When it comes to politics I’m a pretty left-wing kinda guy. In fact I’ve been called “extreme left-wing” before now, just because one day I suggested that I was enamoured with the idea of communism even though I don’t think it really works – but that’s a post for a different blog.
I’m also a big believer in people; I’m of the opinion that the current government here in the UK is governed off the back of a balance sheet and the happiness of the people who live here is at best a secondary concern and at worst unimportant to Mr. Cameron and his gang of cronies, especially the one who looks like a ghost trapped in a sausage.
But the other day I had a priest killed, and now I understand.
For those who have never played Tropico, the best way to describe it is “Sim City for those of us who aren’t autistic masochists”. You are El Presidente, the man in charge of a small island state somewhere near South America. Your job is to keep the country afloat financially and also to keep your people happy, be that by providing them with work, housing, entertainment, healthcare, a scratch for their religious itch or whatever else they demand from you.
So I come along, thinking “Right then. Here’s my chance to show them Tory bastards what running a country is all about. Screw the money, the happiness of my people comes first. They’ll get housing, they’ll get jobs, they’ll get entertainment. The island is rich with resources; we’ll be raking the money in and the People’s Republic of Spanndonia will thrive.”
And, to begin with, it did. My farms and logging ventures quickly began to make money, each visiting cargo ship leaving heavy of grain and light of wallet, often also leaving a few new recruits eager to get their hands dirty and start shifting some logs. People had their complaints, certainly, but the island was ticking along nicely for something that had been a mansion, a few shacks and a couple of farms not twenty years previously. Well-educated types were brought in to run medical centres and police stations, tourists began to arrive, and the books looked good.
But then something went wrong. What it was I don’t know (my hunch is a lack of foreign aid from the Russians, but it could be that I was paying some of my citizens ludicrous sums of money but only housing them in cheap, low-rent accommodation), but very quickly my financial assets plummeted into the red, leaving me unable to build.
Time to slash and burn.
Construction workers instantly got laid off. Many of the farms had positions cut. Couples who could afford the rent on their homes on a single wage saw the lowest earner out of a job. Rent went up. I felt like a cross between Thatcher and Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove (shut up, my girlfriend really likes Disney films).
Of course my citizens started to resent me; I’d resent me too if I did that to me. The problem was, though, I was only doing it to try to help them: the more money I recouped from them, the more I could spend on new ways of making them money, better healthcare, new entertainment… but the stupid little peasant bastards didn’t fucking understand, and I found myself shouting this loudly at my laptop.
And it was at this point I realised: I had become David Cameron.
Not the shouting at a laptop bit, of course: I don’t know what our Prime Minister does with his computer, but I’m sure he doesn’t use it to loudly berate his own citizens. What I mean is I found myself explaining to these tiny little people that the cuts were necessary, and that I was making my own life harder too. “We’re in this together,” I found myself saying at one point, before washing my mouth out with bleach.
At the very nadir of my popularity (at this point, at least) my citizens requested an election. This was fair enough; it had been nine years, and due to my not passing any environmental edicts the dead were lying in the streets outside the closed medical centres. It’s safe to say that things had been a little tight. I read the request over before checking my citizen happiness records, and it was fairly safe to say that if a dog had run against me it would have won. So what did I do?
I refused to allow the election to take place, of course. Chris Spann, man of the people.
As you can likely imagine this did not impress the citizens. However, I knew that with just a little more time I could end this crisis, get my finances back in the black, and everything would be hunky-dory again. The debt was decreasing month by month, and so long as I didn’t look at what my citizens were thinking I’d probably even be able to sleep.
The next year the little rat-bastards wanted an election again. I’ll be honest with you, by this point the little turds were starting to piss me off. Always demanding, whinging and complaining but because of their stupid free will the stupid peasant tossers wouldn’t walk to the other edge of the island and build me stuff without being paid – even though that logging camp and dock would turn out to be the key to saving the island financially.
By now I’d reached breaking point with them, but I daren’t upset them any further; I had a funny feeling revolt was on the cards. As such I allowed the election to run, and it was announced that my opponent in the election would be a local priest; well-educated and obviously carrying the religious voterbase straight off the bat. The whole election year I fought to fix my economy – the aforementioned logging export operation completed early in that year and this quickly began generating serious amounts of money; we were soon back into the positive figures and work quickly began on another LEO on the opposite side of the island.
With the money flowing in, over the course of the election year I managed to win back a large chunk of my people – even the ones who didn’t like me respected me for fixing their country, and wages were soon respectable once more. However, the voter graphs still looked shaky…
So I had the priest killed. He vanished one evening, and all reports of his body being dredged up by one of my fishing boats were quickly covered up by the island’s military. It’s unfortunate because, looking at the numbers, I probably would have won the election anyway. I convince myself that I did it so that the island wouldn’t become trapped under the leaden weight of religious dogma, but the truth is I wanted the glory and the adoration for myself.
Playing Tropico is like holding a mirror to your soul. It lets you see the sort of person you would be if you were put in power, and it turns out that I would become a totalitarian prick of a dictator. When the military threaten to violently rebel, what do I do? I simply fire them and make their jobs obsolete. I deliberately don’t build schools because educated people don’t want to work in the lucrative tobacco farming, cattle herding and logging trades, and I routinely make jobs disappear in order to force people who live on my island to work miles away from where they live, or move into poor quality housing whilst the work they do keeps my country afloat and my Swiss bank account nice and fat. I am a terrible, terrible cunt, and the game served to remind me of this.
During the great recession of the seventies I happened to click on one of my citizens and examine some of his stats. He was jobless and lived on his own in a shack behind the power station. His thoughts were all to do with a mysterious cough that he had and how he had no work. This made me feel bad enough but, as I absorbed this information, at the age of 36 Frank Castro dropped dead in the street from emphysema.
I was fucking mortified. Each resident of your island has a name, a personality, hopes and dreams, and spending a minute or two to get to know them can be really quite insightful, funny or, in some cases, harrowing. I was responsible for the awful life this man had led, and I was responsible for the corpse now lying in the July sun outside the new hotel I had built.
What kind of money-grabbing heartless shitbag was I? I saved the map and quickly shut it down; I was going to make amends.
New map, victory condition: Happiness.
In-game every island is called Tropico, but I can tell you now: to me this island is called Castro.