{Class Struggle}

Game Concept

Thesis: A modern reboot of the classic yet lesser known board game “Class Struggle,” digitized into an online grand strategy game for multiple players ala Civilization or Crusader Kings. In the return of the geopolitically-minded strategy game, the proletarian faces off against the bourgeoise – the working class versus the ruling class. A turn-based diplomacy and military simulator, {Class Struggle} is primarily focused on the role of revolution in the cycle of history, ideologically and violently.

In the destined class struggle that Marx conceived of as the turning wheel of history, the unconscious, sleepwalking Communist battles against the conscious, actively-minded capitalist. The goal of the working class is to awaken via organization and self-determination while the goal of the ruling class is to ruthlessly maintain the status quo of wealth and power accumulation via propaganda and technology. Their antagonism is inevitable and can only lead to one of two outcomes: one class’ victory < or > the common ruin.

What the bourgeoise loses in numbers they make up for in information and influence; the proles mine the world and forget themselves, the grand billions of bodies, hearts, and minds await someone to move them away from their own exploitation and toward self-determining agency.

Setting: The World at present, hyper-industrialized late-stage necrocapitalism with a steadily consolidating coterie of tyrannical corporations flaring and extracting the Earth’s holds and her peoples without an end in sight | the 2020s global community, with inequality at an all-time high and workers movements all but eradicated, immiseration comes for the poor, estrangement for the rich | Raging fires and super-hurricanes buffet the coastlines, nuclear weapons prime in their holsters, media hobgoblins and deteriorating material conditions animate populations of Last Men with nothing to lose into stochastic, random and increasingly more frequent acts of confused violence | the flows churn on, people live and die and love sometimes, all while the doomsday clock ticks down…

Until *you* enter the picture as players on either side of the struggle. And then everything changes. New strategies are employed from ruled and ruler and the class struggle reignites! Like a game of chess, efficacy returns to both players’ agency.

Will you win the war for your class? Or will you bring about the common ruin of both classes?

Character & Story:

The player(s) take on the role of Supreme Commander of either the working class or the ruling class.

As a Leader of the working class, aside from the 99% majority of the population as standing to gain from your eventual possible victory, you wield three primary resources: 1) labor, 2) biopower, and 3) community.

The laborers cover the Earth and build it. The only way for them to assume more power is to reshape how they deliver their labor – if they deliver it all – and what they do with their time and ‘biopower‘, exponentially culminated across the manifold corners of the globe’s massive population potentially working as one toward a common goal. They unite when they realize the presence of their invisible shackles tied to the inhumane interests of capital alone and look into each other’s faces for the keys to free each other – i.e. they realize “class consciousness.” It is only then that they can begin to strategize how they may assume control of the means of production.

The working class consists of retailers and teachers, factory and farm manual labor, waiters and mechanics, and practically every other job that requires real time and energy to work.

As the leader of the ruling class, you have a number of powerful weapons at your disposal to protect your entrenched and ever-flowing interests, namely the 1) laws and 2) police/armies. At 3), and perhaps most importantly, the bourgeoise dominates the realm of technology, and this includes all-powerful media with its power to distract weary minds, redirect public attention, and sell endless consumptions.

The capitalist class repeatedly shuffles the world’s layers for proverbial treasure, using bills and wars to reshape countries and extract resources. They have the speakers and the guns to craft a dominating influence in every major conflict. With investments they leverage control over governments and industries alike. Servants to profit and power x wealth accumulation alone, the ruling class occasionally battles amongst themselves for monopoly, but ultimately buckle down together to crush any tension from below. There are too few of them – and the machine of capitalism is too perfectly entrenched by modern mechanisms – for their class consciousness to ever slip below near full capacity. Though their solidarity sources from a separate, desperate and hedonistic place, it is ever-present and never, ever forgotten… unlike for their antagonists.

The capitalist class consists of the owners, the majority shareholders of corporations and governments, the inter-generational billionaire class of technocrats and tyrants who have become so estranged from their humanity so as to forget the faces of the children of the future. They fight for power and wealth accumulation, to the ends of profit and capital alone.

The primary goal of the working class is to unite and self-determine, retaking power – the means of production – for themselves.

The primary goal of the ruling class is to maintain their control over the world through media obfuscation, technological control, and police x military domination.

Strangely enough, perhaps the most important factor within the class war is up for grabs: spiritualism.

While the capitalist must run on the hedonic treadmill, eyes forever on their inhuman God housing the unreachable fulfillment of greed, profit extraction, and infinite growth — Capital / the worker must deign to put his faith in the common good, in his neighbor and in his children’s children, who may not see a sunrise without a successful revolution within the next generation or two.

