Culture War in Video Games

 

More than half of American adults — yes, adults — play video games. Many of those “gamers” are playing Mahjong, Sudoku, or crossword puzzles on their phones; so it’s fair to say the statistics are often exaggerated (like calling golf or darts a sport). But since PC and dedicated console gaming picked up in the 1980s and have flourished into an industry rivaling Hollywood revenues and productions (indeed, Hollywood actors now commonly perform in video games), entire generations have grown up with the medium.

Games are just another option beside TV and novels as a way for responsible parents to wind down at night or share entertainment with the kids. And I don’t mean Pac-Man.

Of course, even someone who grew up with video games might prefer other media or interests. But it is increasingly important that conservatives recognize this industry as another influential front in efforts to define the aspirations, expectations, and boundaries of our culture. As with cinema, deliberate decisions are being made to integrate leftwing ideology and political correctness into games.

This industry is as uniform as Hollywood in its assumptions, its goals, and its willingness to defy a majority of consumers in “representation” of leftist fashions and exclusion of contrary ideas. California is the heart of game development, with satellites typically based in leftwing cities like Austin or Paris. Game journalism is similarly monolithic in regard to the major corporations like IGN, Gamespot, Kotaku, and Game Informer; though there is some dissent among smaller blogs and video channels.

As in TV shows, there has long been a push in games toward more gay romance subplots and more female protagonists. “Pride” flags are offered to players as free cosmetic additions within many games even when nearly all other cosmetics must be purchased.

This month, Black Lives Matter banners have been included on many in-game greeting pages. Microsoft has a reward points system with options to donate the cash value to one of a handful of left-wing charities. Black Lives Matter was added among those groups for donations and advertised on the Xbox home screen to millions of gamers. Seemingly every gaming news organization invited token blacks (even if some guests proved astute and enjoyable) to join their podcasts and other content. Sony and Microsoft delayed their biggest marketing events of the year to give BLM the spotlight.

Reactions to political fads and offense culture sometimes take the form of sudden changes to game content. The developer Infinity Ward, owned by publishing giant Activision, recently altered a Border Patrol optional outfit in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare from the description “Show them the error of their ways and make them pay with D-Day’s Border War operator skin” to “Play along with the deer and the antelope with the Home on the Range D-Day operator skin.” Journalists roundly agreed that Border Patrol agents are not respectable and that the former description applauded violence against immigrants rather than cartels.

Years ago, Marcus “Notch” Persson, the legendary developer of Minecraft — a game every kid today knows, which was purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion — was scrubbed from the credits of his own creation after publicly questioning radical feminism, gay politics, and anti-white bigotry. That was before “cancel culture” entered common terminology. Do Hollywood studios alter movie credits to erase writers or directors?

Watch Dogs: Legion is among the more anticipated blockbuster (or “triple A”) games due later this year. The gameplay is impressive in many regards, not least in its photorealistic layout of London and an innovative “Play As Anyone” system that lets the player choose almost any person roaming the city to be among one’s team of protagonists.

But then there’s the setting. I honestly wouldn’t mind if developers and journalists alike didn’t consistently remark on how “familiar” the game’s vision of a post-Brexit dystopian London seems. Here is the cinematic trailer.

Socialist and revolutionary themes are popping up in several games this year. Cyberpunk 2077, arguably the most anticipated game of the year (and rightly so) is set in another near-future sci-fi dystopia that imagines corporations as the primary villains. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard game journalists working for corporations comment on the evil of corporations.

Character customization in Cyberpunk 2077 will extend to choice of genitals. When the crossdressing fad rose to prominence, Polish developer CD Projekt Red leapt to assure gamers that transvestites would be included as a character option, complete with mix-and-match body options.

Hopefully, that gives the non-gamers among you some idea of the cultural winds permeating every branch of art and entertainment.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aaron Miller: Do Hollywood studios alter movie credits to erase writers or directors? 

