↑↑↓↓←→←→BA
March 7, 2016 9:35 AM   Subscribe

The Forgotten Politics Behind Contra's Name by Matt Morey [Kill Screen]
Do a quick Google search of “contra.” Browsing the first few pages, you should see a saturation of links about the videogame—the now-primary version of the word—sprinkled with other definitions. Next in the deck is contra as preposition: “against, contrary, or opposed to,” suitingly enough. Then, a “contemporary New York cuisine” restaurant; contra-dancing, a folksy flirty form adaptable to many musical styles; the second album by Vampire Weekend; and eventually, peeking through before being closed out again, you’ll stumble upon the elephant in the room.
posted by Fizz (69 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Contra was the only video game I was forbidden to play or own as a kid simply because of the politics of the name.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:41 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kind of a quirk of Google though, because if you Google "contras" plural it immediately pops up info about Nicaragua.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:45 AM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


(missing: select)

But, yeah, agreed w/ Wretch there..
posted by k5.user at 9:52 AM on March 7, 2016


Knowing what I do of Japan, and of game localization, I'm not sure if I buy the premise here. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I enjoyed playing the game as a teen, and remember staying up all night to finish it. But I never read the instruction booklet or whatever (except to understand the very basic controls).

So, without reading the original Japanese (maybe I can track it down), I would say the English localization is just a bit of a joke that perhaps slipped by Nintendo brass in Seattle who would have checked the English gloss:

>The game’s plot, described in the American NES manual, as in the excerpt below, reads like a transparent send-up of America’s view of the events in Nicaragua, and more specifically, its black-and-white take on fighting communism in the Cold War.

>>“In 1957, a large object from outer space crashed into Earth’s Amazon basin, near the ruins of a lost Mayan civilization. Scientists worldwide heralded the incident as a trivial cosmic occurrence, and thus the collision was soon forgotten.”

Anyway, I posted a link to this story on a private forum where a number of senior JE game localizers (true rock stars) hang out, so we'll see what they say (translators are a notoriously cranky lot).
posted by My Dad at 9:56 AM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


I should say my point about Google doesn't take away from the writer's little reflection about the degree to which the game and its American manual are a self-aware satire of American military interventionism and action genre tropes.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:56 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


I remember being a Nintendo-obsessed eight year old, standing in the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room of my childhood home, having a conversation with my mom about wanting this game because it was objectively fuckin' rad and it even supported two player and Nintendo Power did a whole thing on it and pleaaaaaaase.

And she blinked at the title, which was basically the only bit she had to work with—"it is a game, it is named Contra"—and was like, why do you want a game about that? Why is that something I should pay a bunch of money at the store for? Iran/contra? Do you know what that's about?

And it was a sort of pure cultural disjuncture standoff; I didn't know squat about any of that, and so couldn't begin to present any kind of counterargument, and she had no idea what the game was and so had no idea where to start in trying to analyze its contents.

Eventually I think she and then also my dad started down the halting path of trying to summarize in some basic way the stuff with arms disbursement and hostage negotiation and diplomatic abuses and well you've heard of Nicaragua, right, it's in Central America, and Oliver North was, uh, well, so—

And in the end something inside me seized the moment and cut through what was clearly a complicated political thing that I didn't know shit about, and I just countered that IT'S ABOUT SHOOTING SPACE ALIENS, ITS LIKE THE MOVIE ALIENS, YOU'RE JUST SOME GUYS BLOWING UP THINGS, IT'S JUST A VIDEO GAME and I think more than anything me providing them with a plausible out to stop trying to teach a third-grader the ins-and-outs of a Reagan admin geopolitical clusterfuck was enough of a relief that they just said "okay, we'll see" and I got the game soon thereafter.

And then I sold it at a garage sale a couple years later for ten bucks because I was high on commerce after some lady bought Excitebike for ten bucks first. I don't regret selling Excitebike.
posted by cortex at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2016 [48 favorites]


Ronald Reagan called the Contra death squads the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers." Wikipedia summarizes an Americas Watch report on their activities:
Americas Watch – which subsequently became part of Human Rights Watch – accused the Contras of:[69]

targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination
kidnapping civilians
torturing civilians
executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat
raping women
indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses
seizing civilian property
burning civilian houses in captured towns.
It's just worth remembering this political season as Reagan hagiography crops up.
posted by graymouser at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2016 [37 favorites]


Gryzor was just a much better name. But gaming back then didn't need any help to be tasteless.
posted by scruss at 9:59 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly struck that the article's conclusion is that what google returns as search results is the best mapping for what most people know.
posted by meinvt at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


I don't regret selling Excitebike.

