Vixter's Election Platform - Summer 2013

As we embark on the election to select the next mayor of Katimavik Bay, I should like to share with you my vision for the city and the principles which I feel important to maintain in terms of coordinating the activities of our members.

I wish that I had a dollar for everybody who tells me this is just a virtual game, played with virtual resources in a virtual city. More often than not that is a comment I hear whenever discussion in our council chat gets heated (as it occasionally does). But my response is always the same. Yes it is a game and yes it is played with virtual resources. But Katimavik Bay is more than just a virtual city - it is a community, a coming together of a group of people with a shared love of that game. And it is a game played by real people.

So I am going to start setting out my election platform by telling you a little bit about me. Not all the personal experiences that shape who I am and what I believe - I would need to write a book to achieve that. But I am going to tell you a little about my professional life, because I think it is very, very relevant not just to my election platform, but to everything I have tried to achieve during my previous terms as mayor.

After spending almost 30 years working in diplomacy, I now work as a policy advisor on governance. Specifically, I work for an anti-corruption organization, but our approach to combatting corruption is to teach good governance. The reason that I travel so much is because I visit other countries to advise their political leaders on how to embrace good governance. This isn't just a job to me, it is something I totally believe in from the very core of my heart. And it is a principle to which I have always tried to remain absolutely true, even as mayor of a virtual city, taking decisions on the allocation of virtual resources that affect the gaming experience of real people.

My Principles on Governance

The term good governance effectively means putting aside self interest to govern in the collective interests of the whole community. It sounds simple, but it is something so many of our political leaders really struggle with. In some countries, particularly but not exclusively in the developing world, there are very clear divisions with leaders ensuring that policies benefit those with whom they have specific alliances, whether that be tribal, secular, regional or based on political doctrine. More often than not this leads to conflict which adversely affects everybody. But sometimes the problem is more subtle - governing for the majority while completely excluding minority groups, which can have equally damning consequences. Good governance means trying to find solutions which benefit everybody, even if that means that you can't fully satisfy the needs of anybody. And the most effective way to do this is to break it down into some basic core principles of inclusion, democracy, transparency, communication, accountability and responsbility. Those are my basic principles, and this is what that looks like for our city.