The endgame of either class in the class struggle is to not only crush their opponent but to more fully realize the truth of their respective spiritualisms: for the capitalist its folly (property), for the worker its necessity (community).

A worker’s general strike: one of the working class’ only tools to assume some power within their predicament
Voting in a two-party system with unlimited private monies: one of the ruling class’ greatest tools for continuous political control ~ 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Map

Gameplay:

Class Struggle” reborn ~ “To prepare for life in capitalist America – an educational game from kids 8 to 80.” In the classic Marxist board game (designed as a socialist alternative to Monopoly) created by New York University professor Bertell Ollman in 1978 – the players use historical crises and opportunities to defend the rights of workers, or exploit them. The board game used tiles and die rolls to build a narrative of historical direction, wherein each class tried to accumulate enough knowledge, power, and resources to defeat the other in the struggle.

In this new era of {Class Struggle}, the game has gone digital, with its flows on a digital world map with a board of video game graphics, mechanics, and systems. This is the classic conceit of analog Class Struggle, but with a 21st-century update into the realm of online gaming via graphics engines, the latest in game design elements, and mass availability + functionality on Steam.

And yet, even in its updated status as a digital grand strategy video game, Class Struggle retains its core theme of education unto all its players.

Class Struggle has 84 squares, each of which represents a step along a speculative path towards revolutionary confrontation between capitalists (blue) and the working class (pink). Following Rosa Luxemburg’s famous dichotomy in The Junius Pamphlet (1915), the game’s outcome is either a ‘transition to socialism or regression into barbarism’. For Luxemburg, barbarism was embodied in the imperialism and inhumanity of World War I, with its cruelties facilitated by modern technologies.
~ https://www.frieze.com/article/simon-denny-and-joanna-popes-board-game-class-warfare
The Class Struggle board. Like Monopoly but with more layers.

Turn-based strategy ~ The core gameplay of {Class Struggle} plays like Civilization or Crusader Kings, with turn-based strategic planning and action from the world’s grand overland map. Within the towers of modern labor and capital – the two primary nodes of the class struggle’s battle – the workers and rulers assume their roles.

With the game only featuring these two factions – each wielding unique resources and manpower – the outcome of games is still variable based on starting settings (which can be customized) and the sheer amount of decisions and directions that either player can take the game. A completely different strategic experience will be on the table depending on who you play and how you play them in each game.

Civilization V gameplay example
Crusader Kings III gameplay example

The Workers and Capitalists take turns setting their strategies and deploying their bodies and algorithms for the struggle; eventually, direct actions turn to armed conflict, as the worker class begin to rise and the ruling class mobilizes surveilliance and weaponry to beat them back down.

A working class victory ends in Communism; a ruling class victory ends in fascism. Each game’s estimated time to complete ~ 3-6 hours, depending on custom settings.

Theory and Praxis ~ The workers work from the ground up, organizing to educate themselves on their own power. They employ it however they can – through civil resistance and strikes. In every major population center, the working leader must direct workers to educate themselves on capitalism and labor history (theory) and then move with such knowledge in hand at their places of work and in their community (praxis).

Primary theme: Unconsciousness vs. Consciousness ~ the working class does not understand the class struggle, thus they do not fight it and automatically lose… they are not *conscious* to the class struggle / the ruling class has been *consciously* fighting and winning the class war for centuries

Alternatively, the ruling leader employs the same strategy of theory and praxis, but through modern, officially-sanctioned institutions such as universities, corporations, and the legal system.

At the start of the game, with the entrenched power of the rulers means their strategies and actions are more effective. The working class starts in the hole and must work themselves out. Each class must oppose the other’s theory and praxis, to varying / semi-randomized success.

Material conditions ~ The changing *material conditions* (the existing life events and implications for people in the working and ruling class both) of the world as the game is played determine the chances of success for any given theory or praxis action taken.

The more entrenched with wealth and power one class becomes, the more desperate the other class’ strategy must become in response. When rulers press their power over the reigns of Capital, developing laws that outlaw unions and choose to crush peaceful protests with overwhelming police force, the workers might resort to theft, riots, and even terrorism, in the cyber and real world.

When the workers start to gain power through labor organization and popular uprisings which seize productive means, the rulers may employ the military or strats involving “disappearing” dissident leaders and bioterrorism.

Working class *animosity* and Ruling class *decadence* ~ Each class experiences inner complications due to their own destined fate in the class struggle. The internal contradictions begin with capitalism’s current dominance in society for the left (the workers) unable to escape its ever-presence, and its core motive for the right (the rulers), its insatiable need to extract profits from the resources and people of the world – to the point of violence – to keep the machine going.

