This evening, I had to write an essay for my online lit class that compared my culture to a culture we explored in one of the units that we did. I chose class, and chose to do a comparison to CN culture instead of RL culture. I procrastinated and I had a word limit, so this is the essay I came up with - 2 hours, and 1500 words (I think this one is actually about 1700 because I added in a couple paragraphs I took out for submission to class for the sake of length). There are some definite flaws in what I came up with, but it was the best I could do given the time and limitations.
Since we all like a rousing discussion, how would you change/improve my distinctions here?
Also, I'm supposed to cite GeneralOreo and Set_Vellar from R&R as research partners. Logs are to be had... somewhere. Ask them.
Class, in some form, is present in nearly every civilization throughout human history. Tribal societies had a chief who rose above the rest of the tribe, whereas Rome was ruled by senators, and later emperors. Medieval Europe saw the rise of Feudalism, during which the peasants and serfs suffered for the good of their respective lords. Later on, beginning with the American and French revolutions, a new middle class was created; today, it could be argued that almost the entire “middle class” resides somewhere below the halfway point between the highest of the high and the lowest of the low. Class is a natural human division to make; humans tend to compare themselves to one another for the sake of evaluating their worth.
Class is also present in other groups, in mini-societies present throughout today’s world. The media is a society in and of itself, with some stars rising above the rest to be universally loved, while others are ridiculed and burn out, creating a lower class among celebrities. Schools are another example of a society wrought with class; the “preps” and “jocks” enjoy a large set of privileges, while the most that a “geek” or “nerd” can hope for is that one of the “high class” students goes to them for academic help. And video games, specifically online video games, have cultures and divisions of class often unlike anything seen in normal human society.
Cybernations, an online multiplayer game, is an example of one of these cultures. The game is what is called a geopolitical simulator; essentially, each player controls a nation that can interact with other nations (controlled by other players) within the game. The game’s relative simplicity allows the players to spend time working with the other players within the game, creating a society revolving around the game. This society, like any other society, has separate classes. In this case, there are three fairly distinct classes; the Inactives, the Actives, and the Power Players.
Inactive players make up a sizeable bulk of the 22,000 members of this society. These players are those who join the game and play, but don’t interact much beyond the building of their nation. The most these players are likely to do is join an alliance (a contract between a group of nations to ensure security, among other benefits) and participate in alliance wars, in which two or more alliances go to war with each other.
Active players are what amount to staff members within alliances. All alliances have some level of bureaucracy, as some alliances have grown to have nearly 1500 members in the past. These players are usually well-recognized within their own alliances, but are relative strangers to the community at large. Movement between the Active class and the Inactive class is fairly liable to happen, as the lives people lead outside of the game may influence their ability to play.
Power Players are the true high class members of society. Numbering no more than about 100 at any given time, Power Players tend to be government officials of alliances, whether current or former, and are almost universally recognized. These players, even if they possess little hard power in the form of strong nations or a large alliance, usually have the ability to partially control most discussions they take part in, simply due to their recognition. A Power Player taking part in a discussion about Cybernations with mostly Active players would be similar to Bill Gates or Steve Jobs taking part in a discussion about computers with their employees who are working regular forty-hours-a-week jobs.
This society (in which I would be considered an Active player) has distinct similarities and differences than that of the world in general. A comparison between the poem “Napa, California” by Ana Castillo and various threads from the forums at Cybernations clearly illustrates those similarities and differences.
The first stanza in “Napa, California” talks about the work that Mexican laborers do in the fields. “We pick/the bittersweet grapes/at harvest/one/by/one” (561) tells of the mind-numbing simplicity of the job the laborers are doing. Similarly, as written in response to a blog entitled “22,557 cn players and…” by a member with the alias maxfiles, another member with the alias Ashoka the Great says, “Want to know what’s killing the game? Boredom. Those of us who have been around for a while are more likely to tough it out when there’s nothing going on… New players, however, hear about this war or that war from the past, wait for another to arrive on their doorstep… and get bored and leave when nothing happens.” When Ashoka references “those of us who have been around for a while”, he’s talking about most of the Power Players and a many of the Active players. Conversely, the new players that he talks about are the Inactives, those who join the game to wait for wars that usually take over six months to develop and take place. The Inactives are forced to wait for the tensions to build up between the Power Players, who are the ones in position to start wars.