  • Inclusion: I believe that we should seek to include everybody in the city, both in the decision-making process and in the social aspects of the game. That is why our skype council chat is open to all citizens of KB, irrespective of whether or not they are on Council as defined by the game rules. Why I do not believe in having exclusive clubs with special passwords which restrict the gaming experience to the favoured few. Why, when we won capital this time last year, I insisted that the prizes be distributed by means of a lottery in which everybody in the city had at least one chance to win a prize. Why I have always promoted the principle of "equity" at the start of each season, asking those with level 5 houses to build the city while other citizens catch up with their housing. Why I try to seek the views of everybody in the city on important decisions such as gold distribution etc. Not everybody is interested in these things, and not everybody takes the time to vote and that is absolutely fine. Nobody should feel obliged to participate. But everybody must be given the opportunity to do so.
  • Democracy: The logical next step from inclusion, democracy means not just seeking the views of everybody, but it also means respecting those views. No matter how strongly I feel about something - and I am conscious that I have a not always favourable reputation for arguing my case robustly - I will not only respect the decision taken by the city, but I will fully embrace it and pursue it with the same passion and diligence, irrespective of my initial views on the subject.
  • Transparency: What many people seem to overlook is that it is impossible to have a true democracy without transparency. I believe that people should be kept informed about what is happening, including the reasons why it is happening. When we are going to vote on something, people need to know not just that there is a vote, but how to participate and the deadline for voting. When we have a competition (eg the garden competition) people should be told the rules for the competition (such as how it will be judged, what is at stake and the deadline for completion) at the outset. If we pay out gold for tournaments, people need to be told when the next tournament will be held. This ensures that everybody has the opportunity to participate on a level playing field. Again, people can choose to ignore that information if they so wish, but it needs to be made available.
  • Communication: Linked to transparency, but slightly different, is the issue of communication. In any democracy, people should be allowed to make their own choices. But they also need to be given sufficient information in order to make those choices. I have heard criticism in the past that messages are too dictatorial (eg in terms of building housing over clothing). That is certainly not the intention. The reality is that every member of the city can choose to play the game how they want to. They can choose what to build, whether to defend and whether to contribute to building the city. But I believe that there is a real failure in leadership if we expect people to make those choices without sharing information which will help them to make informed choices. This is why I think it is important to explain the benefits of housing over clothing at the early stages. To inform the city of our building selections and the benefits to them of completion. To inform them of the consequences should the city fall to the barbarians. Armed with the knowledge that comes from that information, each individual member of the city can then make their own decision on how to spend their resources (or whether to participate in the metagame at all).
  • Accountability: I believe it is essential for any leader to be accountable to their electorate. That means not only embracing all of the principles set out above, but it also means conducting yourself according to a clear set of guidelines agreed by the community. This is why, in my first term as mayor, I drafted a constitution which sets limits on the powers of the mayor and holds that person accountable (eg on gold distribution) to the wishes of the city. There has been some interesting discussion in council recently about whether the mayor should be bound by the constitution. My feeling on that is clear - if the city feels that the constitution is either inappropriate or unnecessary, then it is up to the city to vote to disband (or amend) it, in the same way that the city voted to adopt it. Until such time as they do, as mayor I would consider myself to be bound by that constitution and accountable to the wishes of the city. But accountability also means being prepared to accept responsibility when things go wrong. To be able to say, this is what happened and why, without pointing fingers or trying to shift blame. I accept that, as any human being, I make mistakes. And when I do I not only apologize but I learn from them so that I can do things better next time. There are several people in this city with whom I have disagreed at some point or another. Sometimes that has been a case of passionate people defending things they feel strongly about. And sometimes I have just got things plain wrong. But I will always hold up my hand when I do and I will never seek to judge others based on differing views.
  • Responsibility: My point on responsibility is not the same as the point I have made on accepting responsibility as part of accountability. Rather I believe very much that leadership is not about power, but about responsibility. The citizens of KB should never feel that they have a duty to serve their mayor, rather the mayor of KB has a responsibility to serve its citizens. This is why I have always gone out of my way to be available to everybody in the city. Whether that means helping them buy their first house and learn about the metagame; finding the right trade when their resources are filling up; teaching them new games; scheduling times to play FFA games to help players recover their records - there is almost nothing I will not do to help the citizens of this city. Responsibility also means fulfilling the duties of mayor in a timely and diligent fashion, whether that be opening votes, shifting builds, distributing gold or communicating with the city. But equally it means engaging outside of the city. Being active in the mayor chats, engaging with the programmers and administrative staff at Play Catan, building goodwill for our city by remembering to congratulate other cities on their achievements and advocating for the city and its members where appropriate, including arguing for consistency in the way abuse cases are handled. If anybody underestimates the importance of these activities to our city and to our members, I would point to some of the key decisions I have managed to secure for our city, the most important of which was undoubtedly the reversal of the barbarian attack this past season, something which would never have been possible without the incredible support we received from the German mayors and the decision to act in good faith taken by the admin and programming teams at PlayCatan.

I apologise for the length of this section, but I think it is important to set out very firmly what I stand for and how I apply those principles to the people of our city.

Goals for Next Season

So where do we go from here? The Playcatan team have already announced that next season will be the last season of the metagame in its current format. While I would love to be able to rally the city into one last attack on capital, I think we have to accept that we are not in a realistic position to challenge. While I would be more than happy to be proved wrong, I do not feel that we currently have the same sense of commitment to the goal of capital as we did in that incredible, exhausting, roller coaster season when we made history by being the first non German city to capture the prize.

But we do still need a collective commitment to advance the city. There are buildings such as the library (which provides our gold), the bank (which gives us a better coin return) and the market (which helps us trade) which quite simply makes playing the metagame easier and more fun for everybody. But there are also key buildings which may have less immediate appeal to our citizens but for which failure to build will make it so much more difficult for the city to function effectively. Without the arsenal which defends the city buildings we do build, we will either lose to every barbarian attack and have to keep rebuilding our "fun" buildings, or we would have to ask every citizen to make well above their personal guard donations in order to compensate for the 5 free guard donations a day we get from the arsenal. In the 45 days we have between attacks, that adds up to an extra 225 guard donations (for each attack) we would have to find from our own resources to defend the city. Without the Assembly Hall and the Park, we will get no reward for playing dice and desert sons solo. In a typical month for our city (where we place 5th-6th in dice and DSS) we get about a building and a half without needing to collect city donations. Over the course of a season that is about 9 free buildings which we would otherwise have to build ourselves (requiring over 900 additional city donations) We could cut out these builds this season and get the library a lot faster, but it would mean either slowing down everything else or asking for a lot more city donations from our citizens to compensate. Similarly the bath house provides us with free upgrades when it is used effectively, although the fact that there was little communication about its completion or the benefits of using it means that we got a lot less bang for our buck this season than we normally do. The wall adds value to our personal guard donations but is probably a lower priority. The church brings nothing but glory so will probably not get built. In six seasons in Catan, the debate continues to rage over the value of the town hall but, as we have seen to our cost this season, not building it early seriously impacts on our ability to provide a steady stream of gold to our citizens.

