During the a Steam sale at some point in 2012, not long after the release of the wildly popular Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim, I purchased Elder Scrolls III – Morrowind. I did this partly because all of the Bethesda games were on sale, and I think Morrowind was the cheapest one. I also remember at one point, many years prior, having some fun with the character creator. I also remember having fun with Fallout 3, another Bethesda game. Also, to be perfectly honest, I liked the idea of playing a ten year old game while everyone was busy raving about Skyrim, because I was a bit of a hipster idiot.
Since that point, I have played Morrowind a grand total of 57 minutes. This game occupied so little of my interest that I couldn’t even spend an hour on it. Furthermore, I’ve tried playing other games in the Elder Scrolls series, most notably Skyrim, and found it very difficult to engage in the game in any way. The world of Elder Scrolls doesn’t fascinate me the way some games do.
Well, that’s what this series is about. Unfamiliar with the setting, unfamiliar with the game itself, with nothing but some fond memories of character creation, it’s time to dive into Morrowind.
The people of the United Kingdom participated in a political game last week when they went to the polls. Of I were to characterize it as a contest between the party leaders for the title of prime minister, the pedantic purists would start yelling because that’s not how it works in the Westminster system where members are elected locally to represent their constituents. They’re not wrong about the process, but I can’t imagine that many international observers care deeply about which particular individual represents Ipswich or who represents East Dunbartonshire. The contest that I watched with interest was the one that played out indirectly in hundreds of constituencies. There are many traditions about how the “confidence of the house” is established but when it comes down to who gets to wear the biggest title, the measure that matters is which parties won how many seats.
Anyway, Corbyn’s Labour party had a much better showing than expected, but they lost. They significantly increased their seat count and proportion of the vote, which are good measures of how well the party is doing in the long term. These are, however, irrelevant measures of success in the electoral game. The ability of Labour to name a prime minister or to pass their legislative agenda isn’t much stronger now than when the Conservative party held a majority. These should be simple matter-of-fact statements, yet if you take Corbyn at his word that he can still be prime minister you’d think the result was something completely different than what it was.
So it’s clear that Labour is on an upswing and Corbyn’s critics within his own party have to eat a little bit of humble pie. That doesn’t mean he won. He’s in a good position to win the next round, but he’s most certainly not going to hold the title prime minister in a matter of days or weeks. Part of the problem is that there is no clear coalition to take down the Conservatives. It would be entirely reasonable to think that Corbyn could lead a coalition if Labour plus Liberal Democrats plus some smaller parties with similar agendas (Greens, perhaps) could form a majority. But they can’t.
To form a majority Labour will need every other party in the house to help topple the Tories. Not just every major party, every party down to the smallest. This reminds me of Canada in 2008, when our Conservative party was in a similar situation (plurality of seats but no majority) but was able to persist because the Liberals and New Democrats didn’t have a majority by themselves. They also needed the support of a regional ethnic nationalist party, the Bloc Quebecois, whose agenda wasn’t really compatible with the mainstream parties. They could agree that they didn’t like Stephen Harper, but that was about it. Then, too, we had partisans boasting about the Conservatives having “lost the popular vote” but it would be another seven years of Conservative government before a different party was able to win by the measure that counts: number of seats in parliament and confidence of the house. Perhaps Corbyn is in a better position today than Dion was in 2008, but he still has to grapple with the fact that his party needs the Democratic Unionist Party to topple the Conservatives. Based on what I have read about this party so far, “willing to go to an election at this time” appears to be the only possible common ground that a party of social democrats could have with right-wing ethnic nationalists. If I was a Labour guy, the thing I would want the most right now is to give a nod to last week’s result but to spend more time building than boasting, focusing on winning the next contest rather than dwelling on the numbers that I like the best.
Likewise, if I was American, I would want to cut it out with the Corbyn shows that Bernie would have won nonsense. Clinton came much, much closer to winning the top title than Corbyn did. If she had won, she would still be at the mercy of the house and the senate. Or, if the Democrats had won congress but lost the presidency, then Trump may have been president only for a “matter of days.” Again, the relevant measures have nothing to do with “popular vote” or numbers of marchers or tweet counts. These may be somehow useful data, but the real contests will be the midterm elections and 2020. If you are an American who has a problem with the current administration, it’s time to organize rather than time to gripe. Regardless of whether or not Bernie could have won, it’s now up to you to find someone who can and will win.
