So I was reading John Mearsheimer’s Tragedy of Great Power Politics when I had an epiphany that much like how Monopoly critiqued the economic principles and practices of monopolies, Risk easily fit into the bill of a boardgame for Mearsheimer’s geopolitical theory on behavior of great powers, a la Monopoly.
Offensive Realism asserts that survival is a fundamental goal of any state and that the best means to achieve this is to possess an absolute preponderance of power in the world order – which essentially is to be a hegemon. Inevitably, the unending pursuit of hegemony by states, conscious or not, in face of the impossibility of ever achieving global hegemony, results in a geopolitical order forever characterized by perpetual hegemonic competition.
Warfare is an extension of politics, in the words of von Clausewitz, and while war is the means by which Risk is played; hegemony is the ultimate aim of Risk.
It is also some sort of sick joke that hegemony in Risk will never be achieved unless at Pyrrhic costs and after the loss of a few friends. Just the same way how market monopoly in Monopoly is satirically designed to only be achieved after painful cycles of fear, suffering and lost friendships.
It also another sick joke that peace in Risk is not an option, or at least not a permanent one because firstly, game mechanics requires the waging of war or at least an arms race at every turn; and second, alliances are doomed to collapse when the common adversary (which in a rational game of Risk would be the most powerful player, or in Mearsheimer’s theory, the potential hegemon) is defeated, the alliance turns on itself.
While realpolitik is a palatable lens to view geopolitics, Offensive Realism in all its impressive validity is a sick joke. It’s depressing and Mearsheimer himself wishes his very convincingly argued theory would prove to be deficient and incorrect.
Risk would be better titled as Hegemony.