Saturday, June 17, 2006

Geography and Games: Hidden Agenda


“We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials for example to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum, as popular war advances, peace is closer”
-A Shining Path General’s Speech

The above quote sums up my thought about Hidden Agenda’s nightmare world. The game Hidden Agenda depicts events in a fictional Latin American country known as Chimerica. Chimerica is described as having the "body of El Salvador, neck of Nicaragua, claws of Cuba, and the head of Haiti." In short it is a hellish dream of a country and an exaggerated model of the flaws that Central America had in the 1980s.

Game Review

In the game one becomes President of Chimerica after the downfall of a long reigning dictator. Three political parties will seek to influence your decisions. Popular Stability is formed by the land and business owning elite who seek to preserve their power. Christian Reform is a moderate social reform party that seeks to make Chimerica into a liberal democracy. National Liberation is comprised of Marxists and Liberation Theology proponents. They seek to turn Chimerica into a “people’s republic” like Cuba or 1980s Nicaragua.

The army is jointly controlled by conservative forces and former rebels. Tensions are high. Prices are spiraling out of control and landless laborers demand land reform. Will you help the middle class reach power? Or will you purge all conservative forces and risk “Reacto” (Contra) war? Those choices and more are available to you in Hidden Agenda.

While there are many options I do wish there were more. How about a hard conservative who can stop the death squads? Or having an election without full blown civil war?

The, and really only, major problem with the game is bias. Leftist guerilla groups are like a teddy bear version of the Shining Path. In the newspapers you may read how they target some mayors for assassination BUT in the same article it mentions how right-wing groups do the same. The main rightist paramilitary group, LIMPIA, combines the worst of the AUC and the Contras. The most vivid depiction of war crimes was a newspaper story about how LIMPIA and army members chopped off ears of victims and forced them to run through burning fields. While National Liberation members of the government will do everything to try to limit war crimes both Popular Stability and Christian Reform characters seem to encourage total war.

Geography of Chimerica

Hidden Agenda does a good job depicting the various factions in Central America. Many people are farmers but only a few farm cotton, the cash crop. There are groups which favor the lower class while rejecting communism. Christianity is divided between Liberation Theology, Christian Democrats, and Evangelical Protestants.

Foreign Powers play a huge role. Try to get anything done without the financial and military backing of either the Soviet Union or United States. Tick off the United States and you will see the old Monroe Doctrine be kicked into play with a trade embargo which will make your nascent communist into the next Cuba.

The land itself plays a big roll in the game. The best land is for cotton then coffee. Which land offered, if any, to land reform beneficiaries greatly affects the economy and the game.

Hidden Agenda can be obtained from two places; from its official site, with some strings attached, or off an abandonware site. Ether way this is one simple game which is enjoyable and educational. Its manual can be downloaded here.

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