Monday, March 13, 2006

Kevin Sites in Chechnya and I Killed an Ant

I have been following the Hot Zone now for some time. This week Kevin Sites is reporting from Chechnya.

My thoughts, prayers and well-wishes to all those in war-ravaged situations or who have suffered because of such violence and trauma. I grew up playing wargames. Yet I always saw the cost of war.

Maybe it is time for other forms of socio-political games that don't necessary take the world to such desparate depths. Designing a "peacekeeping game" sounds intriguing to me now.

In fact, I'm in the R&D phase of this already. I am going to design a game to help explain how we can solve some of these problems using game theory.

Already I contacted another game publisher with more traction in the board game industry, and they liked the idea. I'll design it, and they can sell and market it through their channels.

Some day, I will present to you what I have planned. First I'd like to get the complete prototype put together.

I proposed this game even before the death of Slobodan Milosevic. It was in my head when I spoke to folks at the Shield Conference in San Ramon in February. I have to thank Chris Salander for the recommendation he gave me regarding taking the idea to the next level. Chris has odd and quirky ideas about wargames. After all, this is the fellow that wrote the miniatures army lists for prehistoric man.

Yes, from the dawn of time we have been fighting, killing each other and dying. We are simultaneously fascinated and disgusted with the idea.

For my own part, when I was doing research for this the other day at Hobee's, reading the articles about the death of the former Serbian leader, an ant was crawling upon my page. I was very careful about it, but it kept crawling under the page and back on it, and all over the place right where my arm could brush over it and kill it.

Now, this might sound odd, but though I have killed a lot of ants in my day, accidentally and on purpose, in this case, for whatever reason, I saw this ant not as a pest, and not even as a pet, but simply as a fellow living creature. Perhaps reading about genocide will make me care more for other living creatures.

As I sat there drinking my tea and getting my head around the timeline, tragedies and turmoil, I wanted this ant to live. Sadly, I then interceded in its life, trying to get it from being squashed accidentally under my arm.

My intercession, however, was indelicate. When I tried to put it down, I think I dropped it from too far a height. When I deposited it onto the place where I wanted it to be safe, it was crippled. I felt terrible! Nooo!!! I was trying to help. I didn't mean to hurt it!

I felt like Lenny Small from "Of Mice and Men." I pet it too hard.

I eventually put it in a planter outside, yet I realized that I had done too much to it. The poor thing was dead or near dead regardless of my intentions to help it out and protect it. What was utterly ironic was that, had I left it alone and not tried to move it, it probably would have fared far better.

In the overall karmic scheme of things it is, of course, "only an ant," and they eventually die anyway. Yet I felt how I caused it to suffer, against my intentions and cautions. Conversely, imagine how easy it could be to kill things if that was one's conscious intent? "It is only a Muslim." "It is only a Serb." "It is only a Croat." The division that led to such real-world disaster made them less than ants. They were "the enemy." There was a conscious plan to exacerbate the situation and alienate the enemy.

So today, while a man who never apologized to anyone for the death and suffering he caused to millions is mourned by loyal supporters who really didn't mind that he ordered or tacitly supported the commission of genocide, I feel remorse after killing an ant accidentally.

My proposition is that we can get our species to act less barbaric than our prehistoric ancestors. If we can evolve ethically as much as we have technologically, then humanitarian disasters can be minimized because of human policing against the most grevious of excesses of malice and violence.

As a game designer, my challenge is to create a game where peacekeeping, ethics, and morals are reinforced. At least for the basic game. In the "advanced" version, the players could be given the roles of those who are oppositely inclined: those motivated by power, domination, and darker passions.

For now, I'll keep the rest of the plan under wraps. It's something I'm thinking about in odd hours when I am not working or doing school work.

I'll be off to the GAMA Trade Show (GTS) in Las Vegas this week. Tuesday-Thursday. I'm hoping to get back in touch with folks I haven't seen or spoken to in some years. The last thing to report is that I've been in email contact now with Steve Gilbert, who I collaborated with back at West End Games on "Me and My Shadow Mark IV," for Acute Paranoia. It was great to hear from him again!


  1. Wow. There are days I feel like I am the only one thinking about other creatures as fellow beings that we should avoid hurting. I have met people who are okay with destroying a human being, either killing them phisicaly or destroying people's minds, killing their spirits, and leaving broken people, empty husks. Thanks for the reminder about the good in human nature.

  2. Pete-- An interesting adjunct to your essay, as well as cynical counter-point to teague's comment, can be found by pointing your browser to the following address:

    The address points to an essay entitled: "Why Men Fight," that was written in 1927 by General George Patton. Respect or revile the man, his insights and experience with regards waging war are undeniable. An understanding of these sorts of insights is vital as peace-making efforts predicated solely upon appealing to one's higher nature, efforts that naively ignore the baser motivations addressed in General Patton's essay are, I suspect, doomed to fail. While it is good and right that we celebrate our higher nature, we also need to "know the nature of the beast" (in order) to pacify it.

    Best Regards,

  3. Hugh,

    "With the causes and effects of war we are not concerned." -- George S. Patton.

    This was Patton's opening line, and what a line it is! It is mentalities like that which never comprehend why a war is begun, why it was fought, and why it needs to end.

    Patton was utterly oblivious to the notion. He sees war as a constant, not a variable.

    While that made him a particularly good operational commander, it made him unsuitable for civil-military affairs, and it also made him little more than a pit bull with pearl-handled revolvers, and bored him once topics other than killing the enemy were broached.

    As a general, I admire Patton. He was a brilliant man. At the same time, he had no concern for certain aspects of ethics and morals which made him unsympathetic to others, and vice versa.

    To contrast, I read how Rommel mourned the death of his men, especially the Italian soldiers being destroyed by Allied bombing and artillery. He had compassion and he had remorse, especially later in the war when he tried to stop Hitler and joined the plot to assassinate him to bring an early end to the war.


    The Buddha says that all life is suffering in a way. For every joy comes at the sorrow of something. What is most important is our thankfulness for a fellow creature when it gives its life to sustain ours. What is reassuring is to know that the life of something you eat lives on in you and through you and in communion with you.

    If we choose to stop eating, we ourselves shall perish. Yet your life has a purpose, and the purpose of the food that feeds you and I is to help us to where we need to be.

    An important thing is to be thankful, grateful, humble.

    Thank you for posting to my blog!