Column: Military shooters are political games! (with video)

Column: Military shooters are political games! (with video)


Highwire Games recently caused confusion in the gaming community with strange statements regarding their military shooter Six Days in Fallujah. The studio, which, according to its own statements, has set itself the task of making the real horror of the Iraq war tangible in the game, involved contemporary witnesses and participants from the military and the civil sector in the development. Despite this claim to realism (as described on the developer side) and the viewing of events through the lens of the military and their relatives, Peter Tamte, CEO of Six Days In Fallujah publisher Victura, claimed the team in an interview with Polygon would not have a political agenda. The game does not contain a political statement and the depiction of the war is also completely non-political. It would only be about the realistic representation of urban warfare and the honoring of American veterans, which, by the way, are realistically depicted in the game on the basis of photos.

Recommended editorial content Here you will find external content from [PLATFORM]. To protect your personal data, external integrations are only displayed if you confirm this by clicking on "Load all external content": Load all external content I consent to external content being displayed to me. This means that personal data is transmitted to third-party platforms. Read more about our privacy policy . External content More on this in our data protection declaration. Although Tamte has since withdrawn his statements, he is by no means the first spokesman for the video game industry to deny that a military shooter is inherently political about armed conflict on the basis of conflicting geopolitical interests.

Since I believe that it is impossible to make such a game without entering political terrain, I took a look at exactly how publishers are trying to sell their military games as non-political and are trying to To find counter-arguments for this representation.

Table of contents

1 What war crimes? Goodbye to "political" content! 2 unrelated topics? 3 statements, only if they are vague

What war crimes? Goodbye "political" content!

At least in the case of Six Days in Fallujah, the bullshit is easy to identify as such. The game sheds light on the actual operations carried out in Fallujah from the perspective of the Marines, with whom it was previously spoken for research purposes. Her depicted moments of heroism all find their way into the game. The representation of war crimes committed by the Americans in the region against opposing armed forces, prisoners and the civilian population is completely omitted. According to Tamtes, the team decided against discussing the use of white phosphorus, as many of the respondents denied that such a thing had ever taken place.

Six Days in Fallujah was announced in 2009. Source: The omission of the war crimes is definitely a statement as to whether the developers want to see it or not. The weakening or distortion of the scenarios in order to make them less of a hot topic is also a politically motivated intervention. Which should be clearly evident to every sensible person. Nevertheless, such changes are usually sold under the banner that one does not want to position oneself or offend players with different views. The military shooter Call Of Duty: WWII shows that something like this can also take on completely bizarre traits.

In the game, in the multiplayer mode on the Axis side, we don't encounter fascists, but, according to the developers, simply soldiers in the service of the armed forces. If you go into battle for the Germans, you do not create your own personal Nazi, in whose skin you then shoot allied troops, but a completely neutral soldier whose skin color you can determine yourself. Absolutely every person should feel represented in multiplayer, regardless of which side they play on.

On the one hand, I understand the argument that it is of course problematic to give players Nazi insignia for decoration and no extreme reactions are to be expected. First, you are practically forcing people to step into the shoes of people whose ideology and actions are despicable. And secondly, those who might even find this performance awesome are given a platform to act out their fantasies.

To completely remove the historical context, however, is also questionable. Infinity Ward has changed the parameters in such a way that theoretically everyone can feel welcome and represented on the German side. But should that be the case? Should I actually feel comfortable going into battle with the Wehrmacht at the side of my dark-skinned comrades against the French resistance, even if I know the actual historical context?

Created in the multiplayer of CoD: WW2 you a pawn that is used for both the Allies and the Germans. Source: Sledgehammer Games The multiplayer mode in a military shooter is of course not a documentation, but rather reminds of the historical reenactments of battles that are so popular in the USA. Nevertheless, the question arises to me: Why do I specifically use World War II as the setting when the context of the battles is uncomfortable for me? If you just want to play around with old-fashioned war machinery, you certainly have no problem if the historical background is completely swapped for a diesel punk-like fantasy setting. Very few would protest against playing a terrorist in Counter Strike or a Sith Lord in Star Wars. So why not just invent factions?

Even if the context in the multiplayer is completely in the background: To let the 2nd World War take place without Nazis, in order to make both sides equally attractive, at least has a strange aftertaste and is certainly not apolitical.

Unrelated topics?

But what about shooters in which the conflict is actually fictional?

Developers often emphasize that their campaigns are not to be understood as political statements because the characters have no real equivalent World.

