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Games Politics

How Video Games Reflect Ideology 244

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-level-80-priest-provides-universal-health-care dept.
A recent article at Bitmob sought to tackle the question of whether games could carry political meaning, arguing the negative since "The money, the media representation, and the general shadow of 'triviality' will always trail the word 'game,' because that is what makes it open to all markets." An opposing viewpoint has been posted by Lee Bradley, who says, "Perhaps the most profound shift in the games industry in the last few years has been the explosion of co-op. Not only are developers dedicating more and more time to providing co-op experiences in their games, they are also finding new ways of exploring the dynamic within it. ... Even in games where the co-operative element of co-op is less pronounced, the ideology is the same; you are not on your own anymore, you are part of a team. What's more, that team is more than likely multi-cultural and/or multi-gender. ... Now, this isn't to say that the lone white-guy hero has been eradicated. Far from it; the bald, white space-marine is one of the most over-used characters in modern gaming. But it increasingly rare that they are lone heroes. A shift towards team-based, co-op featured games is undeniable. In this way, mainstream video games, even those seemingly void of political statement, are implicitly political. While for the most part they are not designed to tackle political issues head-on, or carry overt political messages, they do reflect the values and the popular ideology of the culture in which they were created."
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How Video Games Reflect Ideology

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  • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:01AM (#29668043)

    We play games to take a break from reality, and not to think about the same shit as everywhere else.

    • by Pieroxy (222434)

      And yet, games create their own microcosm. It is just normal that commercial behaviors start to get in, along with advertising and of course politics. The more popular the game, the more likely they'll get influenced by the real world, even though they keep their originality.

      • I guess this is why I prefer abstract games which have little connection to anything - like Pacman or Missile Command or Metroid or Final Fantasy 10 or Ratchet & Clank. The less connection to the real world, the more I like it.

        • Missile Command (Score:5, Informative)

          by westlake (615356) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:20AM (#29668877)

          I guess this is why I prefer abstract games which have little connection to anything - like Pacman or Missile Command or Metroid

          In 1993 Microsoft published Arcade and Return of Arcade - Atari arcade hits adapted for Windows 3.1.

          The entire collection filled all of four floppy disks. Brief essays sketched the history of the each game, with comments from the developers. Missile Command had a visceral impact that few games have ever matched:

          The escape from reality could have frightful consequences. The horrifying subject matter of Missile Command had an affect on the developers.

          Dave Theuner: "It was pretty scary. During the project and for six months after the project, I'd wake up in a cold sweat because I's have these dreams where I'd see the missile streak coming in and I'd see the impact. I'd be up on top of a mountain and I'd see the missiles coming in, and I'd know it would be about 30 seconds until the blast hit and fried me to a crisp."

          Steve Calfee: "Everyone I knew who got really into the game had nightmares about nuclear war."

          "We had this big thing about the name of the game. From the beginning it was called Armageddon. The management, themselves, didn't know what the word meant and they thought none of the kids would. Engineering loved the name Armageddon and we always wanted to call it that. From the very top came the message
          Ed Rotberg said "The thing about Missile Command is that the world was not nearly as stable politically as it is now. There is a little bit of a spooky message in that whole game when you have that final cloud at the end."

          • Engineering loved the name Armageddon and we always wanted to call it that. From the very top came the message, "We can't use that name, nobody'll know what it means and nobody can spell it."
    • by Wowsers (1151731) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:25AM (#29668147) Journal

      A break from reality? Rubbish, Wolfenstein clearly has subliminal messages, just ask the Germans and how they censor the game.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        Subliminal? I could understand if there were occasional references to a death camp, or the occasional shout of "Schutzstaffel!" in the distance, but every single surface (in the first 4 levels i've played since buying it yesterday) have some reference to the Nazi party somewhere; A Swastika, a Reichsadler (Empire Eagle), a poster of Hitler...