So, please: let’s not remain obsessed with irrelevant measures because they suggest that a loss for the team we cheered/played for wasn’t actually a loss. Get the results that count, then build a consensus for changing the rules. Let’s support adopting some form of proportional representation or abolishing the electoral college or making whatever other change in our respective countries that makes electoral contests better and more fair. But that requires a mandate, and to build that, your party needs seats more than it needs tweets.
Assassin’s Creed 2 is one of only fourteen games in my Steam library that I’ve favourited. As you can see from the amount of time I’ve logged before Full Steam Ahead, I played the heck out of this game. However, the last time I played it was back in 2011. How will it feel to return feel after over five years away?
It’s been almost a year since I wrote Hell, Titles, and Houses in July 2016. In this amount of time things have gone from crazy to ludicrous and now, finally, to precarious. I’ve been a fan of Garth Turner’s blog The Greater Fool for a while now, much longer than it has been fashionable to question the sustainability of an economy based on perpetually increasing house prices. Reading that blog every day might be a weird thing to be passionate about, but it helped me build confidence in the belief that not being in a position to buy a house doesn’t make me a loser or a victim. I had to change my beliefs. I knew the “responsible adult” thing to do was to get an education and a good job, pay back debt as fast as possible, then make the most important purchase of my life. But after putting in the work to get the education, the job, and slay the debt I came to realize that I had been doing the right things for the wrong reasons. I was being a responsible adult because I saw a game with winners and losers, and I intended to be a winner: the guy who owns a modest-but-nice house and therefore never has to suffer the indignities of pet restrictions and rent increases. I was to become wealthy over many years by virtue of owning, a sort of petit-bourgeois privilege afforded to me on account of being smarter and more clever than my less responsible peers (aka the losers).
Of course, a number of things are wrong with that way of thinking. It was based on erroneous assumptions about economics, as the month of May 2017 has shown us that things are starting to turn sour for everyone who has gone all-in on real estate in Canada’s hottest markets. But even if it remains the case that buying a house at any cost is a sure way to win, I now have to admit that it would be morally repugnant to “win” that way. Think of the board game that every self-respecting board game geek loves to scoff at: Monopoly. That’s the game where you throw dice and compete to see who can extract the most wealth just by being lucky to land on the right places at the right time but passing your combination of malice and good luck off as big league business savvy.
The object of the game is to bankrupt the other players through charging ever-increasing rents. There are a lot of things that make this game less fun, and one of them includes keeping other players in play. To properly play the game, it’s not enough to “add value” to the board by assembling your sets and building houses. You have to kick the ladder out from underneath you if you want to score a timely victory. This is all fine at the board game table; nothing is wrong with some make-believe wheeling and dealing among friends and family. But could you really feel good about yourself if, in real life, you aspired to play like a Monopoly player, whether by swift domination or by squeezing your opponents slowly by keeping them in the game just so you can get more from them later? I wouldn’t think so. I would give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don’t wish that reality was more similar to Monopoly than it is. If managing to buy real estate meant winning, and being among those who never caught the right break meant destitution, that’s not a game I would want to win.
Fortunately, the economic game in the real world doesn’t work like that. I am writing about this topic now because the markets in Vancouver and Toronto are faltering. May 2017 looks like the zenith of the madness that inspired people to blame foreigners for domestic problems in Vancouver, push and shove each other to scramble into an open house guarded by a police officer in Greater Toronto, and for people my age to feel like this music video is the most relatable thing we have heard in a long time. It is a cultural sickness we have in Canada that enables us to rationalize that behaviour in the face of a reality that is quite unlike Monopoly. It makes me hope that Garth Turner’s daily posts in this past month are accurately chronicling the unravelling of the economic assumptions that fuel the madness of this Monopoly mindset.
It wasn’t too long ago that conventional wisdom held that rants such as this one were pointless and esoteric. But nowadays, Canadian politicians (especially in BC and Ontario) seeking to maintain their positions in their own political game are scrambling to be seen as “doing something” to cool the market. Of course, I doubt that they want to succeed: almost 70% of Canadians own homes now. Successfully bringing prices back in line with incomes would be logical, fair, and absolute political suicide due to the number of people who have a lot to lose if the measures actually work. I don’t know what the politically tenable solution to our national housing crisis is. All I can do is take care of my own home, stay grounded, and hope that the storm of fear and greed eventually subsides and people start seeing houses as places to live again rather than get rich quick schemes. Life isn’t Monopoly.