For example, Taylor Kurosaki from Call-Of-Duty developer Infinity Ward asserted that Modern Warfare (2019) cannot be political at all because the governments, parties and conflicts depicted in the game are not exactly those of the Reflect reality. Instead, the story revolves around "thematic things" that have nothing to do with a particular war. You could put the same story in any other war and it wouldn't make a difference, Kurosaki said. It is proven that the developers of Call of Duty for their Modern Warfare reboot were inspired by the civil war in Syria and the Iraq war. That doesn't have to mean that the game is a commentary on these events. Nevertheless, the representation undoubtedly brings back memories of reality. And the actions shown naturally also have a similar context within the game.

Modern Warfare (2019) Source: PC Games Hardware

Publishers love to assert that the advertised product has no relation to the current political situation, regardless of whether the "thematic things" are particularly relevant today or not. The events in Robocop or John Carpenters You Live never happened that way either. If someone were to claim that the films were therefore apolitical, they would probably receive little approval for them.

The military shooter Spec Ops: The Line also depicts a fictional conflict that takes place in Dubai. The developers of Yager Development consciously tell a political story, which is based in part on Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, which also served as a template for Apocalypse Now and deals with the loss of humanity in war. The relocation of the novella about the barbarism of colonization to the time of the Vietnam War or, in the case of Spec Ops, to a desert area inevitably evokes images of real conflicts in the audience. And just because, unlike, for example, in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, there is no fanfiction version of Ronald Reagan running through the picture, that does not mean that the creators are not making a statement on the nature of the war and current references.

Recommended editorial content At this point you will find external content from [PLATTFORM]. To protect your personal data, external integrations are only displayed if you confirm this by clicking on "Load all external content": Load all external content I consent to external content being displayed to me. This means that personal data is transmitted to third-party platforms. Read more about our privacy policy . External content More on this in our data protection declaration. Even the statement that the games contained political topics, but could not be pushed into a political corner, is absolute nonsense. Take Ubisoft's Tom Clancy games, for example. An author whose works are assigned to the political thriller genre and who has never made a secret of his conservative views is suddenly used here as a template for video games such as The Division, which supposedly can no longer be classified politically. In Division 2, various groups are fighting for supremacy in Washington DC, but in an interview with Polygon, Creative Director Terry Spier claimed that it was just a matter of visiting a new map.

The reasons why the The game industry is so afraid that its products or the statements contained therein will be recognized as politically conservative, liberal, left, anarchist, communist or something else are relatively clear. Potential buyers could be deterred from buying the product if the expressed point of view is not their own.

That is why this point of view is expressed anyway.

The Division contains conservative ideas. Likewise Call of Duty. And that's so obvious that the makers can admit it. I don't even want to begin with the fact that the publishers of various military shooters are also connected to the arms industry and support it with advertising for their products and payments for realistic weapon models (selection of articles on the subject of video games and weapons: Eurogamer, NPR, The Atlantic).

Statements, only if they are vague

This topic gets on my nerves because at some point I can no longer hear the same vague statements. It's not just the video game industry that constantly fools you and tries to interpret the word "political" as a swear word that goes against the interests of "true gamers".

The other day, for example, the actress became Gina Carano from The Mandalorian was dismissed from Disney because of an at least implicit comparison between people with right-wing conservative views in today's USA and Jews in the Third Reich. Shortly afterwards, CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement that the dismissal was not politically motivated, that Disney sees itself as neither right nor left on the political spectrum and that the statements simply violated the universal values ​​of respect, decency, integrity and inclusion. A hammered statement, if especially the latter is definitely not a universal value, but a political issue. And what exactly you mean by integrity and decency depends heavily on your own point of view (with regard to James Gunn's Twitter account, the one from Disney even switched back and forth).

Gina Carano Source: Disney

It may be that Carano's statements would also have led to her dismissal if she came from another political corner. Even so, the decision to fire them is politically charged. And the statement that you are politically neither left nor right is completely irrelevant. Most people do. You can have different opinions on different points and many arguments cannot be comfortably positioned in a straight line. Categorically staying out of all topics is also standing up for the status quo and just as much a point of view as calling for change.

I am not a believer in the philosophy that absolutely everything is political. But firing an employee for tasteless tweets or developing a video game in which a government-loyal law enforcement officer shoots left-wing ecoterrorists or goes into a war of aggression as a soldier is definitely it. Or what do you think?

Sources: Polygon, Gamespot, PCGamer, Forbes

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