How the world of video games participates in the isolation of Russia

How the world of video games participates in the isolation of Russia

The Western video game industry appears to be united in condemning the Russian aggression of Ukraine. Since the outbreak of the war, there has been no shortage of initiatives in this regard, as well as official positions, even very harsh ones, with the blocking of the sale of many videogame and technological products in Russian territory. But can these moves really have an impact? Are we sure that cultural isolation is the right answer in such cases? Why is it increasingly clear that for many companies it is not possible to do otherwise? Let's figure it out.

The first skirmish

Battlefield 2042 was criticized for a skin related to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict The world of video games was not completely impervious to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict before of the deflagration of the same. No software house had intervened on the subject, but a small accident had injected a bit of reality into our environment made above all of dreams and illusions. In November 2021, a controversy broke out over the inclusion of a Little Green Man skin in Battlefield 2042, removed from the game after protests by Ukrainian players. As we explained at the time: "Little Green Man was the name commonly used by the media to identify the Russian soldiers who were sent in 2014 to take control of Crimea, in the operation which later resulted in a war between the Russian and the Ukraine. . The first soldiers sent were characterized by an anonymous green uniform without particular distinguishing marks and often with a covered face. "

For many Ukrainians it was like sprinkling salt on an open wound, finding themselves fighting real enemies in a virtual world. SAYS of him simply showed a certain historical insensitivity, without wanting to cause any harm or offend anyone, in inserting that skin. For the developers it was just an extra piece of content to sell to fans. But in this case ignorance is no justification. However, the Ukrainians' complaints made it clear that the imaginary had exceeded the limit of what was allowed, overlapping with something that was still in the making and that had not been elaborated by the locals, historically speaking.

The Russo-Ukrainian War

At the end of February the war really broke out. The isolated skirmishes of the previous months turned into an attempted military occupation, with bombing and the dispatch of ground troops. To sum it up: Russia has decided to invade Ukraine to avoid a further eastward enlargement of NATO. In reality, the situation is much more complex than this and affects the relations that have always existed between the Ukrainian and Russian territories, which cannot be summarized in a few lines and cannot be reduced to what partisan propaganda would like. If you want to learn more, we recommend reading "History of Ukraine. From ancient times to today" by Massimo Vassallo, or "History and geopolitics of the Ukrainian crisis. From Kievan Rus' to today" by Giorgio Cella. If desired, a book more centered on the conflict is also on the way: "Ukraine. The war that wasn't there" by Andrea Sceresini and Lorenzo Giroffi, which will be available from March 15, 2022. However, we cannot guarantee the validity of the latter. .

Solidarity initiatives

Naturally the conflict also involved the software houses in the area, which were the first to appeal to the world of video games to give a signal. GSC Game Worlds, Frogwares, Vostok Games, 4A Games and all the other developers in the area have taken a stand, all announcing the postponement or even the temporary blocking of their projects in development. Then the commendable solidarity initiatives began, which saw the participation of developers, digital shops and the press (including sportsgaming.win), up to the recent launch of the bundle for Ukraine on itch.io which saw the involvement of hundreds of developers and which so far has managed to raise several million dollars, thanks to tens of thousands of offers, to be donated to charities in Ukraine.

This War of Mine: developers actively supported the Ukrainian Red Cross To name other individual initiatives in no particular order, think of the proceeds from sales of This War of Mine donated to the Red Cross, or those of some graphic adventures by Amanita Design who found the same destination, eventually raising more than $ 20,000. CD Projekt of his own has donated $ 200,000 for humanitarian aid, as well as supporting through GOG all the studies involved in charitable initiatives, giving up his share of the proceeds.

The block of the imagination

No more Russian players in FIFA 22 Beyond the initiatives taken by small companies, the moves of industry giants such as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, which have effectively closed their digital stores to the Russian market, have made a lot of noise. The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov first appealed to the big names in the industry, who officially asked PlayStation, Xbox and all the companies that deal with esports and video games, to block their activities on the Russian market, as well as the freezing of Russian user accounts on various proprietary platforms. The appeal was welcomed by several companies, which have begun to make a scorched earth around videogame Russia. For example, GOG has blocked the sale of games on Russian territory, as has Epic Games Store which has done the same, while guaranteeing Russians access to the servers of various games, such as Fortnite. So did Electronic Arts, which blocked the sale of games in Russia and Belarus and, even more dramatically, wiped Russia out of FIFA, eliminating players and teams from FUT.

Nintendo of its own was forced to close the eShop, due to the blocking of payment methods used throughout the territory. Finally, Sony and Microsoft have also started to stop selling their products. In reality, the entire tech industry, both Western and Asian, has taken to align itself with the sanctions imposed by the US and Europe on Russia.

The objective of these moves is quite clear: to isolate the Russians not only economically, but also in the imagination. Make them understand the point of view of the West by marginalizing them in recreational activities and making it impossible for them to do what they did quietly until before the war. If we want it is a form of destabilization of the population, which seeks to increase internal discontent, in order to increase the pressure on the top of the central state. It is also a way for large companies to align themselves with the Western view on the conflict, showing which side they are on, sacrificing part of their revenues. These are moves that not only have an economic and political value, but also a social one, because non-adherents would be put in a bad light and would have a big backlash from the point of view of the image, especially among the fringes of the population more polarized in judgment on responsibility for the conflict. Selling products to Russians would in fact be seen as a form of support for them, or at least indifference to the Ukrainian drama, despite the Russian population having no direct responsibility in the affair.

The big names in industry have taken a position in the conflict It remains to be seen whether this form of cultural isolation, which has also fomented a certain desire to cancel everything Russian in the West (see the Bicocca case which ended up blocking a conference of Paolo Nori on F√ędor Dostoevskij), as a tribal / symbolic act, really serves the Russians or the Ukrainians, or does not risk producing a further radicalization of the positions on the field, stimulating the besieged, in this case by the cultural point of view, a reaction exactly contrary to that hoped for. History should have taught us that those who are attacked hardly turn the other cheek, but tend to defend themselves as best they can. This is true both from a military, economic and cultural point of view. After all, even remaining inert is not a solution. In any case, it is really too early to assess the consequences of certain acts, which will certainly have long-term repercussions and alter the relations of the West with Russia, even at a simply videogame level.

The declared objective is to try to favor the end of the war, multiplying the pressure on Putin 's Russia, but the propaganda could turn it around to his advantage, using it as a demonstration of the legitimacy of the conflict itself. The situation is all still unfolding.

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