Monday, September 05, 2005

Game Store Confidential ~ Funny stuff returns next week

Of course I played some games since last Monday. Life goes on you know… and I do run a game store. Not to mention, I’m pretty far away from where most natural disasters are likely to strike.

Oh I suppose if Yellowstone blew up we might have some residual local destruction. Or if another volcano blew on the northwest coastal range we’d get some ash. Or a meteor the size of a house could be headed for Mosquito Acres even as I type this. But basically, Idaho is pretty much off the beaten path insofar as disasters, potential terrorist attacks or other huge events are concerned.

It seems that there was a lot more interest in gathering around for games this week in the store. On several occasions people called me from Boise, about 25 miles away, and told me they were coming out to play games with me. So it was Power Grid, Dungeon Twister and multiple plays of Runebound 2nd Edition.

In every case the conversation drifted to Hurricane Katrina. There was anger (which I’ll get to later) and there was sadness. There were cases amongst my fellow players where family and friends in the Gulf Coast were of a concern. On Friday night I went to my friend John’s house to play games. John is a big bucks project manager for one of the largest high tech companies on the planet. He and one of the other gamers are members of the Mormon church so part of the conversation was about how his local and national church organizations were sending money, people and other aid to the disaster area.

So we played Runebound, gleefully chasing the dragon lords while discussing hurricanes and human suffering.

I just checked and the fund organized by Scott and Derk there was closing in on $25,000 raised to send to the American Red Cross. In my little store I handed out as many flyers as I had customers and visitors, all with the addresses and websites of the major relief foundations. Several gamers tried to just give me money to forward. I suggested they ought to do that themselves… but I appreciate the immediate response on their part.

While this week had a similar feel to the week immediately following the 9/11 attacks, it was not as heavy and lacked the sense of fear that I felt from the gamers who came calling. Nobody attacked America. We just got whacked by a giant event of nature and instead of seeing bodies floating in seashore towns thousands of miles away, we got to see them floating in a neighboring state or within the borders of our own nation.

Business is off. I expected that. I actually expect it to be off for a while. Gas prices have soared, people are tense, extra money, including money budgeted for games, is being donated to charity or being used to help friends and relatives or even set aside for trips back home to do what can be done to help put things back together down there.

What I did want to get to today is the disgusting part of this whole terrible event on the Gulf Coast. What has been one of the subjects of discussion in every group I gamed with this week has been the politicians and finger-pointing that started the day after Katrina hit. While I have no intention of using my weekly slot on this excellent game-related blog to get political, I have to at least get off my chest what caused me to just quit watching the news for several days and rely on web-based news for updates on the disaster.

At first I was angered by the looting and lawlessness in New Orleans. What kind of disgusting low-life’s prey on innocent victims of such a huge event? It’s despicable. It’s inhumane. No wonder looters will be shot signs are everywhere in the region. Looting in such conditions represents the lowest and meanest form of human beings and were I a home owner down there, I’d shoot anyone who attempted to loot my property too. But then, looting and preying on victims and innocents has always been something that resides in a small portion of human beings.

What really angers me is the political looting that started within 24 hours of Katrina’s arrival. It’s as if every political hack, lowlife, scum bucket and loser is jockeying for camera face time so they can hurl attacks on the president, the administration or anyone who is politically opposed to them.

That’s as bad a form of looting as armed bandits roaming the streets raping and pillaging. It’s the moral equivalent of feeding on the dead. I watched an interview with the man who is the Secretary of Homeland Security. He was in Baton Rouge marshalling the forces, overseeing whatever he is charged with overseeing. Organizing relief, rescue, security, transport, engineers, doctors, CDC experts, construction equipment, fuel supplies and on and on. The man who did the interview seemed bound and determined to make a political point though and kept hammering the Secretary about “who’s head was going to roll’ for the response failings of the current administration.


Add to that disgusting display and rude interview the bleating of politicians from the region and around the country, all shoving and pushing to assign blame as quickly as possible.

What a load of crap.

How do you assign blame for a natural event? Especially one as forceful as this? Why blame anyone? Just get off your ass and do something yourself. Already sent money? Terrific. Send more. Don’t like the response of the local, state and federal agencies? Okay, get constructive; make an effort rather than an accusation.

What kind of a human being tries to score political points on the grief, suffering and loss of several million fellow citizens? That behavior is as bad as the armed gangs roaming the streets of a seriously wounded city.

In a number of places I have read and heard people implying that America got what it deserved… or at the very least had no room to complain about other nations that were reluctant to offer aid in any meaningful amounts or in a responsive timely manner. Several threads on Boardgamegeek even carried some of that tripe. The most common thing I read or heard on the various news channels and sites was that America itself wasn’t as generous “as it could be”… given the level of affluence we enjoy.


I guess those people won’t be knocking on our door when they suffer their next earthquake, terrorist attack, tsunami, volcano or tidal wave. To sit back, even as a non-policy making citizen of America or a foreign country and suggest that a resident of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia is not deserving of help because of his or her location on the planet is pretty cold.

