When Paradox announced Victoria III earlier this year I was very excited, but also a little suspicious. Faking the comedic excesses of medieval rulers is one thing, but how was a game released in 2022 (?) Going to handle portrayals of very real and lingering issues like the exploitation of workers and, on even more volatile ground, in particular in the United States – slavery?
Turns out they just go do it. Rather than trying to tiptoe around the practice, or even more embarrassingly pretending it didn’t happen at all, Paradox plans to fully implement slavery in the game, setting some nations – like the United States – to make it work by default, but also simply allow it to be adopted (or abolished) as an in-game decision.
Paradox explained the overall thinking behind the implementation of the system as follows:
Slavery is, obviously, a horrific crime against humanity and precisely for this reason many games that have a framework or mechanics related to slavery will either leave it out of the game or do something less with it. “on the nose” (eg by simply applying some form of economic bonus at the expense of decreased stability). For Victoria 3, we believe these options don’t work for us for two main reasons.
The first reason is that, as I mentioned before, this was an important political issue of the time and a major catalyst for several important conflicts, most notably the American Civil War which would be strangely without context if slavery did not play a large role in the Game. The other and most important reason is that through our Pop system we have been trying to represent every human individual on the planet since 1836, so what statement would we make? what if we just wrote down all of the enslaved individuals in history, or reduced them to an abstract set of modifiers?
Instead, our goal is to try to represent the institution, systems and causes of slavery, as well as the people who lived through it and fought it, as close to history as possible. . We just think this is the most respectful way for us to deal with this subject, as well as the most faithful to the game that Victoria 3 aspires to.
When it comes to how they will work in the game, the pros and cons are roughly what you would expect from a strategy video game: Nations that embrace (or maintain) slavery will enjoy economic bonuses. , at the cost of a number of factors, some of them relying on the player’s own consciousness, most of which is continued and increasing resistance from slaves and outside forces:
So what about this resistance? Well, since slavery is based entirely on human misery, slaves will naturally not be satisfied with their lot in life and will try to resist by any means at their disposal. Mechanically, this translates into a constant flow of radicalized slaves and the threat of unrest and slave uprisings. This threat to a slave society can usually be avoided with sufficiently repressive measures, but fear and violence are not a good basis for a completely stable country.
Of course, the resistance to slavery does not come only from the slaves themselves, but also from the abolitionists, both inside your country (in the form of characters and interest groups with ideology abolitionist) and outside in the form of countries ruled by abolitionists. it can hamper or put pressure on slave regimes that are not strong enough to resist them. The most notable historical example here being Britain and its naval efforts to eradicate the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th century.
The big caveat here is that, like any other great Paradox strategy game, the goal is not to recreate the politics and events of the 19th century, but to give players the tools to create their own history. It’s there that Victoria III the implementation of slavery is really going to be tested, and while the team’s intentions here are clear, we’ll have to wait and see the game over to find out how successful it all turns out (and more importantly, respectfully).