        That's not subliminal, that's "WE WON, BITCH. NAZIS ARE YOUR ENEMY!"
        • by MRe_nl (306212)

          No no no, the subliminal message is "All German shepherds must be stabbed".
          Just like "Elite"'s (aka "Pigs in space:Fuck the Law") message of drug smuggling and gun running-profitability and "GoldenEye"'s "russian hackers are not invincible", looking for hidden messages,
          reading between the lines and such will often just lead you back to the eye of the beholder.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            I think people get things backwards. Enemies which resemble Nazis, in games, don't necessarily resemble Nazis because the game is trying to make a point. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's because 'Nazi' is a really really convenient shorthand for all sorts of concepts and ideas which most Westerners implicitly get.

            Much like a 'wise old man' isn't in a game to cast aspersions on the young, but because 'wise old man' is a useful trope, an idiom, an archetype. Making your ficticious villians look vaguely like

        • by Ihmhi (1206036) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:27AM (#29668495)

          I suppose that's Superliminal.

          L. T. Smash: It's a three-pronged attack. Sub-liminal, liminal and super-liminal.

          Lisa: Superliminal?

          L. T. Smash: I'll show you. (Leans out of window) Hey, you! Join the Navy!

          Carl: Uh, yeah, all right.

          Lenny: I'm in.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        clearly has subliminal messages

        You're doing it wrong.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      Replace "play games" with "read comics" and "watch movies." Those are all entertainment too, right? And when was the last time you saw one with a message....

    • I play games to zone out too, but even I would have to admit that the strong environmental message of Final Fantasy VII or the anti-nuclear message of Metal Gear Solid did come across clearly to me at the time and I still remember them over ten years later. I have play many games since which contained a variety of messages on a wide array of topics, philosophical, contemporary and otherwise. Video games were essentially the only mass medium that ever seriously discussed the growing influence of PMCs and corporate militias during the 2004-2008 period. Even a bubble-gum entertainment game like GTA4 carried biting political satire on its radio stations.

      Lots of people love to sneer at video games and dismiss them as children's toys, devoid of artistic or intellectual content. Most of those same people will happily regard a Hollywood bubblegum blockbuster as the apex of human entertainment and will trawl over it endlessly for months. I for one do not see how the worlds, setting and characters created in video games differ so greatly from those seen in other forms of fiction, nor why they should be dismissed so easily as intellectually void.

      I play video games as a pasttime to escape from the world. But I inevitably find myself exposed to philosophies and dilemmas of interest and of some relevance to the real world. I happen to think that playing video games is a far more broadening experience than many give it credit for.

      • by Bat Country (829565) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @01:33PM (#29671919) Homepage

        I made a point in a term paper a few years back that the very nature of GTA, though transgressive, transmits a clear establishment message. You cannot beat the police in GTA. You may escape them, but you cannot stop them. Any attempt to directly oppose the police always inevitably leads to death as there will always be more of them than you. The police in GTA are individually stupid, collectively difficult to evade, and taken as an entire establishment entirely invincible.

        Further, there's a recognition (especially in GTA San Andreas) of the fact that the player you embody is fundamentally broken and leads a life devoid of meaning. All of the most likable characters in the games are either killed, betray you or are the "straight men" - the people who point out to your character the failure of their lifestyle.

        So although the GTA games allow you to explore your own dark side it seems to guide you to the message that not only is the world better off without your enemies (the people you kill throughout the game) but also without you (the killer).

    • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @02:37PM (#29672719)

      When I look at Balrog in StreetFighter, and the black man in the Final Fantasies games, I see a game just portraying Black men as big dumb idiots who use profanity all the time. Since that is the same shit I have to watch on TV, it would be nice if I could play a video game and get something different, but it's no different.

      In real life, I get called a slut, a whore, and a bitch and people assume I am all those things. It would be nice if in a video game I could get away from it, but it's no different. The games just make you a slut/whore/bitch who can fight.

      It is my understanding, in Germany, it is illegal to display certain symbols because they are considered anti-Jewish. If a video game were an escape from reality, that symbol could be displayed in video games, but that is not the case.

      And these are just the things I've noticed as a Black woman and occasional Slashdot user. I doubt there are only three things.