    Shhh! Don’t give the Comintern ideas.

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aaron Miller: When the crossdressing fad rose to prominence, Polish developer CD Projekt Red leapt to assure gamers that transvestites would be included as a character option, complete with mix-and-match body options.

    So I married Setsuna in my Birthright file... - Fire ...

    • #2
  3. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    Thanks Aaron for the glimpse into a world I know nothing about. I played Crash  Bandicoot? once on someone’s PlayStation in my early 20’s and that was enough for me.

    • #3
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Character customization in Cyberpunk 2077 will extend to choice of genitals. When the crossdressing fad rose to prominence, Polish developer CD Projekt Red leapt to assure gamers that transvestites would be included as a character option, complete with mix-and-match body options. 

    Are Octopi genitals allowed?

    • #4
  5. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Character customization in Cyberpunk 2077 will extend to choice of genitals. When the crossdressing fad rose to prominence, Polish developer CD Projekt Red leapt to assure gamers that transvestites would be included as a character option, complete with mix-and-match body options.

    Are Octopi genitals allowed?

    If Cthulu is included in the fictional lore, it’s a possibility. This is a world with extensive bionics and cybernetics. 

    • #5
  6. MeandurΦ Member
    MeandurΦ
    @DeanMurphy

    Say the name: Notch.

    good article.

    • #6
  7. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    MeandurΦ (View Comment):

    Say the name: Notch.

    good article.

    You’re right. Updated.

    • #7
  8. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Isn’t participating on Ricochet a video game for adults?

    • #8
  9. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Every conservative should know ‘what a Gamergate is’.

    • #9
  10. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Aaron Miller:

    Socialist and revolutionary themes are popping up in several games this year. Cyberpunk 2077, arguably the most anticipated game of the year (and rightly so) is set in another near-future sci-fi dystopia that imagines corporations as the primary villains. 

    Honestly, conservatives have our own reasons to view this as a realistic scenario, now.

     

     

    • #10
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I’m absolutely fascinated by the world of modern video games.  In the TV ads, it looks like you’re playing a movie.  The potential there is extraordinary.  Limitless, really.

    But I’ve never tried one.  I can’t watch TV – I get bored and restless before the end of the show.  I wonder if video games might capture my interest more, because I’m participating?  

    I don’t know.  But maybe someday I’ll give it a try.

    I wouldn’t know where to begin, though.  Video games are a big, complicated, overwhelming world to an outsider.

    • #11
  12. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    @aaronmiller, once my husband stops playing his video game this morning, I’m going to have him read this and give his input. This is a sore spot for him and other gamers (there are numerous YouTube videos about it). Even Andrew Klavan did a video about the new “Last of Us” game. We enjoyed the story in the first one and were looking forward to the new one, but we won’t be purchasing it. I’ll try to find the video and place a link. 

    • #12
  13. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Klavan’s review

    • #13
  14. Goyacon Member
    Goyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I’ve already forgotten what “Gamergate” was, but seem to recall it was an early foray into the culture wars of today, as well one of the birthplaces of the “alt-right” (before that term ceased to have meaning).

    Golf is a sport.

    • #14
  15. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Very interesting Aaron.  As someone whose “gaming” experience doesn’t extend beyond a game of Pong at the college bar, it gives me an interesting look at a phenomenon that passed me by.

     

    • #15
  16. ChefSly - Super Kit Member
    ChefSly - Super Kit
    @MrAmy

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):
    I wouldn’t know where to begin, though. Video games are a big, complicated, overwhelming world to an outsider.

    • #16
  17. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    Every conservative should know ‘what a Gamergate is’.

    Even I never fully understood the Gamergate controversy because there were multiple and seemingly separate issues involved. But the way I would describe it:

    It started when gamers learned that game developers and game journalists sometimes had very close, even romantic, relationships and that game publishers were trying to skew product reviews by lavishing journalists with gifts. That’s a danger with hazy boundaries in any industry, but especially in artistic industries that treat creators as celebrities.