Yet.
posted by tocts at 10:05 AM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Just google Oliver North, and then remember why he actually had a chance at political office in 1994.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm really attracted to the idea of a lone, disgruntled translator using the manual to wittily parody American meddling in other countries' politics. But when you consider all the weird ideas mashed into the game to begin with--the fact that it was called "Contra" in the original Japanese, and that the heroes were designed as standard American action-movie dudes, and that you were fighting aliens instead of communists, wtf--I think you have to come to the conclusion that the manual is just one more person's attempt to grab some ambient ideas of the time, stick them into the final product, and hope they get people's attention/money.
posted by The Baffled King at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


in specific, he was a corrupt Republican (for the right reasons!), and they seem to like that.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:10 AM on March 7, 2016


The Reagan Excitebike scandal is ripe for discussion, but I never see it mentioned anywhere.
posted by beerperson at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2016 [21 favorites]


I was 13 in 1980, and my attention in that decade was on Central America; I really feared that I'd be drafted to fight a Reagan-started war there.....so the Nicaragua meaning is definitely the first that comes to mind for me.
posted by thelonius at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think this might be the first instance of seeing something I remember vividly from my own lifetime being described as forgotten history, but I'm sure it won't be the last.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2016 [13 favorites]


Probotector is a deeply unpleasant word.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


(missing: select)

SELECT wasn't part of the cheat code. It's what you hit after the cheat code if you had two people playing.

posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 10:29 AM on March 7, 2016 [12 favorites]


I wonder how old this author is the way he's treating Iran-Contra and the contras in general as some forgotten bit of arcane lore that he's just now shining a light on.

I think The Baffled King has it: this is just a result of osmosis of the culture at the time. It's well-trod ground observing that 80's action movies were all about Reagan's military adventurism, especially in Central/South America, and the general rah-rah American military attitude of the 80s, and Contra is clearly a reflection of the tropes and cliches of those movies.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even Bob Wakelin, the artist for the NES box art in Europe, brutally observed that this game is a “rip-off” of an American action movie, namely “Alien/Predator.”

I'm questioning the author's reading comprehension, given that there's no such movie. Here's what Wakelin actually says:
A Predator/Alien rip-off is what the game appeared to be, so I supplied a Predator/Alien style pic - with ripped Arnie Predator poses. The white areas were left for screen shots to be dropped in.

A thoroughly boring job to do, although a couple of my survivalist, body-building, 'Nam-obsessed mates thought it was cool.
Wakelin is referring to the Predator (1987) and Aliens (1986) movies separately, but Morey appears to think he's accusing Contra/Gryzor of ripping off Alien vs. Predator. Plagiarizing a film that wouldn't be released for another seventeen years would have been a pretty good trick.
posted by zamboni at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not to belittle it but the Iran-Contra Affair seems almost Canadian in it's intent and scope when compared to the shitstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, where it makes unquestionable good sense to keep throwing unregulated funds at local paramilitaries. A few bodies dumped in the street with power drill holes in their knees can do a lot to keep people in line but of course, it can't get too quiet or the continued payments won't be justified.

The fact that there was even the mechanics in place to make a show of accountability in the Iran/Contra scandal seems amazing now.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder how old this author is the way he's treating Iran-Contra and the contras in general as some forgotten bit of arcane lore that he's just now shining a light on.

Welcome to middle age.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2016 [10 favorites]


I am now officially in the get off the lawn generation for the entire interwebs and the media, it seems.

/and take that toe out too
posted by infini at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2016


Visually the obvious sources for Contra are Aliens, Rambo, and Commando (1985), not Predator since Predator came out the same year as Contra and so couldn't have influenced it.

Here's the original American NES box art (featuring a Xenomorph knock-off in the background) and a still from Commando of good ol' Arnie who is clearly the blond guy. The black-haired guy is clearly Stallone from Rambo.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:47 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


At the very early stages of the current incarnation of the LoC search engine, in the development version I inserted a little trick so that if you typed in the search box "up up down down left right left right b a" it would return results for the word "contra". And of course all that was available were stuff relating to Iran-Contra. My team lead removed it before we first went to production, of course, but it was fun while it lasted, and now, kind of humorously ironic.
posted by numaner at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't regret selling Excitebike.