      So yes, video games are full of ideology. And they may be an escape from reality, but they won't help you stop thinking about the same shit you get everywhere else. It just helps you imagine yourself in a different position within that shit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        When I look at Balrog in StreetFighter, and the black man in the Final Fantasies games, I see a game just portraying Black men as big dumb idiots who use profanity all the time.

        Well, since Balrog's original name is actually M(ike) Bison [wikipedia.org], that one is more a comment on a specific Black man's tendencies than on the race as a whole.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218)

        When I look at Balrog in StreetFighter, and the black man in the Final Fantasies games, I see a game just portraying Black men as big dumb idiots who use profanity all the time. Since that is the same shit I have to watch on TV, it would be nice if I could play a video game and get something different, but it's no different.

        You have to remember though, those games were developed in Japan. It isn't a diverse country in the least, black people are a rarity. In Street Fighter -everything- is stereotypical. In Final Fantasy, there really -aren't- any non-white characters other than a few. I have little doubt it was due to pressure (in the US) to make the games more "diverse" that non-white characters were added, however, since the games were developed in Japan, stereotypes were used.

        It is my understanding, in Germany, it is illegal to display certain symbols because they are considered anti-Jewish. If a video game were an escape from reality, that symbol could be displayed in video games, but that is not the case.

        Well, Germany has many censorship issues blo

  • Racism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:07AM (#29668059)

    Far from it; the bald, white space-marine is one of the most over-used characters in modern gaming. But it increasingly rare that they are lone heroes. A shift towards team-based, co-op featured games is undeniable. In this way, mainstream video games, even those seemingly void of political statement, are implicitly political.

    No, they're not "political". You can interpret Mozart's Fifth to be racist, but that doesn't mean he wrote it that way. If you keep looking for racism everywhere, you are racist: everyone else doesn't think about it all the time.

    • and what about Beethoven ?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
        Too much drool to take him seriously. Plus, he shed on the sofa.
      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        Mozart can be interpreted as racist but Beethoven actually is
      • by lxs (131946)

        Beethoven was an ardent proponent of Enlightenment ideals, a Freemason and probably a member of the Bavarian Illuminati (at a time when they definitely did exist) so if his works were political you'd expect them to be be anti-monarchy, and anti-Catholic.

    • Re:Racism (Score:4, Informative)

      by prichardson (603676) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:30AM (#29668175) Journal

      Pot. Kettle. Black.

      I didn't read that passage as being racist at all. The author was clearly talking about increasing diversity in games and how the standard space-marine character pushes against that. Do not confuse the lack of diversity with racism. They are very different things.

      Incidentally, how exactly can you interpret Mozart's 5th symphony to be racist? Is there something abut B flat I don't know? Do you object to the thin orchestration?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jurily (900488)

        The author was clearly talking about increasing diversity in games and how the standard space-marine character pushes against that

        Why do we need diversity anyway? Does it matter if you're playing a white space marine who shoots aliens or a black space marine who shoots aliens? Next up: chess is racist, because while you can play either white or black, there is no Native American side.

        • Re:Racism (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cvd6262 (180823) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:07AM (#29668779)

          The author was clearly talking about increasing diversity in games and how the standard space-marine character pushes against that

          Why do we need diversity anyway? Does it matter if you're playing a white space marine who shoots aliens or a black space marine who shoots aliens? Next up: chess is racist, because while you can play either white or black, there is no Native American side.

          Which color goes first in chess? I'm just sayin'.

        • by adavies42 (746183)

          Next up: chess is racist, because while you can play either white or black, there is no Native American side.

          The Red Queen [wikipedia.org] begs to differ.

        • Re:Racism (Score:5, Insightful)

          by FrostDust (1009075) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:37AM (#29669049)

          Why do we need diversity anyway? Does it matter if you're playing a white space marine who shoots aliens or a black space marine who shoots aliens?

          It doesn't matter to the mechanics or plot of the game, but it matters to the potential audience. If you believe the character is similar to you, its easier to imagine yourself in that role.

