Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Here’s a little bodyshot of deep-time perspective for you: when Ralph Klein was sworn in as Premier of Alberta in 1992, Mortal Kombat was a brand-new video game.

Capcom’s Street Fighter II: World Heroes had kicked (and punched) off the one-on-one fighting game craze the year before, but MK took it over the top with levels of blood and mayhem never before seen in an arcade game. It was, of course, an instant hit, and while we were all happily cackling our way through the game’s ridiculously gory Fatality maneuvers, Ralph was beginning the inputs for his very own finishing move: ripping out the spine of parliamentary democracy in Alberta and holding it aloft, still writhing spasmodically, to the cheers of millions.

Fouteen years! Since before 3D graphics accelerators and MMORPGs, since before Playstation. Have really been dealing with this guy – sorry, has this guy really been dealing with us – for that long? I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a Calgarian, having had Klein smarming overhead since the very dawn of videogaming. Did our southern brothers and sisters make sly jokes about Tapper and Burgertime? Did they pin the Great Videogame Crash of 1983, not on the asinine marketing and quality-control policies of the Atari corporation, but on “eastern creeps and bums”?

In 1993, the second year of Ralph’s reign and the first year he led his horde to a general-election victory, two all-caps milestones of gaming apper. The first is Broderbund’s MYST, the megahit that briefly reestablished the puzzle/adventure game genre. The second is DOOM.

The shareware masterpiece Wolfenstein 3D had created the first-person-shooter genre in '92, while Ralph and his crony machine were busy hijacking the Tory party, but DOOM blew the whole thing open. Released on December 10 DOOM, like Mortal Kombat, featured unprecedented amounts of graphic violence along with an unprecedented sense of immersion. Four days after DOOM’s release, Ralph’s wife Colleen – does anybody but me remember this? -- received a sweetheart pay-later bundle of shares in tech firm Multi-Corp, an outfit which was included in the stable of Alberta companies Ralph had just finished pimping in Hong Kong. By the fourth week of January, when the Premier saw fit to disclose this transaction to the ethics commissioner, the shares had doubled in price.

The advent of Mortal Kombat and DOOM triggered a what-about-the-children moral panic similar to the panics that had earlier in the century lashed out against rock n’ roll music (which survived) and comic books (which went into a 30-year coma). Seeing the rising probability of ruinously censorious legislation from the American Congress, the video-game industry in 1994 – while Alberta Treasury Branches superintendent Elmer Leahy, at the command of economic development minister Ken Kowalski, by the will of Ralph, was busy approving hundreds of millions of dollars of cherry loans and loan guarantees to Triple-Five corporation to keep the subs of West Edmonton Mall afloat – established the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a self-regulatory body that applied film-style ratings to games. DOOM has the honor of receiving the ESRB’s first “M” rating.

In Alberta, with our own oversight organization – an elected Legislature – crippled by constant invocation of debate closure and rendered increasingly irrelevant by an expanding network of industry-stacked review panels, dog-and-pony “stakeholder consultations” and outright government by edict, we had to wait until 1995 for the protests of one of Calgary’s last squeaky wheels, Liberal MLA Frank Buesker (Calgary North-West), to provoke the lapdog ethics commissioner into making a few phone calls before assuring Albertans that there was no conflict of interest involved in Colleen Klein’s profiting mightily off an outfit hustled by her autocrat husband. Whew! Case closed!

Fast-forward through two years of nightmare to 1997, the release of the Nintendo 64 console and Super Mario 64’s singlehanded creation of the 3D platform genre. As we jumped and bopped our way around, gathering stars and coins, Ralph was leading his…

…OK. You know what? Fuck this. Every year – every month – of Ralph’s tenure reveals some new outrage against democracy, some new act of arrogance and bullying, some new step toward furthering the Klein Revolution’s autocratic objectives… and every time I correlate videogame timelines with the last fourteen years’ provincial history of scandal after unpunished scandal, the deeper our hole appears. We’ve gone from 2D sprite animation to bump-mapped dynamic lighting and fractal fog volumetrics during Ralph’s reign – and democracy in Alberta is all but destroyed.

The Alberta Legislature, the duties and traditions of which Klein – a machine-style civic cronyist with neither interest in nor respect for representative democracy – loathed and took every opportunity to insult, curtail or eliminate outright, is finished as a place of governance. We’re not a one-party state, here… we’re a no-party state; political parties, as institutions of the parliamentary system, have no place in Klein’s boardroom-backroom-barroom model of governance, a model under which Alberta will continue to operate for at least another fifteen years…

…or until Duke Nukem Forever is released, whichever comes first.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Klein de Pac_mAN at d'eh Louis---drop 12, yeah?
Mais OUi.

(we know that b/c he was a fixure.) (chicken--eww-- and chips, and ladies and escorts entrance.)

nova scotia--land of Adventure. Bums and creeps.

combien quois level?