Excitebike was awesome. That game was my first experience with a level editor
posted by Hoopo at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


It is worth noting that the sequel was marketed as "Super C" rather than "Super Contra." It wasn't as good of course.
posted by graymouser at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


the way he's treating Iran-Contra and the contras in general as some forgotten bit of arcane lore

I would guess it's not age so much as the ludicrously low bar for cultural and historical knowledge that prevails in the video-game-journalism world. But it certainly is remarkable! I look forward to the next article in the series, "You Won't Believe the Forgotten War Behind the Classic 1942 Series"
posted by RogerB at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2016 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: Objectively fuckin' rad
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not to toot my own horn or anything, but.... (previously) and (previouslier)

On a funny note see the first comment of the (previouslier) link.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:20 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


neither of those is about excitebike
posted by beerperson at 11:21 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm really attracted to the idea of a lone, disgruntled translator using the manual to wittily parody American meddling in other countries' politics.

I think I can supply a missing piece of the puzzle here....

At the time Konami's US manual localization guy was crazy, and I mean that in a good way. Whoever he was, he was always injecting bizarre bits of humor in their manuals, arguably at the expense of the original intent. Over the years they have been inspiring to me in my own quest to make up bizarre nonsense and inflict it upon the world. Some examples, emphasis is mine:

Life Force:
"In a remote quadrant of the universe there was hatched a hideous creature. His proud parents, Ma and Pa Deltoid, named their only son Zelos, which in alien lingo means "one mean son of a gun".
As Zelos grew into an adult space monster, his appetite turned ravenous, his temper became ruthless, and his name proved an understatement. It didn't take long for Zelos to leave the nest and go out on his own, devouring everything in sight, including three galaxies, four hundred planets, two trillion lifeforms, and a side order of stars.
Super C (Contra's sequel):
Sipping cold lemonade with a couple of native lovelies, Mad Dog and Scorpion (Guerrilla Warriors extraordinaire) relax on a Rio beach and boast of how they destroyed the vile alien warmonger, Red Falcon. Little do they know that Red Falcon didn't flee with his pointed tail between his legs. Instead, he tactically retreated to round up ruffians of the universe, friends from all walks of war, to mount a second assault on Planet Earth.

One of these new recruits is Jagger Froid, a demented alien from the Black Hole galaxy, who dishes out punishment with a laser sharp tongue. Red Falcon has also shuttled in the Babalu Destructoid Mechanism, a giant alien attack tank, which was the primary weapon used to disintegrate the innocent solar system of Tralala.
Metal Gear (published by Konami side-brand Ultra, game notable for thematic similarity):
Colonel Vermon CaTaffy, a once tranquil shepherd boy, who grew up on the remote banks of the Sam Sam River in outer Mongolia with his 27 sisters, turned to terrorism at an early age.
Now, after years of pillaging innocent people, he has taken control of Outer Heaven, a small nation on the outskirts of South Africa. Here he is sole tyrant and radical dictator. He rules with bullets and bombs, and in only a few months he has outlawed democracy and turned harmless villagers into mercenaries for a global terrorist network.
Snake's Revenge (an obscure non-canon sequel to Metal Gear, released outside Japan only):
The radar invisible Stealth copter dips and weaves through the narrow passes of a vast mountain range which stretches from the borders of Teristan to its capital city Ishkabibil. Only minutes from the drop zone, you clutch your assault rifle and stare out the window. Darkness is everywhere.
Your fellow commandos from the FOX HOUND battalion sit across from you. One sharpens his knife. The other polishes his grenades. No one speaks, but through the silence a message comes loud and clear--this will be the most dangerous mission ever attempted, even more so than the infiltration of Colonel Vermon CaTaffy's stronghold.
For now, you're challenging Higharolla Kockamamie and his army of raging lunatics. And you must overcome untold hundreds of Uzi toting soldiers, a heavily armed battleship, and a loaded locomotive to reach your objective, destroying Highrolla's Ultra-Sheik Nuclear Attack Tank. Or else the world will be knocked to its knees by a fellow who has won the "Merciless Man of the Year Award" eight straight times.
posted by JHarris at 11:32 AM on March 7, 2016 [22 favorites]


It is worth noting that the sequel was marketed as "Super C" rather than "Super Contra." It wasn't as good of course.