          One of the smartest things they did with Halo was defining your character as simply a space Marine; he could be of any age, race, religious belief, and so on, that the player wanted.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by amplt1337 (707922)

          Well, consider the male-female bias in protagonists.
          When minority (or underrepresented, women are actually a slight majority of the US population) groups are never reflected in gaming worlds (or in novels, or movies, etc.), they are being sent a message that this genre of entertainment is completely unconcerned with them, and as a result, they tune out. This narrows the focus of game development, as marketers perceive that they're only selling to the main (overrepresented) group, and that puts a big squeez

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Well, consider the male-female bias in protagonists.
            When minority (or underrepresented, women are actually a slight majority of the US population) groups are never reflected in gaming worlds (or in novels, or movies, etc.), they are being sent a message that this genre of entertainment is completely unconcerned with them, and as a result, they tune out. This narrows the focus of game development, as marketers perceive that they're only selling to the main (overrepresented) group, and that puts a big squeeze

            • by amplt1337 (707922)

              Great point -- I'd hold up the success of stuff like Guitar Hero and Rock Band as additional examples. The gaming experience expands a great deal when the gaming developers try to target a wider market.

      • Is there something abut B flat I don't know?

        Bb == A#

        Is calling someone "a sharp" racist ? Perhaps we'll never know.

        • (Imagine this in a Jesse Jackson style oration). Of COURSE that's racist! Look at the B. B notes can be flat. Then can be lower. They can be less But they can never be more! As soon as a B tries to be more, it stops being a B! No, my friends, at that point it becomes a C! A shining, pure C note. The most common scale is centered around the C! All other scales are defined by where they are in relation to C! Even a one HUNDRED dollar bill is called a C-Note! And can a C be flat? No, my friends,
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by noundi (1044080)

        Incidentally, how exactly can you interpret Mozart's 5th symphony to be racist? Is there something abut B flat I don't know? Do you object to the thin orchestration?

        The day a famous racist become synonymous with the song. It's proposterous, I know, if you don't believe me look at Hitler's moustache and tell me that this association isn't even more proposterous. A song at least has the potential of being political, but facial hair? The point is we humans are silly beings whom associate irrelevant traits to our fears so that we hopefully can avoid them no matter the cost, in this case racism, on both sides. The racists fear the tone of skin, or the genes of other ethnici

        • by amplt1337 (707922)

          I know, right? Just like how clothing totally doesn't carry any meanings. Like, if I want to wear all black, with tons of eyeliner, and fishnet stockings on my arms, that doesn't mean anything; or if I wanted to run around wearing an armband, say, or some white sheets, it's not like that could have any political meaning, right?

          These are things called "social signifiers." Sarcasm aside, I understand this is something that's tough to get a handle on for solidly logical types like most geeks, but the way th

    • by harks (534599)
      Looking for racism everywhere doesn't mean you are racist. It means you are racistist.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cr_nucleus (518205)

      Far from it; the bald, white space-marine is one of the most over-used characters in modern gaming. But it increasingly rare that they are lone heroes. A shift towards team-based, co-op featured games is undeniable. In this way, mainstream video games, even those seemingly void of political statement, are implicitly political.

      No, they're not "political". You can interpret Mozart's Fifth to be racist, but that doesn't mean he wrote it that way. If you keep looking for racism everywhere, you are racist: everyone else doesn't think about it all the time.

      I believe you're the mistaken one. As adequately put by Virginie Despentes [wikipedia.org] in her book King Kong Theorie [wikipedia.org], some ideas are so ingrained in our own culture that we end up failing to even see them in action. The most interesting part is that you accept those ideas even if they are detrimental to yourself just because "it's the way things go".

      You can also think about The Matrix, ie. when you're part of a system you easily become blind to its limitations and can even come to defend them (becoming an agent).

      To get

    • Re:Racism (Score:5, Informative)

      by cvd6262 (180823) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:04AM (#29668757)

      There is an area of academic pursuit that is actively trying to shift the meaning of "racism" and racist to encompass any white (written with a lowercase "w") member of society. Understanding White Privilege by Fances Kendall is a good read on the matter. Basically, our society is racist because members of different races exercise varying degrees of privilege. Because members of privileged groups cannot divorce themselves of the privileges that they receive from our racist society, all members of the privileged race are racists. Conversely, no Black (written with an uppercase "B") can be racist.