At the same time Canada, England, Australia and many, many other nations are sending giant chunks of money and help. This leads me to Kuwait. They are cutting a check for half a billion dollars. That’s a huge sum of money. They are very rich and very vulnerable. In fact, they wouldn’t exist as a nation if America and the coalition of the first Gulf War hadn’t stood up and defended them. You could argue that Kuwait owes it to America. The argument might even make sense. Perhaps they do owe it to us. Perhaps not. This brings me to what I think humanity is really all about…

Maybe people and nations really are just doing what they can do to aid America because America is populated by human beings. It’s not as if Katrina selected out Democratic neighborhoods and spared Republicans. It’s not as if God his own self was punishing affluence, it’s not about ideology or borders or race or religion. It really is just a natural disaster that struck an area of the world that has many folks of all races and politics and religions living there. So when Kuwait drops half a billion dollars on the Gulf Coast of America and says “hope this helps”, I prefer to personally thank them rather than get all smug and imply they only did it because they owed it.

Overall I am fonder of my gamer brethren this week than normal. And normally I am pretty fond of gamers. My BGG buddies and fellow members reacted, the local gamers reacted and it’s my firm belief that despite the posturing that people with agendas are doing in the media, the Gulf Coast will be even better when it’s rebuilt and it’s nice to see, yet again, that gamers are human beings first and nerdy game geeks second.

So next week I’ll get back to more small rodents, cheating gamers, thieving teenagers and all the other daily occurrences in the life of a game store owner. My funny bone is healing up nicely.


One last thing. There was a Country Western song recorded about 10 or 12 years back called “God Bless Texas.” It’s a great two-step song, for those Geeks who have enough rhythm to do something as complicated as dance with an actual female, and can also enjoy music other than speed-metal, AC/DC or Rush. After seeing what the Governor of Texas and the millions of citizens of that fine state did in response to Katrina, I think that song ought to be played on every newscast about Katrina on every channel. Not to slight in any way other states, nations or organizations… but damn! Texas kicks ass! What a great group of people and what a fine place to be from.


Melissa said...

The events leading out of Katrina are both heartwarming (in the massive aid response, the opening of homes and jobs) and frightful. It's good to hear about the reactions you're seeing - although of course I'm sorry business is off too :)

gamesgrandpa said...

DW -- Your obversations and comments are excellent.

Having worked most of my career around bureaucrats and politicians, I have some thoughts about this: politicians take advantage of any and every natural or manmade disaster to posture before the media and attempt to put themselves in the best light and their political opponents in the worst light possible; the issue is media exposure and nothing lights up the media more than a catastrophe; it's a natural reaction, when re-election or retention of office is the closest thing to a politician's heart. I like to believe that there are some politicians who have more genuine concern for others than for their own political careers, but I have yet to meet one. Some of them have very strong facades, even fooling people who are close to them, but every one of them I have ever observed in intimate discussions "off the record and not recorded" always put their political ambitions ahead of any other issue, including helping fellow humans in any situation. The concern they expressed publicly was never more than skin deep. This applies equally to both major political parties, from my experience.

Regarding gamer reactions -- I found it extremely heartwarming to see the contributions made by BGG members from around the world. Helping fellow humans must be the closest thing to those people's hearts. Average citizens around the world always react better than governments; they just don't have the financial resources to make as much impact.

Okay, thanks for the opportunity to vent. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled program, whatever that may be.....

GROGnads said...

woo HOO! as of this 'writing', then the GEEK contributions for the "Relief Fund" are OVER $25-K!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

In all crises, the order of operations should be:

Containment: stopping the damage (not really possible in the case of a hurricane)

Rescue: people in the path of damage.

Relief: to prevent those suffering from getting worse.

Calm: A return to civility.

Recovery: Helping people damaged get better.

Prevention: Ensuring that whatever happened will not happen again, or that the effects will be mitigated next time.

Rebuilding: restoring things to how they were.

The "blame game", at its best, is a form of Prevention. This person should have done something before it happened, get rid of him. This person made the situation worse by not checking safety, get rid of him. This person didn't react fast enough, get rid of him. Get someone else in his place.

Of course, this is 'at its best'. Most of the time it is just stupidity and avoiding what really needs to be done, as you said.

While "blaming" is way down in the list of importance, it is not entirely out of place ... later.


Steadman said...

The stinking media! Everyone has a "spin"! Ticks me off!

SiddGames said...

Yehuda is on the right track regarding the blame game. While I agree that political posturing and finger pointing during a disaster is rather despicable, I think one doesn't need to watch a single politician or pundit in the media to wonder just what the heck went wrong.

Does it make sense that we can drop a brigade of men, with equipment, anywhere in the world within 48 hours, but we can't get food and supplies to 20 thousand of our own citizens in four days? Does it make sense that federal, state and local emergency agencies simulated this EXACT event last year (including projected results and casualties), with the fictional Hurricane Pam, and yet day after day, they continued to stumble around while people continued dying?

You're right, the government can't prevent natural disasters. But reacting to them in a timely and efficient manner is something I would consider a cornerstone of what government should do. It's one of the reasons why "insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare" is in the opening of our Constitution. And in this case, it's an area that our government has failed thousands of our citizens in.

I recommend the Sept 12 issue of TIME magazine. It does a pretty good job of reporting what went right and wrong without getting on the soapbox with the politicians.

Also, sorry for butting in on this in your blog. I'm as PO'd about the events as you and couldn't refrain from commenting.