Well it's certainly not bad, but it's less iconic, sure. Note that you can't get Contra on the Wii and Wii-U Virtual Console but you can get Super C, for some reason ???it is a mystery???.
posted by JHarris at 11:36 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not to belittle it but the Iran-Contra Affair seems almost Canadian in it's intent

What does this even mean? You don't want to belittle Iran-Contra, or you don't want to belittle Canada?

For one thing, Iran-Contra demonstrates how morally bankrupt the Reagan White House was. It also illustrates how the Reagan White House used state-sponsored terror to try to win a covert war. "Terror" in this case means sponsoring death squads who tortured and killed civilians.

And this brings to mind Canada?

I know Canada is not so great when it comes to climate change, and our mining companies are sometimes engaged in some pretty shitty behaviour, and we're selling weapons to Saudi Arabia (who isn't?) but we're not Iran-Contra material.

Unlike the covert Nicaragua war, the Iraq war was also legal and supported by many people, like Hillary Clinton.
posted by My Dad at 11:37 AM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


Around this same time, there was a pinball machine which I've unfortunately forgotten the name of. It was one of the better boards available in the campus arcade, featuring swooping ramps and unexpected drops and a generous and exciting multi-ball. The goal of the game, if you really wanted to rack up the high score, was to trigger multi-ball then maneuver as many as possible up the ramps where they would then rain down like bombs amidst a series of bumpers decorated to look like thatched huts.

You literally won by BOMBING VILLAGES.

The 80s were weird and awful.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:43 AM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


The NES Super Mario Bros manual also included a sly reference to questionable US foreign policy.
posted by ijoshua at 11:49 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Around this same time, there was a pinball machine which I've unfortunately forgotten the name of.

Sounds like Special Force.
Detail of hut bumpers.
posted by zamboni at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]


And this brings to mind Canada?

As in adorably innocent and not really that corrupt at all.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:57 AM on March 7, 2016




Unlike the covert Nicaragua war, the Iraq war was also legal and supported by many people, like Hillary Clinton.

And Donald Trump, and John Kasich, and ......
posted by blucevalo at 12:01 PM on March 7, 2016


I played Contra at a friend's house before hearing about the Iran-Contra affair. I was 10. When I saw something on TV about Iran-Contra, I asked my dad to stop flipping channels. Then, I sat there for what seemed like a really long time (but was probably five minutes) watching rows of dudes in suits taking turns talking into a microphone. I had no idea what was being discussed, and I asked my parents to wait when they asked why I wanted to see this.

Then, I concluded – for the wrong reasons – that there was also a "bad kind of Contra," and this was it.
posted by ignignokt at 12:05 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


And Donald Trump, and John Kasich, and ......

I might add that Canada did not participate in Iraq.
posted by My Dad at 12:14 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sounds like Special Force

Ding ding ding! Indeed it was. Multi-ball activated!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:19 PM on March 7, 2016


Around this same time, there was a pinball machine which I've unfortunately forgotten the name of. It was one of the better boards available in the campus arcade, featuring swooping ramps and unexpected drops and a generous and exciting multi-ball. The goal of the game, if you really wanted to rack up the high score, was to trigger multi-ball then maneuver as many as possible up the ramps where they would then rain down like bombs amidst a series of bumpers decorated to look like thatched huts.

You literally won by BOMBING VILLAGES


Slight derail: It's interesting you mention this aspect of gaming. I was listening to Polygon's Quality Control podcast this morning during a run. The episode was focused on Just Cause 3 and there was a small discussion about the disconnect between the game-play and the in-world story politics.

You have this supposed hero/liberator who is going around destroying and bombing every part of this massive island. There's not a whole lot left for the people that you're supposedly liberating when you spend the entire game destroying the basic infrastructure of the island. Also, that your character is enjoying the destruction as you go around the island is a bit jarring and cringe-inducing at times.
posted by Fizz at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2016


Americas Watch – which subsequently became part of Human Rights Watch – accused the Contras of:[69]

targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination
kidnapping civilians
torturing civilians
executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat
raping women
indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses
seizing civilian property
burning civilian houses in captured towns.