      Such reasoning is extended to declare any member of the privileged sex "sexist," the privileged sexual orientation "homophobic," etc. This "privilege theory" was the basis for the now-retracted freshmen curriculum at the University of Delaware. [thefire.org]

      Lest I be flamed for this, let me be clear that I completely reject these notions. But they are central to many people's understanding of "racist." I've found that one's definition of the term to be central to many disagreements.

      • Re:Racism (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mister_playboy (1474163) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:21AM (#29668889)
        I was exposed to this exact usage of racism in both a LGBT studies class and a socialism of race/gender class in college. In both cases, the professors seemed surprised anyone might consider this definition of racism to be very questionable.
        • Re:Racism (Score:5, Interesting)

          by YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @10:50AM (#29669903)
          both you and the GP have interesting posts, and i wanted to respond just to give a counter example. i am not so arrogant that i would deny the validity of what you are saying, but my experience with a similar issue was very different. sometimes it is good to see a contrast in anecdotes, no?

          i took several women's studies classes in college (yeah, i was that one guy in the class) and we discussed class/race/gender extensively. there would be lots of talk about how being a member of a 'privileged' group could be blind to or unaware of their privilege. there was never a suggestion that this person was "automatically" classist/racist/gender biased. being a member of 'privileged' class/race/gender is something that one generally has little choice in. being biased against a group is active, it is a belief set that one usually acts on or uses to govern their actions.

          there are people that hold the beliefs that you and the GP are describing, but i am surprised that they are being taught at face value. that is an example of a time in which the professor should be teaching the debate, not just teaching one side of it. i do recall a discussion in a feminist theory class that was evoked with a questions similar to "are men inherently sexist? can a man be a feminist? does being the member of a privileged group make one unable to understand disadvantage and work for change?"

          the consensus was that men are not inherently sexist, but it is easy for a man to be blind to their privilege. this could be extrapolated to different groups and issues. i have found this to be true in me, and in my experiences. interesting stuff, and i am sorry that your professors were blind to the problems with how they were teaching about race.
    • Re:Racism (Score:5, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:28AM (#29668959)
      As I was reading your comment, I noticed it was in small black letters against a big white background. Big black background too intimidating for ya, cracker??
  • by symes (835608) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:17AM (#29668105) Journal

    you are not on your own anymore, you are part of a team

    My guess is that people are more likely to stick with team games because of this social element, even when they don't feel like playing. The result is team games are more profitable, so they are more likely to survive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MeisterVT (1309831)
      Causing games to be more social also helps sell DLC. If your bud buys those extra maps or levels, now you are more compelled to do the same, otherwise there is no more co-op for you. It is all about being able to sell more. While religion, politics, or anything else may be tackled in games, it is not to force a point, it is to create a world/scenario that can be relevant to the player. Why? So they play it more, recommend it to friends and buy the requisite expansions. Again, all about the money.
  • are current games using network technology to push new value ?

    or do they use network technology to push old value ?

    when internet was non existent,
    games were obviously oriented to the gamer,
    not to relations with other players.

    still look at first network games
    in 93 I played Doom and we played more coop than PVP.
    And i played it not over Internet but in LAN.

    therefore games are more coop nowadays
    because coop is much easier with Internet.

  • White people are a minority, world wide speaking, and that's the market for games. So of course you are going to have lots of other kinds of people. There's two kinds of liberalism, media liberalism and movement liberalism, and the two are DIFFERENT. Media liberalism is really just about internationalization so that they can sell the same crappy content to everyone. Conservatives that think that the media is liberal are just blind to this.

  • by Mortiss (812218) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @07:43AM (#29668233)
    What about the possibility that previously in games due to technical limitations of the hardware the only character you could have is your "bald white space-marine" and the co-op was simply to hard to implement.

    Therefore, the increase in co-op play is simply because it is now possible to implement much more complex game play elements and the whole "ideology" argument is just a try hard interpretation trying to push politic and racism discussion into what is pure entertainment?
    • by ciderVisor (1318765) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:11AM (#29668407)

      What about the possibility that previously in games due to technical limitations of the hardware the only character you could have is your "bald white space-marine"

      That's how Mario [wikipedia.org] came to have his distinguishing features.

