Guns Don’t Kill People, Mercenaries Do.
The day China invaded Taiwan wasn’t big news. The big news was when Taiwan responded by launching nuclear weapons. The invasion stopped. Shenzhen was irradiated. The world changed.
This, of course, did not happen. It’s fiction. It’s an odd alternative history that uses an internet forum as the basis with the forum members as the voting members of a fictional mercenary group. All of this is played out in one of the most rigorous military simulation software ever designed. So good the US Military uses it.
And now we’re using it to tell a story, a crowdsourced story, of a world that hopefully never exists.
The premise is pretty simple. Make money. One of the opening choices was which group of planes to purchase using seed money provided by the investors. In this case Goldman Sachs and the New York State Teacher Retirement Fund.
Yes, in this world PMC’s are the sanctioned military of choice while the world deals with austerity.
In a nutshell it’s like Ayn Rand wrote the military defense budget.
It’s a RolePlaying Game of sorts. Each participant is assigned a “plane” in the computer game. On top of that they make choices. Lots of choices. Choices about planes (very popular), choices about missions, choices about who to hire, and who to fire.
The voting started out as majority rule but as it’s grown we’ve had to move to more interesting voting methods, specifically Instant Runoff Voting.
What makes it interesting is we aren’t rolling dice behind a paper screen. Instead the decisions directly impact the simulation. If they purchase F-4E Phantoms that will change options in the mission itself. On top of that they have to ensure a profit is made for the shareholders.
And then there’s the voice actors.
To spice it all up I’ve hired a variety of voice actors to play some of the characters in the Lets Play. We have Jack Abramof (One F, not Two like the famous Lobbyist), we have various Indian Military Officers, we have an aging colonial European Count in Angola, they even had a chance to hire Jimmy the Juggalo.
The Hired Goons decided to hire Jack Abramof (one F, not two) as our lobbyist in Washington. I used Jack to provide information, tidbits of plot, and drunk texts at three AM that led to him fleeing to Canada and eventually Switzerland.
All of this came together into the mission itself, the moment where all of the fluff work is combined. Now the story becomes reality inside of the simulation. I didn’t fluff the simulation up, I worked off of real world intel, military budgets, and even radar sites as found by OSINT.
The world is as real as we can make it. The simulation allows for it. It models the flight characteristics, weapon performance, even detections of ground forces from the air.
The first mission was pretty chill. Tibet. 2023. Assist an aid aircraft going into Tibet and escort one out. Of course there was some intervention from some Chinese Aircraft, and it all worked out.
The next mission though they had choices. Cross Myanmar and risk a response? Or rely on the Indian Air Force to fuel the jets and allow a strike into the Bay of Bengal? In that particular mission they had to find and kill two civilian freighters carrying weapons. If they failed more surface to air missiles would have been present in future campaigns.
Eventually it all ended in a complex strike on Lhasa Airport to cement the position of the Indian back “Volunteers”, a situation similar to the Donbass where nation states don’t fight, they just back other people who do.
At the moment we’re in Angola working to overthrow the current military dictator. On the other side is a 3rd Faction made up of various internet communities who are trying to take over the country. It’s a three way brawl and now both Tesla and Apple are getting involved.
Like I said, it’s a weird world.
The coolest part is using CMANO as the backdrop. It is the core, the thing that keeps us honest, the basis in reality. Everything else feeds into the eventual mission itself. Every choice they make directly impacts the simulation.
Should the players (over 150 voters as of May 2017) decide to follow a bad path, say flying into an area known for high SAM concentrations, the game will kill them.
There’s no mulligan. No do overs. A bad plan leads to terrible results.
At each mission I’ve laid out trip wires, spots that had they done something obviously bad they would have paid the price.
The crowdsourcing of the mission itself is both a collobrative effort and a competitive one. Missions like “Gatecrasher” and “ToonTown” are voted on, critiqued, analyzed. Conversations range from the efficiency of weapons systems to the ability of a plane to evade radar.
I imagine there’s some NSA watchlist going bonkers as we discuss how best to utilize napalm.
All in all it’s a new way to spin a narrative using the power of the crowd combined with the elegance of the simulation. I’m not a storyteller, but a storytender. So far, as the world goes to hell, it’s been a lot of fun.
It’s also been very surprising to see how incredibly moral the Hired Goons have been. In numerous cases they’ve been given a choice, do evil, or do good, and almost universally they have risked doing the right thing even when it’s more dangerous.
We’ll see how long that all lasts as they enter the final stages of the meatgrinder in Angola. It’s been one hell of a Let’s Play.