and political sims, had democracy as the most productive socioeconomic system. Communism allowed to you to suppress the population’s desires in order to maximize military output. That is a fair observation from those 20th-century lessons. But coding communism as being more efficient is obvious nonsense. East Germany was not richer than West Germany in 1989; the contention is disproved.

The thing is Victoria 3 is really trying to run an economic simulation. But it has basic economic stimuli and processes just completely wrong. For example “Economies in Victoria 3 are based upon the gold standard, and if your gold stockpiles are too high, it devalues your currency.” No, the effect runs the other way. Large gold (or, in the modern world, foreign exchange) reserves increase the value of your currency, not decrease it. Or this “When attempting to force other countries to concede land or open markets” – forcing those open markets is mercantilism. That is, the idea that it is exports that make us rich so we should be forcing people to allow our exports. This is wrong. More than just wrong it’s a very common mistake in current political economics. Teaching people that it works is to increase the political pressure for that error.

Yes, yes, this is just a game. And yet. Paul Samuelson, a Nobel Laureate, once remarked that he didn’t care who ran a country as long as he got to write the economics textbooks. That way, the economics that everyone learned would mean the country was run the way Samuelson thought it should be. Much the same can be said about the dangers of critical race theory. Whether or not it’s taught in K-12 isn’t the point, that it’s taught in every teacher-ed program and class means that all K-12 teaching will contain it.

So, Victoria 3 is just a game. Yet those who play it will be convinced that communism is more productive than free markets or capitalism. To make the point again, we did this experiment, we call it the 20th century. The contention, the idea, is not true. It’s hugely misleading for the rules of the game to make it appear to be true.

We’re fine with games being entertaining. But then Meier was able to be that and also get the underlying rules right – the rules that actually run our world rather than some confection that is wholly and entirely misleading.

They’re running an economic simulation game that shows communism to be productive. This is madness – or misinformation – for whatever else communism was productive it wasn’t.




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