      "Due to the graphical limitations of arcade hardware at the time, Miyamoto clothed the character in bright red overalls and a blue shirt to contrast against each other and the background, adding white gloves to distinguish the character's arms on the screen as they swung back and forth. A cap was added to let Miyamoto avoid drawing the character's hairstyle, while preventing issues of animating his hair as he jumped.[8] To make him appear human onscreen despite his small size they gave Mario a large nose, and added a mustache to avoid drawing a mouth due to the difficulty of illustrating facial expressions at that size.[10]"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pmontra (738736)
      +2 to parent. How most games could be co-op back when boys were playing them on consoles with no network connections?
    • by amplt1337 (707922)

      the whole "ideology" argument is just a try hard interpretation trying to push politic and racism discussion into what is pure entertainment?

      NOTHING is "pure entertainment." Everything we do has a social significance. It may not be one that you're aware of, but it's always there, making judgments about the kinds of world-views that are correct and the kinds that aren't, what kinds of solutions to problems are reasonable or conceivable and what aren't. ...well, okay, I take that back. You might be able to make the case that something like Tetris has no political content. Still, almost any game with a plot or story or characters will have some

  • Flower? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone played Flower from the PSN before? I'd argue that game certainty puts forth a bit of political ideology. It is a beautiful game, and the political suggestion is subliminal - but there's no doubting it's there. I think it's more or less the vision of the developer - man and nature in harmony, green-peace and all that jazz. The game starts devoid of man-made objects... it gradually descends into a very dark and forlorn cityscape-esque locale, only to re-emerge in a bright and colorful world whe

  • Here's one thing I've noticed: When I started playing video games in 1980s, the experience was pretty disappointing. Why? The games could have been so much better but the technology just wasn't that good. In the latter half of 1990s, things changed: we got 3D, we got the Internet, we got the processing power and storage capacity. Nowadays, I have zero technological complaints. I can fire up, say, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and say "goddamn it, this is what I wanted as a kid - and so much more - and now

  • by nacho_dh (972780) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:03AM (#29668341)

    Everything we do has an ideological/political/philosophical charge on it, not only in the interpretation but in the creation process itself; and videogames are definetly not the exception. You don't have to go to Wolfstein or Rise Of The Triad to check that.

    We fight for freedom and justice in COD4 today as Rambo did in the 80's, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. As Nikita Khrushchev once said, the press is our chief ideological weapon, and if you think videogames are not press, then you're 20 years behind.

    • by ciderVisor (1318765) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:20AM (#29668463)

      As Nikita Khrushchev once said, the press is our chief ideological weapon,

      ...the press, and fear. We have two chief ideological weapons - the press, fear and surprise !

      Amongst our chief ideological weapons are such diverse elements as the press, fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the writings of Karl Marx, and nice red flags.

    • by cHALiTO (101461) <elchalo&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @10:39AM (#29669785) Homepage

      Everything we do has an ideological/political/philosophical charge on it, not only in the interpretation but in the creation process itself; and videogames are definetly not the exception. You don't have to go to Wolfstein or Rise Of The Triad to check that.

      I can't believe I had to get down this far into the comments to find a post like this. Games are designed and create by people, and all people have ideological and political viewpoints that one way or another permeate what they do. Sometimes it's evident, sometimes not. Sometimes it's intended and explicit, and that's ok. Games, especially if we think of them as an art form, are just as valid as movies or writing to express opinion of any kind, and that can also make the plot richer. Just because there's opinion it doesn't mean it's 'Propaganda' (as many people here like to label everything that doesn't conform to their POV).
      Politically and ideologically I didn't like some things in CoD4, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying the game immensely.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:06AM (#29668359)
    Games are international so must appeal to the broadest market. That leaves no room for trivia such as party politics from any one particular country.
  • Or it could be that having more CPU/GPU power allows for more AI, animation, etc and thus more teammates. Ditto for co-op play - we finally have networking that doesn't suck. It's more a simple technology question than something cultural or political, IMHO.