    Sometimes developers become journalists and vice versa. I maintained a blog about game design for years. It never had a large following but attracted some professional developers and eventually prompted EA (Electronic Arts — one of the largest game publishers) to designate me an “influencer”. In addition to review copies, I sometimes received a small gift like a Zippo replica of a lighter commemorating 1940s racecars. A gaming chair company offered me one for free to review or to give away (which I did in a contest). Later, I briefly worked for a game developer as a writer and blogger.

    So I’m familiar with the revolving door, which isn’t necessarily bad. To EA’s credit, they continued to provide demos after I gave one game a middling review score and couldn’t finish another when my Xbox 360 console died (as many did).

    Anyway, Gamergate. Widespread anger over the reviews and previews process led to criticisms about other industry problems — chiefly, increasing political correctness. The FPS (First-Person Shooter) and RTS (Real-Time Strategy) genres especially are popular among conservative gamers.

    Undoubtedly, many complaints crossed the line into personal attacks. Social media then, as today, sometimes favored the most unreasonable and hateful people. But the gaming industry responded as leftists always do, dismissing the reasonable majority by portraying them all as just a bunch of ignorant bigots.

    Game journalists attempted to regain credibility by being more open about favors from publishers and refusing some gifts. But they didn’t budge an inch on political correctness.

    The game industry still regards half of people in Western nations and most people worldwide as ignorant bigots. As with Hollywood, it doesn’t seem to impact sales very often because they have a captive audience.

    • #17
  18. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    I wouldn’t know where to begin, though. 

    Tetris. 

     

    • #18
  19. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Aaron Miller: Years ago, Marcus “Notch” Persson, the legendary developer of Minecraft — a game every kid today knows, which was purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion — was scrubbed from the credits of his own creation after publicly questioning radical feminism, gay politics, and anti-white bigotry.

    In a related story,  social justice warriors are demanding the Mona Lisa be taken down from view until Da Vinci’s signature is scrubbed from the painting.  “Da Vinci was a sexist, racist, and homophobe,” said leftist SJW Nota Klu at a press conference held in the Louvre’s designated “protest zone.”

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    Isn’t participating on Ricochet a video game for adults?

    I suspect so.

    • #20
  21. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    @drbastiat

    TV and cinema are passive entertainment. You might actively try to anticipate where the plot is going, but you basically just receive a fixed linear narrative.

    Video games often involve cinematic intermissions or on-rails segments. Some popular ones are even more movie than game, focusing on branching narratives that proceed from player choices… like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. But gameplay is essentially interactive. The player participates as actor and director of the experience within an elaborate setting. 

    Therefore, absolutely, games can likely hold your attention where movies can’t. 

    But there is even more variety of games than variety of films. Finding the styles that suit you can take time. And non-gamers often have difficulty with the complicated controls of genres they might otherwise enjoy. First-person action games, for example, require simultaneous control of character movement and “camera” (vision) control via two thumbsticks. 

    Academic game theorist Richard Bartle once divided gamers into prioritized interests, now referred to as Bartle types. These interests are action, achievement, exploration, and socialization. Achievement and socialization are the most common priorities of gamers on any platform.

    I’m more oriented to exploration and action. So for me this is a golden age of “open world” games like Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (the ancient Greece game in the above video), and The Witcher 3. Narrative-oriented gamers are frustrated by the incredible scope of such games because they want a plot they can quickly finish. Social players prefer multiplayer games. 

    Because I helped in early testing and was the first player to die, my Xbox gamertag was honored with an “easter egg” (in-game memorial) in the pirate game Sea of Thieves. That multiplayer game is socially oriented. I liken it to a pub in which friends and strangers gather to enjoy each other’s company while sharing activities that sometimes take the background and sometimes the foreground. It’s a social lubricant, you might say, like a room with billiards, darts, and ping-pong tables. But instead of throwing darts, you fire cannonballs at each other, fight off living skeletons, and try not to be sunk by the kraken! 

