Games Of Logistics

As someone who likes to find greater insight and meaning into the habits and hobbies of people and which may often escape wider notice, I find it deeply intriguing just how common games of logistics are.  Those who spend too much time playing games [1] are very familiar with the rash of free online games that involve resource gathering.  I am sure you have likely played such games yourself, or at least known people who have.  Many of them operate under similar principles.  You build a small settlement with different types of buildings and resource constraints, you level up through quests and jobs, you gather wood and stone and iron, you increase the level of buildings, you build ships for trade, sometimes you must defend yourself and at other times the game is more peaceful and is based on trade.  Many of these games seek to trade upon some sort of ideal of the world, whether one is looking at the development of a settlement through an imagined past, or one is constructing a steampunk influenced transportation empire or is working to build a seaport or a shipping line between Trondheim and Edinburgh against all comers.  What all of these games share is a deep concern in logistics.

I have long found logistics to be a fascinating subject, of great relevance in my own life and in our world.  Yet it is not a very popular subject by any means.  Logistics is a matter of supreme importance in our world, but it is a subject seldom understood and a word seldom used, and often mysterious when it is used.  Do we mean by logistics the shrewd management that allows for raw materials to be brought from all over the world and assembled at the lowest priced and shipped to far flung customers in such a way that it profits some people and not others?  On the one hand, logistics involves powers of the mind, including the desire for economic security in a world of threat and danger and scarcity.  On the other hand, logistics involves a strong focus on material things and stuff, and how they are shipped and stored by what means along what routes for how long and for how much.  In a world where we are haunted by insecurity and deeply acquisitive, it is little wonder that our games should encourage us to hoard resources and protect them from rivals and trade them for profit and advancement, considering the course of our lives.

Yet logistics has long been a staple of games, even if in ways that have not always been recognized.  It is not surprising that many games that human beings have played have had a relationship with warfare.  Even our games today take on ominous hints of conflict, and where there is not actual fighting over games and their results, games are at least simulated warfare where beautiful women encourage men to fight over territory.  Logistics has long been seen as important in warfare, as many empires knew it was wise not to spend too much treasure fighting over marginal areas with fierce inhabitants who wanted to be left alone.  Certain places have been fought over again and again because they sat astride trade routes and supply lines that had to be secured.  Armies were only as effective as their arms and morale and vigor, and these were kept up through supply lines along land and water routes.  While air routes have been added to this, airlifts have been expensive to use in comparison to more established means of supply.  Likewise, those with superior logistics have long used attritional warfare when no other means appeared sufficiently promising.  We have seen this technique work in games like chess, where advantageous sacrifices as well as strategic pawn promotion often lead to a decisive edge in pieces and a resulting victory.

How is it that we spend our lives wrestling with logistics, and often not succeeding very well, and even play games related to logistics in our free time in the hopes, perhaps, of mastering resource gathering in a virtual world enough to make it feasible in our real world, and yet we do not consciously recognize what we are about?  Is it that logistics appears too abstract given the concrete reality of the resources we deal with in our lives and about which we are so concerned?  Is it that we cannot visualize in space and time the importance of our own personal lines of supply, except when in song or in jest we comment on the distant nature of where things are made, and wonder about the implications of being so far from where things are created?  Or is it that we are so terrified and anxious and uneasy about how insecure our lives are that we do not want to dwell on those vulnerabilities more than is absolutely necessary, and that we cloak in games and leisure the matters that burden our soul, that rob us of sleep and peace of mind, and that make life such a wearisome chore?  We may play games of logistics, but somehow we know that we are counted by those who appear to matter in our world as no more than the units of items that we so casually acquire and move about in our games.  We play our games, and know we are being played.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Military History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Games Of Logistics

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