Editorial: When Is It Okay For A Game To Be Political?
By Jonathan Balofsky On 31 Oct, 2017 At 01:51 PM | Categorized As Editorials, Featured, Opinion, ROG News | With 0 Comments

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In recent years, politics has become a major topic of debate within video games. More specifically, the debate over whether or not politics belong in video games or if games should be apolitical completely. Some say they just want games to be escapism while other feel everything is inherently political and video games are not immune to that. I have thought this over and wish to share my thoughts on this matter.

I believe that when it comes to video games politics do and do not belong, depending on the game. With games such as Metal Gear Solid, politics is woven into its narrative to a large extent and it makes sense there. Likewise, Wolfenstein has received controversy for of all things, having Nazis as villains, and while that controversy is ridiculous, the fact is that Wolfenstein is political by nature by virtue of  being an anti Nazi game. The thing with these games however, is the context and identity of the politics and games, since as mentioned, having a game where you fight against Nazis to take back America cannot not be political.  Games like Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex involves politics as part of their storytelling and would not be the same without them, but in those cases politics is involved from the very beginning. It is not the same as injecting politics into a game later on, where the politics were not part of the game originally

Other companies have made it clear they do not want to bring politics into their games. Nintendo has stated ( as seen here) that they do not wish to bring politics into their games, and that they want them to be for fun and escapism. This is an equally valid approach, because while people can read politics into something like Mario and Donkey Kong, Nintendo did not intend those games to be political games .  While their games can touch on social issues as seen in Fire Emblem, Nintendo and others wish to remain a company that is accessible to all and to not alienate an audience. If one were to make a Mario game that got preachy on political issues, Nintendo would have many upset customers. A Zelda game could touch on it briefly but to make it a major point would again alienate longtime fans because that is not what they have always known the series to be. To claim everything is political is to ignore the fact that many games are simply based on escapism and adventure. Yes they have grown epic in scale and have much larger storylines, but injecting politics into these games would just seem foreign.

But is this debate about politics in video games focusing on something that is truly recent? Many Japanese games such as some of the Japan only Goemon games, touched on the Americanization of Japan. When Poland’s video game industry was really getting started, many games had a political bent such as the sadly unreleased strategy simulation Solidarnosc (Solidarity). The game was based on the solidarity movement that acted as a resistance to the communist authority and would partially be based on resistance leader Lech Walesa. Indeed many former Soviet Bloc countries produced games with an anti-communist message in that time period, which makes sense as the people had just come out of rule by an oppressive communist government. And thi

s isn’t even mentioning American games such as Command and Conquer which would fall into the first category of games that have politics intertwined with their narrative from the beginning.
So what can we conclude from this? Politics are a part of video games, but only when they make sense. To inject politics simply because it is something you believe in, is not a good idea if politics wasn’t a major part of the game originally. Conversely, if the game was political by nature then it makes perfect sense to make political statements. Essentially, context is key for everything. Context and skilled writing will allow any message to get across but it needs to be in the right place as well or the message will simply fail.

I will continue to play games like Wolfenstein and Mario and enjoy both for what they are. I hope you all will do so as well.
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The above was the opinion solely of the author and not necessarily that of Real Otaku Gamer or its staff.

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