Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For the record...

I'm not a very big computer gamer. I play them, unapologetically: you get a lot of bang for your dollar, especially if you tend to pick up just a couple titles and play them forever (I have very specific tastes).

Particularly, in my case, I like to do this for a few hours whenever I need to recharge, and to percolate on ideas that aren't going anywhere. Like taking a hella-long bath, only quite a bit more social. And the percolation works: I've pulled some fairly interesting research ideas out of playing Medieval:Total War and it's successor titles. (For instance: "mechanical artillery was a largely mature technology in the high-medieval world. So why did not a single European medieval power make notable use of field artillery except in relation to siegecraft? Or, put another way, why was it such a shock to the late-medieval world that the Taborites did make use of it, when the wagon-laager had been around as a tactical element in Central and Eastern Europe for centuries?")

And late last night I once again proved to myself that I am a total nerd by looking at Galactic Civilizations 2 and thinking "oh, no wonder I can never seem to get anywhere economically. The economic engine isn't built upon a capitalist model, but a mercantilist one. Duh...." This realization should have reached out and slapped my forebrain around like the former was a 1930s gangbuster, and my brain a sleazy pimp running wood alcohol. "Of course it's mercantilist, you idiot, it's a colonization game..."

And in the course of that, I think I solved a serious issue I'd been having with felt-making. Because that's, um, relevant to far future space opera, yeah, that's the ticket... if I'm right, I have to figure out now how to make a hat-maker's press large enough to produce that kind of felt in large pieces. Once that's achieved, I'll be able to replicate the kind of felt used for cavalry coats in Hungary, and which is largely never seen even in the online felt-making communities outside of people making extremely expensive hats for rodeo folks.

But, anyway, back to video games. If it's quite clear that at the beginning level of development, a mercantilist system is as good as one is likely to get (whether the power receiving raw materials is a government or a corporation), does it not behoove anybody who's serious about strip-mining the asteroids to chunk this silly notion of getting into space with lightweight materials, and instead develop the political will to build an Orion Drive? Forgiveness is easier than permission, and when the world sees a four-hundred-thousand-ton spaceship bigger than the Starship-freaking Enterprise loft into orbit, complete with huge water banks for eating up radiation and giant spherical rotating sections for artificial gravity, nobody will give a crap how it's launched. You want to motivate kids to do well in math and science? Watch those imaginations catch fire, when you tell them that if they work hard, one day they can grow up and work on THAT....

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