Post contributed by former MRN member RedNickD.
“You and this army!” a voice says triumphantly. “Serve up a knuckle supper,” reads an obnoxious banner disrupting your game of Angry Birds. By now, we’ve all seen the Clash of Clans advertisements, and many of us have played it. I’ve been playing for over a year now, but only now have I realized that Clash of Clans is a good example of why competition is a bad thing to base an economy on.
In the game, players start a village (also called a base). They have a town hall which they must upgrade to progress to higher levels of village development. If you destroy another player’s town hall, you automatically win the battle and the loser is given a 12 hour shield (protection from further attacks). The two main resources in the game are gold and elixir, which are gained through a series of elixir pumps and gold mines. These resources are needed in order to upgrade your defenses, troops, and town hall. In order to protect their resources, players build walls, canons, archer towers, wizard towers, traps, and many other implements of destruction which they are constantly upgrading to fight off increasingly stronger attackers.
Capitalists of all stripes agree that competition is good for business. Many believe it’s good in all aspects of life. Even Republican Sarah Palin had kind words for her more conservative competitors in the Alaskan Independence Party, and we all know that Democrats and Republicans usually have nothing but hate for third parties and unaffiliated candidates. It is constantly reinforced and restated to workers in various ways that they need to do better than other workers in order to keep their jobs or get desperately needed pay raises. Competition is one of the driving factors in capitalist theory, though it is primarily what capitalists emphasize as most important among businesses in a free market.
Clash of Clans is proof of why this is just wrong. Anyone who has played the game will tell you that you will be attacked every time you turn around. When other players attack you, they steal your elixir and gold, which you need as much of as possible to progress in the game. When I had my town hall inside of my base, I was attacked at least five times a day. Now that it is outside, I am attacked maybe three times daily because I receive a 12 hour shield more often. Regardless, I still lose a lot of resources.
In order to make up for their lost gold and elixir, players must turn to raiding other players. Of course, this is never easy. Other players have defenses of their own, and often they have troops waiting in their clan castles to fight off your army. There is no guaranteed victory. Many times I’ve come across a village that I thought was a sure win, only to be crushed. So, basically, I spent well over 100,000 elixir on an army, and I leave with next to nothing in loot. Sure, you can use cheaper troops. It isn’t uncommon for players to make armies of nothing but archers and barbarians, but, face it, most people’s bases are too well protected for that to be profitable.
To put it simply, you’re resources are being stolen multiple times a day, and there is no guarantee that you’ll get them back, and in order to get them back you have to spend more resources to build an army that has a decent chance of getting clobbered.
The only way around this is to pay real money to buy gems. With enough gems, you can buy a shield, or multiple shields. Then you can sit back for days or a week and save up your resources. Or you can be reckless with your money and just buy as many gems as it takes to upgrade everything within the day. But not everybody considers it smart to spend real money on a silly game. To make matters worse, once you hit a certain level with your town hall, you’ll have to buy gems if you even want a chance at progressing. Sure, it’s possible that you could get there without spending real money, but it will take months (not days) longer.
Clash of Clans is like a free market. All of the players are in competition with each other for resources to build up stronger defenses to protect themselves from the increasingly stronger armies that will inevitably attack them and steal their resources. You must constantly learn new tactics to win battles, and constantly figure out new base plans to stop your competition from winning against you. Sounds fun right? At the end of the day, however, is it worth it? At the end of the day, you’ll still be behind those who were stupid enough to drop real money on a tablet/smartphone game, and all of your hard work can be undone with just one good attack from another player.
As a result, many players quit the game. Nobody likes seeing their hard work come to nothing because some jerk you’ve never met before came and stole all of your resources (which you stole from someone else). The capitalist idea of competition is like that. It’s true that, in practice, large businesses and the government will often work to prevent competition (Dominion Power), but that is neither here nor there. On paper, capitalists want a world like Clash of Clans. They want businesses to be constantly at each other’s throats. Of course, in competition there are winners and there are losers. In Clash of Clans, the losers can just quit and probably live a better life because of it. In real life, the losers often have to suffer an ugly fate. I’m sure I can dig up a story of a once successful “mom and pop” shop being crushed by a large chain, only for the former owners to go live in poverty.
Karl Marx said that a capitalist gains from competition “more difficult conditions for the profitable employment of his capital.” Clash of Clans is proof of that. Village “chiefs” face difficult challenges in obtaining the resources to upgrade their bases due to all of the raids they endure from their competitors.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of competing, we collaborated? Sure, it wouldn’t make a fun game, but our villages would progress faster and everyone would find the game a lot easier. Of course, Supercell will never redesign the game to make it more collaborative, and that is where Clash of Clans as a metaphor for society ends. If our economy, and society as a whole, wasn’t so focused on competition and protecting our money and homes from banks, other workers, or other businesses, we could focus on things that matter the most. We could focus on our families and our friends. We could focus on making our communities better. We could focus on our interests, and, as a result of our new freedom, we could unleash the full force of our creativity and invent new things that we otherwise would have never thought of because we were too focused on making more money than our neighbor.
People build great things when they collaborate instead of compete. Through a collective system of work, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa and his followers rebuilt the war-torn city of Canutillo within three years. Compare that to the great American way of rebuilding places like Iraq or even New Orleans. Under Villa’s collectivism, the city flourished economically and became self-sufficient in almost every regard. It even obtained modern technology, such as an electric plant. It was reported that nobody was without work and nobody went hungry.
Let’s also not forget Wikipedia, the largest reference work on the internet. Through a collaborative, open effort, it has become as accurate as the more professional reference works such as Encyclopedia Britannica and the Physicians Data Query.
Through collaborative efforts, people can do great things. Humans are social animals, and we have been collaborating throughout most of our history. If it wasn’t for our ability to cooperate, we would have gone extinct long ago. Although Clash of Clans portrays brutal competition in the cutest, most entertaining way possible, a world based increasingly on dog eat dog wouldn’t be nearly as cute as pink-haired girls shooting arrows over crystal walls to steal magic elixir. On the contrary, it is more likely to resemble the unforgiving desert warfare and scarcity of Mad Max. Such a society would mean little to no prosperity for the great majority of people.