Illyriad is currently experiencing an unusually high level of in-game violence. One possible reading of this situation (which I personally believe to be accurate, but that’s an argument for the Illyriad Forums) is that this war is between those who wish to pursue a non-consensual PvP approach, and those who wish to avoid PvP (at least, non-consensual PvP). If so, this means we have:
- a war between those who are all dedicated wargamers, and those who are mainly farmers.
- one side fighting because they want to fight, and the other fighting for the right to not have to fight.
Reduced to this simple summary, two immediate problems jump out:
- In a war between wargamers and farmers, one might suspect that the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
- To fight for the right to not fight is a contradiction. More than that, if the wargamers are looking to fight wars, then to stand up to them is to give them what they clearly want – a wargame – while to roll over and surrender is to give them the other thing that they presumably want – victory.
There is also a deeper problem here. If we imagine that the farmers might actually manage to gain the upper hand, militarily, then what exactly would victory look like for them? Again, there are two problems that emerge.
- In the short term, if they are saying (which they are) that players should not have the right to unjustly destroy others’ cities, then they are constraining their own ability to weaken their opponents in the long term, and to regain losses. (In fact, in the present case, many of the farmers believe that nobody should ever be deprived of a city, nor forced out of the game, on which basis it becomes incredibly difficult for them to weaken their opponents, who have no such qualms about weakening them.)
- In the long term, the farmers do not just have to win this war. They have to win every war that the wargamers might start in the future. After all, a wargamer who is happy to eliminate a courageous farmer need do so only once to be rid of the pest. Meanwhile, if the farmer refuses to eliminate the threat of the wargamer, then the wargamer can keep coming back over and again after each defeat. But if the farmer adopts the wargamer’s callousness, then arguably this is morally self-defeating.
In real life, societies have dealt with very similar challenges. The way in which societies become increasingly good at containing, channelling and curbing aggression is what we describe with words like civilisation, progress, etc. But it is not clear if this sort of civilising progress is actually possible in a sandbox strategy game like Illyriad.
This is not just a question about what might happen in Illyriad. It raises a fundamental question for any sandbox strategy game which attempts to mix in military and peaceful playstyles as Illyriad does, and for the genre in general.