While there is certainly a similarity here, there is also a key difference. The laborer, crippled by the conditions he was born into, has no chance for upward mobility. Inactives, on the other hand, have a reasonable chance at growth into an Active player, and with the right personality, intelligence, and activity levels, even a Power Player. The defining feature of class in these societies is different; in real life, money and the ability to live well determine your class, whereas in Cybernations, time, intelligence, and distinct personalities are the currencies that the Power Players all possess. This difference is shown with the second half of the first stanza. “with leather worn hands/as they pick/at our dignity/and wipe our pride/away/like the sweat we wipe/from our sun-beaten brows/at midday” (561). The laborers’ dignity and pride are being wiped away by the labor they are forced to do; in Cybernations, a player can simply leave if they are dissatisfied with the position they are in.
“In field/so vast/that our youth seems/to pass before us/and we have grown/very/very/old/by dusk…” (561-562) Lines 15-23 make reference to how hard the work is for the lower class. They are picking berries in a large field, so large that it seems as though they are growing older just while crossing it throughout the day doing their job. This particular part has striking similarities to Cybernations culture. In Cybernations, as maxfiles says in the discussion within his blog, “it is hard as hell to get upto a 20k ns nation, its not practical, and to get upto 100k ns… impossible.” The reference being made here is the ability to create a strong nation; most of the strongest nations have been around for several years, and every large war ends up being very destructive, so the chances of a new player having such hard power in their control are extremely low. In that sense, the field that is referenced to in the poem is present in Cybernations, literally representing a field of time between the new players and the old. This gap can seem just as insurmountable as the field that the laborers are picking, though the stakes are far lower in the case of Cybernations.
The Spanish, on lines 24-28, is translated below as “Well then, what are we going to do, Ambrosio?/Well then, follow him, my good friend, follow him!/Mama!/Yes, well, what are we going to do, friend?/Follow him, Ambrosio, follow him!” In this section, it appears as though the narrator is making it known the few options that they have. All they can do is “follow him”, whoever “him” is. Cybernations culture, again, has this element. Any alliance is going to need to have active, intelligent members to succeed. Depending on the size of the alliance, it might need more or less. As such, Active and Inactive players alike have the best chance of success following Power Players. Power Players tend to attract other players to them, the surrounding group present in hopes of becoming a Power Player themselves, or to feel the power that the Power Player has at their fingertips. The more people a Power Player attracts, the more likely that group has intelligent members. Where there are intelligent members, there is success. So for an Inactive player to have any degree of success, they are almost required to follow a Power Player. Actives have better chances than Inactives when simply working together, but the probability of success is still much greater when in the presence of a popular Power Player. One example of this is the presence of an alliance called Mushroom Kingdom.
Mushroom Kingdom (MK) is home to several high-profile members, but the most powerful, at least for a time, was a player by the name of TheNeverender, referred to as Archon. In mid-April of 2009, just at the beginning of a war that ended up shifting the balance of power in favor of MK, the alliance had 147 members. Archon became the figurehead for the forces of Karma, and in that process became arguably the most powerful ruler in the game. Now, in mid-August of 2010, MK has 218 members. While Archon is not the only person responsible for this shift, he, and other notable players, certainly hold some responsibility for the growth of the alliance. This is a clear cut example of players following the successes of a Power Player (or Power Players) and his accompanying Active players.
Lines 29-35, “We pick/with a desire/that only survival/inspires/While the end/of each day only brings/a tired night/that waits for the sun/and the land/that in turn waits/for us…” illustrate how desperate the workers are. In this case, Cybernations is vastly different. Cybernations, as seriously as it is taken sometimes, is primarily a game, and as such is only played as long as it is enjoyed on some level. The Mexican laborers, members of the lower class, are forced into the position they are for survival.
While real life and Cybernations hold some similarities in regards to class, the major differences – upward mobility and choice of participation – become the defining qualities. Castillo’s poem tackles a subject that I, as a member of the culture of Cybernations, can only identify with to a certain degree. Perhaps, with the example of Cybernations and other mini-cultures, we as a people can work for a society in which a person’s class no longer banishes them to the berry fields.
By the way, this is why I amsg'd several IRC channels asking for Admin's full name. Apparently the owner of a website is to be included when citing it in MLA.