My friends are very good at looking out for me and my nerdy interests. For example, my friend saw a t-shirt with this graphic and decided to ask the wearer some follow-up questions:
Unfortunately, my friend was discussing economics, and the poor kid that he was talking to (as the story is told to me, at least) just looked at him like he was crazy. (My friend is not crazy, for the record, just perhaps overzealous when it comes to talking to strangers.) As it turns out, the t-shirt was not meant to be an economics reference but rather a Starcraft reference. Hm. What could micro and macro in Starcraft possibly refer to? Thankfully, my friend did a little research for me:
Micro and Macro specify two techniques you must master in order to be successful when playing Starcraft. As the name indicates, Micro refers to more local, specialized events, while Macro concerns the overall flow of the game and the economical side. It is important for every Starcraft player to have a balance of these two.
Micro is the ability to control your units individually, in order to make up for pathing or otherwise imperfect AI. For example, controlling only two Marines to kill a Lurker, or being able to kill multiple Scourges with Mutalisks is considered “Micro”. The general theory of micro is to keep as many units alive as possible. For example it is better to have four half-dead Dragoons after a battle, rather than to have two Dragoons at full health and two dead ones.
Macro is your ability to produce units, and keep all of your production buildings busy. Generally, the player with the better macro will have the larger army. The other element of macro is your ability to expand at the appropriate times to keep your production of units flowing. A good macro player is able to keep increasing his or her production capability while having the resources to support it.
While it is ideal to perform optimal micro and macro, it is usually impossible to do both tasks together as well as one could perform each separately. Thus, a player is forced to make the decision where to allocate his or her actions and attention. In order to win, a player should consider the opportunity cost of his or her choice. By spending attention on micro, we are omitting macro, and vice-versa. It is generally accepted that good macro is more valuable than good micro.
Now I can’t help but postulate about the diminishing marginal utility of dragon health, since that would explain why four half-dead dragons would be better than two healthy dragons and two dead ones. (Note: My confirmation bias caused me to read the above as “dragons” rather than “dragoons,” but I left it because I like my way better. I will, however, acknowledge that diminishing marginal utility of dragoons makes even more sense.) But I digress…it’s interesting to me (and probably not random) that the Starcraft definitions of micro and macro coincide pretty well with the economic definitions of micro and macro. From P.J. O’Rourke in Eat the Rich:
Microeconomics concerns things that economists are specifically wrong about, while macroeconomics concerns things economists are wrong about generally. Or to be more technical, microeconomics is about money you don’t have, and macroeconomics is about money the government is out of.
Hm, that’s not…okay, fine, it’s kind of right. The point is that microeconomics analyzes individual markets and macroeconomics looks at aggregate production and income. You know, kind of like in Starcraft. Weird, right? Let’s look at some other parallels.
- “The other element of macro is your ability to expand at the appropriate times to keep your production of units flowing.” Um, Keynesian economics and monetary/fiscal policy, anyone?
- “While it is ideal to perform optimal micro and macro, it is usually impossible to do both tasks together as well as one could perform each separately.” Amen. Economists have a lot to say about the benefits of labor specialization, which are applicable to their own field as much as it is everywhere else.
- “In order to win, a player should consider the opportunity cost of his or her choice.” YES. The cost of something is what you have to give up in order to get it, and those things you give up aren’t always explicitly money.
- “It is generally accepted that good macro is more valuable than good micro.” Well CLEARLY this is where the analogy goes off the tracks. =P In fairness, there are probably more important questions in macroeconomics than in microeconomics, but there are also a lot more unanswered questions in macroeconomics than in microeconomics. (Not surprisingly, these two sets of questions overlap a lot.) If you take “good” macro to mean “we’ve figured out answers to all of those pesky questions,” then it probably is the case that good macro is more valuable than good micro- we’d know what causes business cycles, how to correct them, why some economies grow faster than others and how to jump start the slow ones, etc. The problem is that we’re not there yet.
This was all really just a long-winded way of saying that I am totally buying that t-shirt.