  • There's no money in politics, so i can't see why anyone would see games as political!?
  • I'm sure many will recall the "subtle" (as a sledgehammer) environmental messages of Final Fantasy VII and the religion mocking of X, amongst various other games.

    It makes sense really, as a lot of kids will play them and possibly take some of it in... I know I was influenced to some degree by games (and no, I don't go around shooting people! It's pretty obvious where the 'messages/morals' are and where the harmless fun is)

    Same with cartoons and anime.

  • Even in games where the co-operative element of co-op is less pronounced, the ideology is the same; you are not on your own anymore, you are part of a team

    Hey Mr. Egghead Academic... I have a bit of a surprise for you. In real life, even the most elite commandos operate in squads because they're still just people. In real life and realistic games, a lone wolf soldier gets shot and doesn't easily heal. 20 guys can easily overpower him in a head-on fight. Only in a game like Halo where you play a genetically

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ph0rk (118461)
      It may not be realistic, but it is often fun.

      You know, the -other- reason to play games.
  • Eh. (Score:3, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @08:27AM (#29668493) Journal
    I'm not wildly convinced. Obviously, like any cultural artefact, a game is going to reflect its environment to some degree(and the apparent effect of environment will be a lot stronger once you narrow your focus to commercially viable/successful titles, since only things that are resonant with the population at large will sell well); but the effects of technical limitations and the strongly derivative tendencies of the industry are huge confounding variables.

    For instance, at any given point in time, console games are going to have greater emphasis on co-op or small scale competitive play than are PC games. Is this because PCs are for rugged individualists and consoles are produced by the people's ministry for prolaterian collective culture? Clearly not, most of the players in the two industries are the same, or quite similar, it's just that the PC only really has single-user input support and tends to be connected to a smallish screen, while consoles have multi-user input support and tend to be connected to larger TVs.

    Similarly, the rise in multiplayer only or heavily multiplayer oriented PC and console games is more about the fact that internet access is now quite common, and doesn't cost several dollars an hour anymore, which means that a designer can reasonably assume that a large pool of internet-connected players will exist at any given time.
    • I'm not wildly convinced. Obviously, like any cultural artefact, a game is going to reflect its environment to some degree(and the apparent effect of environment will be a lot stronger once you narrow your focus to commercially viable/successful titles, since only things that are resonant with the population at large will sell well); but the effects of technical limitations and the strongly derivative tendencies of the industry are huge confounding variables.

      (Boldface emphasis is mine)

      It's interesting the PP says that. When I saw the submission, the first thing that came to mind was this article [signonsandiego.com], which claims that more zombie-based horror movies tend to come out when a Republican is president of the US and more vampire-based horrow movies tend to come out when a Democrat is president, and even speculates a little on why that might be.

  • what about...? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    us vs. them
    competition
    indiscriminate violence
    force as a means to achieve one's ends
    found money (gold, coin, etc.)
    possessions
    hyper-masculinity
    traditional gender expectations ...and this list could go on and on.

    Not all games, but certainly many. It's hard to create a product (work of art, if you will) that resists or subverts the dominant cultural ideology of where and when it was made. Open up your minds, people.

    cheers, -m

  • I mean, it's so clear to see GTA: San Andreas as a deep, biting commentary on urban poverty and political corruption. It's really quite compelling. I think the Museum of Modern Art should feature footage of it.

  • Of course $MEDIA will be used for ideological content if the media is powerful enough. Every developer with an opinion has the potential to imbue their game with their ideological or political inclination. All you need is text to embed political content, e.g. all you would really need is a terminal, which have been around forever. Of course, for political content to do much there must be a sizable audience.

    Just off the top of my head, Theatre Europe for c64 had political content (e.g. anti-nuclear war) back

  • I'm glad cooperative gameplay is enjoying a resurgence... it had always been my favorite mode since the days of the original Contra, hell, even since Clowns on the C64. With a single-player game, sure they might have more control over the experience, but at best you can get good at pushing buttons in an exact, repeatable order. And while watching experienced players breeze through Super Mario Bros. or Quake done Quick is interesting for a spell, it's kind of sad that that might represent the apogee of the
  • actually (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld&gmail,com> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:08AM (#29668783) Homepage
    Far from it; the bald, white space-marine is one of the most over-used characters in modern gaming. But it increasingly rare that they are lone heroes.

