July 26, 2002
10:41 AM   Subscribe

Wars and propaganda in gaming: you've all heard of America's Army by now, but what about Under Ash where you can fight the IDF (no civilians targets here) as a palestinian rambo? Perhaps you'd prefer a more spiritual route, and want to convert heathens? Or the truly repulsive Ethnic Cleansing game? Artists are getting into too with the likes of Cultural Revolution Doom, and some politicians considered doing it the direct way. Clearly, folks with an agenda have realized that games are a way to get their message out, and maybe noticed the success of "realistic" but largely apolitical shooters.
Fortunately for gaming peaceniks (kill pixels not people!), the games mostly suck.
posted by malphigian (6 comments total)
My messgae to the world is also why aslo
posted by interrobang at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2002

ash, that is.
posted by interrobang at 10:46 AM on July 26, 2002

wait, i thought america's army WAS the ethnic cleansing game!

wtf. i want my money back.
posted by jcterminal at 3:38 PM on July 26, 2002

duh, its free.
posted by AsiaInsider at 10:18 PM on July 26, 2002

Yeah, about 13.1 trillion dollars free.
posted by whir at 1:08 AM on July 27, 2002

Actually, America's Army has been rated pretty good, though I don't know how many are playing it online. I'm not sure, exactly, what's supposed to be political about it, particularly in a veritable sea of thousands of games where you can play a member of the US Army as the good guys. From what I understand it's a very tactically oriented game and no small part of the budget was spent in gameplay-testing.

Of course one would assume a crude mod using slapdash propaganda to be a sucky game. If all that motivates you is hating that one specific group, well, that's all you need in a game. It's probably quite healthy that the games most American kids play actually don't specify the enemy too closely (unless they're aliens). If someone wants to mentally gloss the game for themselves so that all they're fighting are the Subhuman Wogs (or whomever), that's out of the hands of the game developers.

Video games as a vehicle for what I'll agree loosely to call "propaganda" (since you're extending it to cover political campaigns and, apparently, tacit endorsement of the military-industrial complex) are an obvious choice. We've all seen political ads or even whole movies with obvious political messages. (Indeed, Hollywood is so politicized that it's considered noble to be political, as long as that's a countercultural message; being reactionary, however, is considered ignoble. Since the masses unsurprisingly prefer reactionary movies, this breeds an unwarranted elitist contempt. But I digress.) There's no question that as games become more immersive, more emotionally engaging to the player, they'll become even more attractive to marketers and political messagers.

Indeed, one could imagine a technically sophisticated totalitarian state using games very cynically: depicting the enemy in racial terms, or showing them committing atrocities. (Some would say Duke Nukem already accomplished this ...) As long as the 'dead hand' of the market governs what people are playing, I'm not going to be too concerned about totalitarianism; though I could easily get disturbed if racially-charged games actually became popular.

So, when's the first political campaign with a "Willie Horton" videogame?
posted by dhartung at 6:25 AM on July 27, 2002

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