I am not going to use this platform to say exactly what we should build next season. Because the reality is that, if elected, I shall remain true to my basic principles and seek the views of everybody in the city. But my recommendations would still be to put in place the key income producing buildings as soon as possible and then relax over the less important ones so that people can use their resources on whatever brings them most enjoyment.

The most contentious issue is likely to be defence. Personally, I always I wrestle with the dilemna of personal versus collective responsibility for defence. Part of me says that those people who make a choice not to make personal guard donations should do so knowing that they will lose their housing and clothing as a consquence, but equally I know how damaging it would be to the morale of those who have diligently defended their posessions to end, for example, losing their weekly gold because we allowed the library to be destroyed. This is why I have always leaned towards defending the city at all costs - including having wiped out my personal gold supply to help with this during the last attack - but why I also believe that the city should reward those citizens that DO defend through the distribution of city gold.

But I believe that our single biggest goal for next season should be to prepare for what comes next. Unfortunately the information coming out of Playcatan remains fairly limited, but they are hinting at city achievements which will be much more focussed on success in the games rather than on building the city. So I believe that we should look at strategies which helps us to improve our collective ability at the games. Previous attempts to arrange tournaments have been frought with problems (particularly in terms of scheduling) so I am considering something more along the lines of a league system where you can arrange your games at your own convenience (within reason). But the question there would be how to ensure that those who join later in the season are neither excluded nor penalized. I would certainly welcome the thoughts of others in how best to overcome this. Certainly I would like to try to get people playing the team versions available in Catan. These games are a fantastic way of building collaboration, taking a different look at strategy and also helps players pick up playing hints from their team mate

I also think we need to get more people to play more different games. Most people know how to play basic, most versions of seafarers and most versions of CK. But there are so many other games out there to be mastered. I am thinking particularly of the less popular games like Elasund, Domaine, and Rivals. Mastering these games will not only help us to fill the monthly gold lists and earn more gold for the players, and to place better in this seasons tournaments (also securing additional gold) but will leave us better placed to compete for the game-based statues that the Playcatan team are indicating will be available in future seasons. So I would like to reintroduce the training days, when one day a week experienced players volunteer to teach other players new games.

But, in keeping with my views on inclusion, I believe that in pursuing greater standards of game play, we still need to maintain a balance between valuing effort as well as excellence. That is why I have never supported a prize structure that gives disproportionate reward based purely on results. The really good players already earn a lot of gold from the monthly gold lists so I believe that any internal city competitions should have a structure that helps to raise the playing standard (and knowledge of different games) of everybody who chooses to participate, rather than creating a much smaller group of really elite players.

Summary

To sum up, my election promise to the citizens of Katimavik Bay is as follows:

  1. To strive to serve the best interests of the city based on my core governance principles of inclusion, democracy, tranparency, communication, accountability and responsibility.
  2. To work constructively with those members who join our council skype chat to determine a building order which will put the focus on generating optimum conditions to make the game more fun for everybody
  3. To come up with systems to encourage greater game interaction within the city, including the reintroduction of teaching games and more inter-city game interaction
  4. To continue to work closely with colleagues from other cities and with the PlayCatan in discussions relating to how the future metagame will work and to advocate for our city based on the feedback from our members
  5. To communicate regularly and effectively with the city to ensure that we are able to take informed decisions, both collectively and individually, both for this season and for whatever is going to come next
  6. To try to rebuilld our sense of community and restore the reputation of our city as a fun place to play Catan
  7. To seek consensus to use the city gold we receive through the town hall to reward those who contribute to our community, whether that be through city and guard donations, or by making the effort to play in city and Catan wide tournaments

To represent Katimavik Bay as Mayor is both an honour and a privilege. But it involves hard work and a great deal of responsibility. If elected, I will happily embrace both, as I have done in the past, and I will aim to build a collective consensus to the direction the city should take as we adapt to changes to the metagame.

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