Let's be honest. America invented the first version of ISIS.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:29 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the Contras were certainly no secret at the time; in fact, for young American men of my age, they were much on our mind, because Reagan's relentless saber-rattling had many of us convinced that he would reinstate the draft in order to fight a proxy war in Central America.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:33 PM on March 7, 2016


Let's be honest. America invented the first version of ISIS.

Have you ever watched Rambo III? Not just invented but subsidized and trained.
posted by Fizz at 12:35 PM on March 7, 2016


America invented the first version of ISIS

This is not really the most helpful of analogies, given that ISIS for all its brutality is only a quasi-state actor involved in a genuine war in its region, quite unlike the already stable states hosting most of the brutal anticommunist politicides that the US arranged and backed all around the world in the postwar era. But then this is a video-game thread and there's probably a reason there isn't an 8-bit version of The Act of Killing
posted by RogerB at 12:38 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


The NES Super Mario Bros manual also included a sly reference to questionable US foreign policy.

I remember literally stopping to ask my dad "what's the Domino Theory?" when I was reading the manual for SMB.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ronald Reagan called the Contra death squads the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers." Wikipedia summarizes an Americas Watch report on their activities:

In all fairness, we need to see the Human Rights Watch report on human rights abuses committed by the founding fathers in order to assess this comparison.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe Reagan was condemning the Founding Fathers for their participation in slavery
posted by beerperson at 1:05 PM on March 7, 2016


I wonder how old this author is the way he's treating Iran-Contra and the contras in general as some forgotten bit of arcane lore that he's just now shining a light on.

I was 5 when Iran-Contra was revealed and I'm 35 now. I can imagine some people even my age being hazy on the specifics.
posted by brundlefly at 1:13 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's not a whole lot left for the people that you're supposedly liberating when you spend the entire game destroying the basic infrastructure of the island. Also, that your character is enjoying the destruction as you go around the island is a bit jarring and cringe-inducing at times.

It's a video game, being able to kill hundreds and destroy a bit of civilization without any negative consequences is the whole point. The cathartic release of tendencies (especially violent ones) that have negative consequences in the real world but not videos games is basically the whole appeal of gaming for me.
posted by VTX at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2016


VTX, Oh I absolutely get what you're saying but there are still those moments when the story pulls you out of the game and you realize that in the game-world that you're inhabiting, what you're doing doesn't make any sense and can sometimes be gross or crass. Just a side criticism.
posted by Fizz at 1:37 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


It happens in a lot of games - your character is supposedly the hero, but you sure can get away with a significant deal of collateral damage if you want. The best games allow for that anti-hero approach if you don't really feel like being the good guy (I'm thinking of the Fallout series and their Karma system), but even then, many of the cutscenes and endings veer towards the character being generally good, despite their actions to the contrary.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2016


those moments when the story pulls you out of the game

LOAD VERFREMDUNGSEFF.EKT
posted by RogerB at 2:02 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's not a whole lot left for the people that you're supposedly liberating when you spend the entire game destroying the basic infrastructure of the island.

I'm not sure if you have played the game, but in the original Contra you're supposed to destroy an alien base.
posted by My Dad at 3:13 PM on March 7, 2016


I'm not sure if you have played the game, but in the original Contra you're supposed to destroy an alien base

Fizz wasn't talking about Contra.
The episode was focused on Just Cause 3 and there was a small discussion about the disconnect between the game-play and the in-world story politics.
posted by zamboni at 3:48 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


You have this supposed hero/liberator who is going around destroying and bombing every part of this massive island.

Yeah I ignore all that. You destroy the stuff Just 'Cause
posted by Hoopo at 4:02 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


The cathartic release of tendencies (especially violent ones) that have negative consequences in the real world but not videos games is basically the whole appeal of gaming for me.

But there is a place where this justification ceases to apply, where it becomes less of a release and more of a glorification. This is most evident in multiplayer online FPS wargames, which over chat you can hear people indulging in all of the worst impulses of bro culture.
posted by JHarris at 4:38 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is it with all you kids who were "reading the manual"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:39 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is it with all you kids who were "reading the manual"

We weren't allowed to use the TV on Christmas morning so reading game manuals and trembling in anticipation was all part of the ritual.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:44 PM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]


What is it with all you kids who were "reading the manual"

Some kids read everything, like even the lists of ingredients and nutrients with and without milk on the sides of cereal boxes... or so I've heard.