Workers experience *animosity* (i.e. leftist in-fighting) as they stratify themselves into cliques and camps with different interpretations on the correct courses of action in the struggle. Reformers argue against revolutionaries, “demsocs” and “tankies” yell at each other on social media. An endless, self-defeating circle of animosity fires up, which reduces the chance for success in any worker endeavor throughout the globe.

Capitalist rulers experience *decadence* as corporations cannibalize their own talent by refusing to raise their wages, as externalities such as pollutants and climate changes bring about unforeseen disasters, and as any life-oriented, non-profit maneuvers instantly lose market share and drop stock prices. Generational nepotism producing fail-son rulers that inefficiently manage ruling class interests also introduce more ineffective rolls for the capitalists in their global actions over time. Overall, Capital’s dehumanizing influence upon all ruler motivation, leading to inequality and war, slowly ticks the game world’s doomsday clock closer and closer to midnight… toward a “common ruin.”

‘Crisitunities’ = Crisis + Opportunity ~ Random events throughout the game, such as natural disasters and pandemics, create chaos – and crisitunities. Either class may seize upon them and use the opportunity the crisis presents for their own collective class’ interests.

Soft Power x Superstructure / Memes and Shadow War ~ Each class can use the media to create or stymie the ongoing “culture war.” The class struggle – at this stage in world history, the 2020s – begins here, with the “superstructure.”

The workers, via podcasts and online shitposters, use memes to try and distribute leftist / labor / Marxist theory. But they must not succumb to doomerism, to ‘capitalist realism’, to their self-criticisms disallowing them from *living* under capitalism.

The rulers, through every major media outlet and most mass culture, disseminates status quo reinforcements without end, comfortably satisfying the middle classes of the world and crushing or ignoring the most impoverished, marginalized, and exploited of the population. But they must overcome their own ever-presence and cringeness driving their messages into unpopularity or new cycles of counter-culture movement from the people.

Hard Power x Base / Hackers vs. Armies ~ The final stages of any class struggle end with real weaponry from each class’ armies waging lethal military conflict. The workers and rulers finally war over the “base”, communism vs. capitalism, socialism vs. barbarism.

When it comes down to it, in order for the people to seize power over the means of production <or> for the current ruling class to finally, fascistically seize permanent power for themselves and their descendants — one class must destroy and displace the other, in mind, body, and spirit. The workers move toward Revolution to upend their rulers whereas the capitalists move toward dystopian technological domination, to keep their laborers in line.

Workers must use guerrilla warfare against the overwhelming police and military force of the rulers. In the final stages, the more workers laid the foundation for a working class uprising, the more likely they are to triumph by having enough officers and soldiers turn toward their own class’ interests and away from being dogs for the ruling class.

The primary tool capitalists wield during the armed conflict of class war is their national military forces (the portion which have not turned to fight for the worker movement; determined by previous actions in the game) and intelligence agencies (such as the CIA, FBI, NSA). They can use either to bomb countries and overthrow elections.

The primary tool workers wield is their labor and their numbers. If enough survive the battles and refuse to work for weapons manufacturers and internal infrastructure institutions, then the gears of capital will halt and the workers can capitalize upon the intervening chaos to overtake key locations on the world map, hunting down oligarchs, corporate control boards, and international infrastructure beyond the reach of the global hegemony.

The final class war stage of a {Class Struggle} game involves Risk-like battles all across the globe, with turn-by-turn swings in fights creating a thrilling, nail-biting conclusion to a game.

For the first time in his life, Sonic truly understands the meaning of war

Victory Conditions ~ In the class struggle, only one class can emerge victorious:

Communism means nationalizing essential industries such as healthcare, housing, food, education, and energy – with cooperative, democratic worker ownership over small and luxury businesses of all other kinds. The workers win, and claim the base.

Capitalism, made permanent, means the status quo of market extraction dominating society but enforced with grevious surveillance, with violent military x police control over workers. The rulers win, and claim the base.

Inspired by ~

Grand strategy game ala Civilization x Crusader Kings x Galactic Civilizations x Stellaris

Civilization series

Crusader King series

Democracy series

Galactic Civilizations series

Endgame: In {Class Struggle}, the world’s crises are hashed out amidst the haves and have-not’s, the oppressors vs. their oppressed – the exploiters and exploited – finally waging a war to decide humanity’s next social organization. The final fate of either class in the struggle is that of victory or common ruin. Will you lead the workers toward consciousness? Or will you continue to drive history as a ruler, seeing through the eyes that made our world as we see it today?