    Actually, for certain genres (I'm thinking traditional adventure, and 3-d platform), the beautiful young white female is the most over-used character.
  • by aeroelastic (840614) <aeroelastic.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:18AM (#29668865)
    Wow, I don't know where the author is going with this. He starts out saying, "I'm not so concerned about whether video games can deliver such a [political] narrative." Later he says, "Ultimately, games will never be able to carry a political message". Then in the comments he says, "I certainly do believe games can carry a strong political message".

    And then when someone brings up MGS and GTA he says, "Regarding the narrative in MGS and GTA, I think both franchises earned the right to be autonomous." If anyone can figure out what this guy is trying to say, please let me know.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:29AM (#29668969)

    So Lee Bradley says:

    ...mainstream video games, even those seemingly void of political statement, are implicitly political.

    OK. I understand that people feel that way. But the people that feel that "the way things are" is pretty much always "implicitly political" are the people who find political meaning in Every. Fucking. Thing.

    To some people, the color of shirt you put on in the morning is political. The toothpaste you use is political. Everything is political because somewhere, somehow, sometime during the creation of that thing or state of being some person or entity involved had some political leaning that in some subtle way influenced the way they contributed to the process.

    People who think like this believe the way I take a dump is political. (Seriously - find somebody who's gone off-grid and uses a composting toilet. Ask them about it. They'd have you believe that the way you urinate and defecate is a political statement.)

    I don't buy it.

    "Politics is a component of everything" may be true but it's also meaningless. Any statement so broad is meaningless because it has no real, practical impact on anything.

    Folks who think like this need to take a big dose of practical pills. There's a political slant to every issue but that doesn't mean it's worthy of note. I suspect games change based on technology and human desires. We want distraction. We want to interact with others. Technology now enables that and some people have figured out how to make a buck meeting those needs by putting out games with a heightened co-op element. Big frikkin deal. Unless you can't win a game without calling your congressmen and demanding action on a bill currently before the House (or some such other real-world, practical political action) then a game isn't political.

    It's just a game.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @09:53AM (#29669243) Journal

    Just this morning I realized that Civilization (at least the current one, Civ IV) doesn't have the theory of evolution, or Darwin, mentioned in the Tree of Science of the game. I am pretty sure there wasn't in Civ 1, either. I wonder if that was on purpose, in order to not jeopardize sales to a certain demographic?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by will_die (586523)
      The voyage of the beagle is wonder in those games.
      That is about the only place it could fit since it is not a technology, I guess they could of added a Eugenics social path.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blind biker (1066130)

        WTF are you on about? There is plenty of stuff in the Civ IV Science Tree that is not tech related. About 1/3 is religion, philosophy and arts related.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Pinckney (1098477)

        The voyage of the beagle is wonder in those games.

        In Civ II, at least. Additionally, "Theory of Evolution" is a wonder in Civ III.

  • Any creative work beyond the most utilitarian (and sometimes even those) reflects the surrounding culture, technology level, and aesthetic sense. Archaeologists trace the spread of ideas through civilizations through things like jewelry or decorations on pottery. Do they depict people? animals? animals that aren't native and that they must have heard about from travelers? Are the depictions realistic, or stylized, or clearly fantastic? How complex is the piece, and what does it say about the tools neces
  • by vga_init (589198) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @10:53AM (#29669941) Journal

    The article is not nearly as good as I would have hoped. I do agree that there is some political ideology and cultural values to be found in many games, but just to make a general statement that most games being single player shows political ideology is absurd. I'll have you know that it is significantly easier to program a single player game than any other kind, so there were more (especially on limited hardware). Multiplayer didn't become such a huge trend until the Internet caught on, which parallels technological changes more than it does political changes.

Mathematicians stand on each other's shoulders. -- Gauss

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