    If you can estimate which of those Bartle type interests most fit your personality (they seem to correspond to real-world interests), the gamers here on Ricochet might be able to guide you to a good starting point.

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    I just started playing the original Bioshock game.  The derogatory allusions to Ayn Rand are pretty annoying, but the gameplay is so dang good!

    • #22
  23. Goyacon Member
    Goyacon
    @Hoyacon

    The last game that I played with any regularity was Doom.

    In my present incarnation as a senior, I find that I just don’t have the manual dexterity required.

    I also used to be into those puzzle games where you’d follow clues, etc, but they got a bit boring.

    • #23
  24. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Goyacon (View Comment):

    The last game that I played with any regularity was Doom.

    In my present incarnation as a senior, I find that I just don’t have the manual dexterity required.

    I also used to be into those puzzle games where you’d follow clues, etc, but they got a bit boring.

    Have you tried the Civilization series?  No manual dexterity needed!

    • #24
  25. Goyacon Member
    Goyacon
    @Hoyacon

    lowtech redneck (View Comment):

    Goyacon (View Comment):

    The last game that I played with any regularity was Doom.

    In my present incarnation as a senior, I find that I just don’t have the manual dexterity required.

    I also used to be into those puzzle games where you’d follow clues, etc, but they got a bit boring.

    Have you tried the Civilization series? No manual dexterity needed!

    I’ve considered it any number of times and may go there.   I never really liked Sim City (or whatever it was called) and that’s held me back.

     

    • #25
  26. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    maybe someday I’ll give it a try.

    I wouldn’t know where to begin, though. Video games are a big, complicated, overwhelming world to an outsider.

    Buckpasser (View Comment):

    In addition to free phone/tablet games (like WordScapes, Angry Birds, Hitman: Sniper, Hungry Shark, or Fallout Shelter), there are some large PC games currently available for free.

    Watch Dogs 2 involves an annoying “hacktivist” culture, but is impressive in many regards. It’s an “open world” game set in San Francisco. You could ignore the narrative and gameplay loop by just wandering around the city or taking the cars for a spin. Ubisoft is temporarily offering the PC version for free in anticipation of the next Watch Dogs game. Just make a free Ubisoft account and go here to claim the game.

    Or in the next week you can start a free account at Epic’s game store and claim Torchlight 2 for free. That game involves simpler controls, but it has a AAA game’s breadth and depth. It’s what we call an isometric dungeon crawler. That means it has a top-down camera perspective and involves battling monsters for loot. You kill a beast. It drops a new sword, axe, or armor piece. That enables you to fight tougher beasts. Rinse, repeat.

    Some people love that sort of gameplay, and the setting is much lighter than that of the more popular Diablo series (about battling demons). Incidentally, Diablo co-creator Bill Roper once said they chose that dark setting because killing demons seemed less objectionable than fighting human beings.

    • #26
  27. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    This one’s for @arahant .

    The upcoming Assassin’s Creed game, Valhalla, is set in England during the viking invasion. One historical element Ubisoft has included is “flyting” — a type of “rap battle” in which two opponents (usually drunk) insult each other in poetic verse while onlookers decide who did it best. 

    • #27
  28. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    If you can estimate which of those Bartle type interests most fit your personality (they seem to correspond to real-world interests), the gamers here on Ricochet might be able to guide you to a good starting point.

    Aaron, thanks!  I may take you up on that!

    • #28
  29. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    The upcoming Assassin’s Creed game, Valhalla, is set in England during the viking invasion. One historical element Ubisoft has included is “flyting” — a type of “rap battle” in which two opponents (usually drunk) insult each other in poetic verse while onlookers decide who did it best. 

    Which is funny, since “flyting” is a Scots’ word. Also, there is this:

    • #29
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    And @jacksoncrawford is a Ricochet member.

     

    • #30
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