That the left has controlling stock in much of the known mediums in the first world is a given. Turning on the television, or selecting any given movie will likely reward you with a leftist message in some way, shape, or form.
However, the left has had a bit of trouble putting the collar on one avenue of entertaining, and that’s video games. It seems that no matter what it tries, no matter how it comes down on developers, and no matter how many media narratives it creates, it just can’t seem to bring the video game industry completely to heel.
This, in part, is because video games naturally take on a right-leaning stance due to its very nature. Winning is the ultimate goal in games, and to win you usually have to conquer, outwit, out-think, and outmaneuver. Winning has been a staple of games for generations. Games like Monopoly and Risk aside, even lighthearted children’s games like Candy Land requires a winner, which mean there have to be losers.
As I wrote in more detail in 2016, the naturally occurring right-leaning bent within video games has had an interesting effect on the culture. Culture critic Bill Whittle made the prediction that video games would usher in an era where right-leaning thought was far more acceptable. Whittle’s prophecy came true when, in 2014, the gaming community joined together to fight the social justice left which had developed an unethical culture of developers and gaming journalists having an ideological incestuous relationship. Games were often given full attention and raving reviews due to personal relationships ranging from friendly to romantic.
As the hard left fought back against angry gamers and developers who felt they were being shortchanged by this unethical behavior, the social justice left fought back by declaring that the time of gamers were over, and labeled anyone who opposed them as racist, homophobic, and especially misogynist. This kicked off an entire culture war known as “GamerGate,” which saw both the right and the left uniting against the hard left in an effort to bring down the social justice monster that had arisen in their midst.
For more info on GamerGate and the things it accomplished, watch this video.
The finer points of GamerGate are debated, even by those who participated in the movement, however that the right was no longer a dirty word within the gaming community was demonstrably true. Saying someone was “right wing” was no longer a valid point of argument against someone’s reasoning.
This happened, in part, because much of what the social justice left was attacking were things that gamers loved. It was the idea that winning was good, that it’s okay to want to defeat the bad guy, that violence does oftentimes solve problems, that wanting to see sexy women isn’t sexist, and much, much more. GamerGate fought against the idea that something has to be “progressive” to be good or acceptable, and that political correctness often resulted in decay, not acceptance.
In essence, what GamerGate was fighting for outside of its goal of ethics in journalism, was freedom.
Even to this day, social justice warriors and hard left journalists are still incredibly bitter about GamerGate. You’ll see it pop up from time to time in articles discussing gaming culture. One writer from The Guardian named Alfie Bown is one such journalist who recently wrote an article that essentially confirms that the culture war GamerGate diligently fought in 2014 never truly ended.
Bown released an article on Monday titled “Video games are political. Here’s how they can be progressive,” which details how the left can still claim the medium of video games for themselves, just like they did movies and the news media.
Bown laments first that video games aren’t leftist enough despite the fact that some games have left-leaning qualities such as minority characters — he doesn’t explain how having a minority character within a game is left wing — or that Quantum Dream’s Detroit: Become Human tackled the dangers of artificial intelligence — also not sure how it’s left wing — and says that video games are still too right of center:
In short, progressive content is not enough. Wolfenstein might be about killing Nazis, but it gave birth to the first-person shooter genre, in which players often spray bullets in the service of American foreign policy. Civilization and Tropico might allow identification as a socialist state or egalitarian democracy, but they require adherence to the principles of western capitalist empire-building to succeed on gameplay level. Video games communicate ideology at the level of form, and laying a progressive storyline over the top does not necessarily prevent a game from serving rightwing ideas.
Bown’s solution? Insert subtle narratives into video games that make the reader uncomfortable, and force them to view things from a different perspective just like they did with books in the past:
Eventually readers and writers in the early 20th century grasped this, and as literature moved toward modernism, writers realised that the form needed changing – rather than just the content – if literary culture was to become progressive and politically forward-thinking. Modernist novels refused to be comforting, introducing stream-of-consciousness techniques and unreliable narrators that unsettled the reader and made them confront the politics of their own relationship to the text. This kind of shift needs to happen with video games.
Bown either hasn’t been present for the last few decades of gaming history, or his ideological blinders have been screwed on tight. Video games have been introducing new perspectives from radically different characters for so long that I couldn’t remember them all, even if I had an entire week to research it. Even in the game he himself mentioned, Detroit: Become Human, the player is put into the shoes of not one, but three different individuals with different story lines and with different choices to make within them.
Each game can have a radically different protagonist with radically different motives, and you’re set to sympathize with all of them. Halo puts you into the boots of a by-the-book super soldier, whereas the Grand Theft Auto series may put you into the shoes of a black man from a low-income neighborhood, to a retired criminal turned wealthy father. Even some game’s have characters evolve to make you confront what you’ve done before in previous installments of the game, altering the way you view your own decisions like in Mass Effect.
What Bown fails to realize is that seeing something from the perspective of someone else isn’t an inherently left-wing thing, and likely won’t drive someone to join his ranks. If empathy was a solely leftist quality, then Bown and his ilk would have understood why those who participated in the GamerGate movement disliked what the social justice movement was attempting to do to the blue whale of subcultures. They didn’t and signal repeatedly that they still don’t.
But what Bown is suggesting, whether he realizes it or not, is that games should contain more propaganda instead of focusing on interesting story lines driven by great characters. Propaganda cleverly disguised as good story telling can indeed change someone’s outlook on something, but in a medium where the participant is put into the position of having to win the game and overcome obstacles, this may not pan out well.
Remember, this is a game, and games are meant to be won. Social justice is opposed to people overcoming someone else by its very nature, unless those people are a certain color, sexuality, or gender, and that level of obvious racism and sexism leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many. Regardless, it’s not going to stop the hard left from trying to take over the industry and insert every narrative they can into your favorite games. They’ll use every dirty trick in the book to force their way in, and conform video games to fit their ideological purview.
They already have. You can see how it ruins them already just by looking at social justice intrusions on games like Mass Effect: Andromeda, which is heartbreaking, as Mass Effect was one of the greatest franchises the world had ever experienced.
If Whittle’s suggestion that video games do inject a certain amount of right-leaning thought into the culture — and one can easily argue that it does — then we should be jealously guarding the video game industry instead of writing it off as the realm of children and nerds. We should do this, not just because the right should defend its ideologies, but because the difference of thought makes for a better cultural dynamic. Thought diversity makes for a healthier, less prejudiced society. God knows we could use more of that, as the prejudice fueled by the social justice left has gotten to entangled in our society as it is.
Social justice warriors don’t care whether a game is fun or not. Entertainment isn’t the endgame, it’s voluntary obedience and adherence to an ideology that practices control as its solution. If video games are a medium standing in the way of of that, then we should be on the front lines as often as possible to defend the medium.