One of the calls coming out of GamerGate is for politics get out and stay out of video games.
What would it mean to gaming if there were no more politics in video games? Imagining that we could actually put games in an apolitical box (pro-tip: we can’t), let’s have a look at what gaming would lose. In this case politics is being considered as “political principles or opinions“, “the political opinions or sympathies of a person” and also “relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view”, with only a little bit of the “the art or science of government” definition.
Every Military Shooter Ever is DOA
Games like Battlefield and Call of Duty have soldiers (usually of the US variety) heading into fight off the evil Germans, Russians, Generic Middle Eastern people, Chinese and / or Koreans, depending on the era the game is set in. Sending troops into fight is an intensely political act, which can be seen in recent real-world conflicts. Most military shooters are set up so that there is a ‘good’ side and a ‘bad’ side, so that the ‘good’ US soldiers enter a foreign country and fight off the ‘bad’ side.
Unfortunately, if you are picking a ‘good’ side for a soldier, you are making a judgement call about the values held by each side, which is an agenda. Military Shooters have to go.
Every Current Era and Historical War Game Ever Must Go!
The above extends into other types of war game, like Real Time Strategy games, US Civil War titles, military vehicle sims and so on. Unless these are set up so they exist in completely fictional worlds where armies / vehicles show up to fight just because, politics is injected into the conflict. To quote Clausewitz: “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means“. War and politics are closely intertwined and conflicts can’t be separated from their current or historical context. Maybe some futuristic war titles would be permitted, but only in situations where soldiers fight battles based on no political motivations at all.
(Said futuristic war scenario doesn’t include the Command and Conquer series, which has a basis in modern geopolitical frameworks.)
No More Nazis
National Socialism was a political movement. BAM! GONE FROM GAMING! It’ll mean that the convenient villain punching bag that are Nazis will also have to disappear too, which then includes every game that features such characters.
Bye Bye BioShock
The entire BioShock franchise is filled with agendas, from Objectivism (BioShock) to Socialism (BioShock 2) to theocratic-based American Exceptionalism (BioShock: Infinite). This series judges these -isms to varying degrees, which make them unsuitable for the brave new politics-free world.
SimCity is Destroyed
As pointed out by Errant Signal, the way SimCity suggests you build cities favours particular development approaches around high density urban planning. That’s a political judgement call – one made by government bodies in the real world – and these kind of simulation building games should be removed if they are vulnerable to being politically suggestive about the ‘right’ way to build such things.
Crime and Capitalism
Errant Signal suggests that Grand Theft Auto V has a particularly nihilistic wold view on politics in the modern United States, but the entire GTA series would have to go in an agenda-free world. Given that GTA (and other games of its ilk such as Sleeping Dogs and Saints Row) are focused on illicit activity in pursuit of capitalistic outcomes it wanders into the area of law, which is clearly politically linked.
Laws reflect the values a society holds as important and are constructed through a political process. Games like Police Quest and LA Noir are also gone, since playing as a character who enforces the law ensures the game has a political stance.
Ending Political Favourites
Civilisation has actual government settings like Monarchy and Democracy, with the government setting you choosing having different impacts on a society. It also involves actual political decisions about diplomacy versus warfare and (again, thanks to Errant Signal for this suggestion) has victory conditions that are arguably Western culture centric. If you wanted to get all reductionist, titles like Civilisation are all about politics. Politics is bad for games, so Civ needs to leave.
Fire All The Spies
The Splinter Cell and Metal Gear franchises feature US-trained soldiers sneaking into a variety of areas and sabotaging / stealing information at the behest of their handlers. Given how spying in these cases are politically motivated actions, these titles are no longer appropriate to play if you want agenda-free gaming.
Desmond Can Take A Holiday
The Assassin’s Creed titles feature an over-arching narrative of freedom-focused Assassins versus authoritarian-controllers the Knights Templar / Abstergo. This ongoing conflict is due to these differing political ideologies. Also, the use of historical situations (such as the American Revolution in Assassin’s Creed 3) loads up this franchise with ton of political baggage.
Keep On Running Sonic
When Sonic the Hedgehog was developed, designer Yuji Naka intentionally inserted environmentalist messages into the gameplay, which is why Sonic fights on the side of the natural world versus the polluting industrial work of Dr Robotnik. It’s a blatant agenda.
This Is An Incomplete List
There are lots of other examples that can be made, but my obvious point here is that trying to remove politics and agendas from video games eliminates a lot of classic and well-respected titles. Removing politics from video games actually diminishes the industry.
So let’s not take politics out of video games, okay?