Empire of the Earth (Piece Done in the Hexagonal Style of Sid Meier): The Biopolitical Thought in an Internet Game Culture

The r/civ Battle Royale Mk II

In the previous section, this paper discussed the invention of the AI-only match in Civilization V in relation to its impact on the online community of Civilization player and its potential to intervene in the biopolitical aspects of the game. This section will continue those discussions by considering the largest and most popular AI-only Match that is being ‘anti-played’ on the R/civ sub-forum today, the R/civ Battle Royale Mk II.
Although the system of ‘anti-play’ that defines AI-only Matches appear on the surface to be a gentle and passive one, the structure of the game, with 20+ AI players  and the largest possible Earth map, makes it very taxing on a player’s computer. The original AI-only match created by u/thenyanmaster crashed irretrievably before it was able to reach 20 installments, let alone to sate the thirst for more AI-only content on the sub-forum. Although a variety of copycat matches had arisen in the wake of the original’s success, they were themselves too specialized or too computer-challenged to replace the world ‘simulation’ of u/thenyanmaster’s game. Instead, the R/civ community decided to pool their resources to form a new, and larger AI-only game, one officially sanctioned and supported by the sub-forum. The community discovered one player who had a powerful enough gaming computer to run their vision of the game, u/TPangolin, and set about creating what they titled the “R/civ Battle Royale.”
Although the first version of the Battle Royale was aborted due to an insurmountable in-game glitch, in the summer of 2015, the r/civ sub-forum resurrected the game as the R/civ Battle Royale Mk II. More confident in their technological abilities, the sub-forum also decided to expand the scope of the AI-only game so as to include 61 unique AI factions. This expansion allowed the community to enlist a host of new allies in the running of their match. Because Civilization V contains only some 40 odd civilizations as which to play, the sub-forum enlisted members of the online “modding” community to submit player-created civilizations to include. As will be discussed later, they also enlisted the aid of other internet phenomena and memes to create buzz, interest, and content around their event.
The decision to expand the game to 61 factions and to include user-created “mod” civilizations opened the door for more direct player involvement in the “anti-playing” of the game. For one, the community at large had to choose which 61 civilizations to select. To solve this problem, the r/civ sub-forum decided to have community members vote on which civilizations to include on a regional basis. These polls operated to engage the community beyond the game creator in the process of “anti-playing” the game, but also revealed the inherent biases under which the community played. Although the polls were set-up so as to ensure a certain amount of regional spread amongst the match’s civilizations, Anglosphere and European factions were massively over-represented amongst the civilizations. As the map above reflects, the community voted to include civilizations for the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, Texas, white South Africa (represented as the Boers),  and a Buccaneer civilization based around English piracy.
Upon completion of the polls, the users in control of the game began to upload installments of the game— albums of screenshot with detailed narration of events— onto the r/civ sub-forum and the newly created r/civbattleroyale sub-forum twice weekly. The game has ben updating in this manner since mid August, and has recently surpassed 30 installments (a number which corresponds to roughly 2400 slides of gameplay). In conjunction with the narration of the Battle Royale, which is tasked to a rotating collection of community members, the r/civ community has also created a variety of side projects which build off of it. The r/civbattleroyale sub-forum has a stock market in which to bet on the future success of civilizations.[1] Community-members are encouraged to attach ‘flairs,’ small badges, to their usernames so as to denote which civilizations they support. Moreover, most community members comment on each installment, providing their own interpretations of the game’s events.
These various mechanisms of community engagement make it so that all the members of the community are emotionally invested within the various events of the Battle Royale. More than that, though, they ensure that it is the community itself which is cooperatively “anti-playing” the AI-only match— that it is the r/civ community which has dictated its participants and narrative interpretations, and that it is the r/civ community which passively spectates the game’s ongoing run. This community role renders the Battle Royale, in its existence as intellectual property and in its existence as discursive subject in the sub-forum space, a potential space for the formation of a proto-posse. While limited in scope, this assemblage allows one to think outside of and in resistance to the defining facets of the modern biopolitical state. Through this cooperative action, the privately controlled “gaming capital” of Civilization V  is distributed and annulled, and the “self-organized”multitude of the community is championed.[2]

[1] “Battle Royale Stock Exchange: Test Run,” uploaded by u/bluesox, Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/civbattleroyale/comments/3hx2ea/battle_royale_stock_exchange_test_run/, 22 Aug 2015 (Accessed 9 Dec 2015).
[2] Hardt and Negri, Empire, 408-411. 

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