Dwarves and the First Amendment
Rather than describe the wonder known as Dwarf Fortress myself, I will merely note that it is one of the most nuanced and brilliant instances of human output to have come about in the last decade. Upon starting, it produces a procedural world which itself is the result of hundreds of thousands of factors and the emergent phenomena that arise from such things. The resulting history, compiled into an extensive array of documents listing every individual who has lived and what they did and to whom, may be perused in extraordinary detail before the user sets about influencing the future of this fictional world himself. The following account of one person’s examination of such a procedural history (referred to as “Legends mode”) is worth reading at a time when the Supreme Court is set to decide on whether the First Amendment ought to apply to games:
I found a kidnapped dwarf in Legends mode called Ingish Pillarspeak, who ended up being the sole defender of his adopted goblin civ, killing over two hundred dwarves, including his own mother, father, father in law (he married another kidnapped dwarf, she was killed by dwarves early in the war), brother in law (duelled him five times), several brothers, and a sister. He was at war with his original dwarven civ from the year 30 to 70, armed with a crossbow and presumably a knife. He liked to rip off the third toe of his opponents. Oh, and he ate the dwarves he killed (never his own family, at least).
He was the victor of his final battle against his original dwarven civ, but still (somehow) lost the war. He joinedthe new civ and died of old age, wandering the wild.
When I visited the now-dwarven dark fortress he’d defended for so long in Adventure mode, there was a goblin priest in the temple. Every dwarf I talked to had a relative who’d been killed by Ingish Pillarspeak.
I imagine the war was ended when Ingish was shown his own kill list, and it was explained how many of his own family he’d slain in battle. I imagine Ingish negotiated amnesty for the goblin priest, who may have been the only other surviving member of his adopted society by then.
Late in his life Ingish began worshipping a rampaging giant he’d seen battle his goblin kidnapper while still a prisoner. The giant passed through his life kind of like Halley’s comet, right at the begining and just before the end. The list of gods and demons he’d worshipped and the various entities he’d claimed membership in made me sad: he fought so hard for so long, and for what? His dwarveness, his goblinness, his marriage, his nation, his sense of who his family was and who he had to protect, as it all kept shifting and changing around him. He was a dwarf constantly in search of something to believe in, and his capacity for belief gave him a terrible power. If that didn’t alienate him from his fellow dwarves, I’m sure the fact he’d personally killed (and occasionally eaten) everyone’s grandparents did.
I deleted his whole world after I realized I’d spent 40 hours researching his history in a week that I worked 50 hours, and was still accruing more detail. When I found out he’d shot and killed his youngest sister I cried.