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Politics and Gaming

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Politics in Gaming

Author: Quentin Allison
31-Jan-2017

Category: Opinion

Many controversies have come about the gaming industry as of late, and gaming has always been a hot topic for legislators and politicians, specifically violent video games and their affects on society. Here, I discuss why gaming and politics should stay forever divorced.

Smug Obama and videogames

I’ll never understand the idea behind putting political rhetoric into gaming, not necessarily the games themselves, mind you, rather the way we perceive and critique games. “Too much of this” “not enough of this” is fine when critiquing elements of gameplay or content, but not really in the sense of “there were too many black people” (you know who you are), or “there are not enough black people”. Just play the game, if it has a pro-communist message, and you ascribe to the Pinochet school of thought regarding communism, then you’re likely to not like that message, but if the game is fun, then why does it matter?

When I, or anyone really, decide to play Grand Theft Auto, I am not really interested in any commentary on the degradation of society, which allowed this game to exist, rather, I just want to rob a bank and run from cops. While I am ignorant on when exactly gaming and politics decided to jump into bed together, it likely happened when Mortal Kombat came out in 1992, which led to the creation of the ESRB, I do know that controversies like GamerGate (stupid name, by the way) managed to open the door to letting politics into the genre moreso than they were before. Despite your own opinions on the controversy, I don’t think the letting of politics into gaming will bode well for anyone, of any ideology. This is merely because it could possibly get out of hand, if, for example, Rockstar was no longer able to develop games like Grand Theft Auto, due to political backlash, then that would affect the entire industry, from the creative aspect to the financial. Deciding a developer cannot be creative enough to produce what they want, due to political pressure, would likely result in a lot of very talented people leaving the industry, leaving us with games like Ride to Hell: Retribution, but replace the motorcycles with unicorns and the guns with pillows.


In the case of the ESRB rating system, it may have been for the better, as that was a system that allowed both creators and consumers understand the target audience, albeit, in a legal manner, so to speak. There are, however, countries whose rating system goes too far, by censoring or outright banning games that are found to shocking, disturbing, or violent for their citizens. Australia is a most notable example, as they have banned games like Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and Syndicate. Other games have been edited to fit the Australian classification system like Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings and Condemned: Criminal Origins. The classification used essentially bans games that has sexual content, "high impact violence", or drug related activities. Admittedly, the censoring of games depicting rape and pedophillia does warrant an understanding, but I suppose even those can serve a purpose in a game, just with a dose of great disgust. However, the way these classifications are handled, seem to serve a political purpose as opposed to censoring or banning legitimately unwanted or unneeded content. For example 2010's Aliens Vs. Predator was banned due to high impact violence, a selling point of the game, and was later overturned and became available to be purchased. In this case, the system failed, the game was perfectly acceptable to be released, yet an ineffective classification system, built more on political rhetoric than actual research to know what is and isn't unacceptable to consume. This is but an example of government interference into the industry, which isn't as bad as the rhetoric that turns gamer against gamer.


GamerGate is a prime example of why politics and gaming should never interfere with each other. This was a controversy that really should not have happened, as I get the idea of having integrity in journalism, but instead of this being used as a platform for a genuine message, it turned ugly. GamerGate went from "be professional and unbiased" to a huge amalgamation of differing voices all saying what they think, when no one really cares what they think. Of course, the largest issue with GamerGate, the outlining of the biggest reason politics should stay out of gaming, is that it got violent. Not physically, of course, but from a threatening stand point. People get far too worked up over their political opinions, and unfortunately turned our brother against brother and sister against sister. I would have loved to see gamers and fans of games come together to discuss actual political rhetoric in a meaningful and fulfilling way, but as shown with this dead horse of a controversy, that just cannot happen, which is very disheartening.

I cannot say that I may be overreacting, but it feels like every time I turn around to read about the next Call of Duty or Dishonored, I end up with 10 articles about some identity politics relating to the game, and 5 actually about the game, not necessarily in that order, but the point stands. Gaming is a hobby for many of us, most of us really, and for those lucky few, it is a lifestyle, a way to live. I don’t want to see a beloved industry ruined by politics, corporate greed has already done enough damage. 


What is your opinion? Let me know in the comments below.



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