Plus some of them grew up in the boonies and had nothing to do on the hour-long drive home from the video game store except obsessively read their new manual and the two or three pages of Nintendo Power devoted to the game.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:52 PM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]


heh. True story:

I worked at the on-campus arcade and we had to pull the game from the floor for this issue.

OK by us, we just played it for free in the back room for like three weeks straight.

best job eva btw -- put in 6000 hours there and didn't work a minute
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 6:15 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


gamer culture: I want be taken serious as adult

gamer culture on politics/sexism/racism/etc in games: whatever it's fun, u sensitive

gamer culture, later on: why you not consider me adult
posted by runt at 7:49 PM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]


probably a reason there isn't an 8-bit version of The Act of Killing

An opportunity for a creative game designer!

(Great movie, btw. Really remarkable.)
posted by theorique at 5:04 AM on March 8, 2016


I was 12 in 1986 and Contra was a cool game because you blow up aliens and the weapons have cool upgrades, and you can play two player! OMG! I was too young and unaware of world events and politics to make any connection to the real Contras. I would stay at my grandparents' house during the day in the summertime while my parents were at work. I do recall my grandpa watching the Iran-Contra hearings for what seemed like the WHOLE SUMMER.

Slight derail: It's interesting you mention this aspect of gaming. I was listening to Polygon's Quality Control podcast this morning during a run. The episode was focused on Just Cause 3 and there was a small discussion about the disconnect between the game-play and the in-world story politics.

You have this supposed hero/liberator who is going around destroying and bombing every part of this massive island. There's not a whole lot left for the people that you're supposedly liberating when you spend the entire game destroying the basic infrastructure of the island. Also, that your character is enjoying the destruction as you go around the island is a bit jarring and cringe-inducing at times.


It sounds like the podcast is a pretty uncharitable reading of the game. I've spent quite a bit of time playing Just Cause 3, and "destroying the basic infrastructure" is just inaccurate.

There are two kinds of locations you liberate within the game. Military bases, and towns. Each contain "chaos objects" that must be destroyed, and these items have bright red stripes so they're pretty obvious.

Military bases contain fuel tanks, electrical generators, communications arrays and such. Once you've destroyed all of the objects, the base is populated by the "good" rebel forces.

If you're in a city, you mostly destroy statues of the dictator, propaganda speakers, billboards, listening devices, and each town has a police station you take over, because it's the base of operations for the dictator's forces. The final step to liberate is raising a flag. Once a town is liberated, the dictator's soldiers disappear and there are rebel soldiers hanging out here and there, and a group of musicians usually spawn near the flag, playing celebratory music.

The only civilian structures of any kind that you can destroy are gas stations, which explode. Destroying gas stations is not an objective in game, nor are you rewarded for it. There are various other destructable objects around, like certain signage on buildings, trash cans, etc. Vehicles and people can be shot or blown up, but again that's not an objective. If you start shooting in a populated area, civilians immediately run or drive away. Mostly that stuff is just there to lend a bit of realism to the environment.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:08 AM on March 8, 2016


We weren't allowed to use the TV on Christmas morning.

Well that's just cruel.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:49 AM on March 8, 2016


But there is a place where this justification ceases to apply, where it becomes less of a release and more of a glorification. This is most evident in multiplayer online FPS wargames, which over chat you can hear people indulging in all of the worst impulses of bro culture.

Totally true and there is certainly a large proportion of gamers but it's certainly not a majority and it seems like there are a lot more of them than there really are because they're so vocal. Back when I was playing Battlefield 3 and 4 (BF3/BF4) I was an admin on a very popular server and our server rules brought the hammer down on that kind of behavior.

In a 64 player match that takes about an hour to play, I'd say that at most I'd have to step in take some kind of action (ranging from verbal warnings to temp bans) against maybe ten players in a particularly toxic group, usually only one or two. Granted that there are probably a few players who like the glorification of violence aspect and just don't ever say anything and this is on PC which I think tends to skew more mature than console players (particularly Xbox).

I also think that glorification of video game violence doesn't necessarily equate to glorification of real world violence. Gamers that can't or don't draw at least that much distinction are viewed as a problem in the gamer community by at least me, my fellow BF3/BF4 admins and guild members, and I would guess the members of the mefight club.
posted by VTX at 5:56 AM on March 11, 2016


« Older “Winifred, did you hear I mentioned your name, you...   |   Body armor for fur babies Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments