Gaming: To continue my thoughts from last time about simulation vs. game… One thing that really confuses this discussion is the conflation of the term “simulation value” – how accurately a system or rule models whatever the reality of the world is – with “simulation,” which I define as an open-ended activity for exploring a situation (such as a fantasy world infested with monsters). As pointed out in the comments on my last post, 3rd Edition D&D is generally high in its aspirations to be a simulation with a robust set of physics behind it, but often falls down in the exact simulation value it achieves in the particulars. For example, a housecat can easily kill a 1st-level human wizard in 3e. Well, believe it or not, it’s a better simulation than what’s available in some editions of D&D, even if the simulation value is unacceptable. In earlier editions of D&D, the housecat isn’t even given stats—if you said, “My wizard attacks the housecat!”, the DM can’t resolve that action with anything other than fiat. (This assumes the core three rulebooks, BTW; I’m sure housecat stats eventually crept into most editions of the game.) 3e is a more robust sim because a resolution is available. 1e and 2e simply overlooked these things, or *counted* on DM fiat, while 4e made a conscious decision to NOT model the wizard-housecat battle, because part of the core philosophy of the system is that heroes should be matched up against appropriate monsters. That’s a very gamist view (or, if you like, a sim of heroic fantasy movies/novels, not a complete fantasy world). The simulationist view is that if you go into a place where you might expect to find a cat and attack one, you’re now fighting a cat.
Now, inaccurate simulation can be maddening. Poor sim leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering. We want the simulation to respond to our inputs in ways that are logical and make sense. It drove me nuts in Civilization 3 (or was it 4?) when I discovered that planes and artillery could no longer sink ships, because as it turns out, they really can. (Civ 5 corrects this, thank goodness.) All editions of D&D model most things we care about pretty well. But when we look at high-sim versions of D&D, I think it’s not the value of simulation as an activity that we’re arguing about—it’s the accuracy.
Politics/Current Events: There is a fascinating election taking shape this year, and it’s not the one you think: It’s a recall election for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. Walker’s the guy who muscled through a change in state law back in March of 2011 effectively disestablishing state public sector unions, in case you don’t remember the story. Many of my Wisconsin friends are fervent Democrats, and it would be hard to overstate how much they loathe Walker after the events of last spring. Remember SEIU filling Madison with protestors? The Democrat state legislators fleeing to Illinois? It was the biggest story in the country for a few weeks. The Democrats need to reach 540,000 signatures on a recall petition by January 17th to set up the recall election for June, and it seems certain they’ll reach that number.
In fairness to my Wisconsin friends, Walker’s move against the state employee unions, if upheld, definitely would result in a political advantage for the Republicans—state unions are big funders of Democrat candidates. I understand their concern. However, it seems to me that there are very sound reasons for limiting or banning unions of government employees. Public sector unions naturally work hard to elect union-friendly governments… and when a union-elected government negotiates with that public sector union, who exactly is representing the taxpayer at that table? It’s an inherent conflict of interest. Heck, Franklin Roosevelt recognized this back in the 1930s . Here’s an excerpt from FDR’s 1937 letter to the head of the National Federation of Federal Employees on this very topic:
All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.
What’s so wrong about recognizing that it’s a bad idea to let someone sit on both sides of the bargaining table at the same time? FDR got that. If you think that Scott Walker is stupid, crazy, or evil, don’t you have to explain why FDR wasn’t when he held the same view?
Walker’s collective bargaining reforms are helping Wisconsin to solve some very difficult budgetary challenges. The mayor of Milwaukee admitted that pension reform made possible by Walker’s efforts helped save 300 to 400 city jobs this year. Local school districts throughout the state are now implementing much-needed reforms that were impossible under the previous arrangement. Whether you view Walker’s move as a callous, loathsome political ploy or simply necessary, it seems that Wisconsin’s financial prospects have been substantially improved by the legislation.
The Wisconsin recall election may be the most important election of 2012 that doesn’t fall on the first Tuesday of November. It’s worth watching. If the unions (Democrats) prevail and recall Walker, the example will stymie efforts across the country to get bloated public sector unions under control. If the Republicans win, it may lead to a harder look at public sector unions all around the country. In my opinion, that’s long overdue.
The Finer Things: Six weeks until pitchers and catchers report! Football is great, but I love the stately progression of the baseball season. My two teams are in very different places this year: The Phillies are aging former champions trying to put together one more World Series run with the core of a team that’s been together for six or seven years now, while the Mariners are young cellar-dwellers who would seem to be out of the race before the season even begins. Strangely enough, I am not so sure they are. Young players like Ackley, Carp, Smoak, Pineda, and of course King Felix are an exciting nucleus for a young team. I think Smoak in particular is headed for a breakout season—he’s only 25, and he’s a switch-hitter with power. The Angels and Rangers are loaded, sure, but I predict a scrappy M’s team adding 10 to 15 wins to their 67 from last year, and improving in all aspects of the game.