Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Rules" of War

    In the online game I am currently spending most of my time on (Runescape), there is a war going on between two of the game's gods (Bandos and Armadyl). It's a temporary event lasting six weeks. You can pick whichever side you want, and in my case, I'll be spending time on both sides to get all the rewards, because I'm a bit of a mercenary like that. Gods may come and gods may go, but cool-looking emotes are only obtainable for a short amount of time.
     As in any number of things where you have more than one side, both sides accuse the other of not playing fair. 
     One of the major bones of contention has been "line hopping." One thing about this event is that there are various zones where players can kill each other. The "line-hopping" technique involves running in and out of these zones. You run in, wait for the six-second delay for your player-killing timer to activate, fire a shot or two, then run back over the line, where you can't be attacked and your player-killer timer turns off. 
     This tends to be annoying for the people who are not doing the line-hopping.
     The game's forums are peppered with threads by both sides accusing the other side of being cowardly and that line-hopping should be a reportable offense. There's also talk of "honor" and what "honorable" tactics are, which apparently extends to not using potions or food for some people. In my opinion, if the game allows you to do it, it's a perfectly legitimate tactic.
     Anyways, all this blather put me in mind of earlier thoughts I've had concerning the nature of war.
     I find it still surprising, that, in a world post-nuclear weapons, war is still fought by countries chucking people at each other.
     And people talk about what's allowed or not allowed.
     According to Wikipedia's article on the Geneva Convention (or, as I think of them, the Rules of the Game), torture is bad, hostage-taking is bad, willfully depriving someone of their right to a fair trial is bad, etc. etc. etc.. All well and good. If we're going to conduct our international affairs like savages, we ought to have rules so we can pretend we're civilized.
     What's the point?
     It seems like we've concocted rules to distance ourselves from what war actually is. Make up rules, pretend it's a game so we can cry and point fingers when the other side breaks them. Even if we'd break the same rules if we thought we could get away with it. Wars tend to happen for stakes slightly higher than pixelated armor. Losing is a bad thing.
     Why pretend?
     "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." Games have rules.  Games are not real. Games have rules so we can have fun with them.
     Who is having fun in war?
     Why pretend that war is anything other than cavemen hurling rocks at each other until one or the other runs out of people or rocks?
     Isn't that what rules allow us to do? Pretend it's a game?

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