Friday, October 14, 2005

Political Gaming

this article (thats to my good friend, Da Cuzco, for allowing me to reproduce it here) is about politics inside of games.

Over the years, gaming has been rapidly evolving. With each new generation of consoles, we see improved graphics, storylines and depth. As these aspects of gaming improve, developers and writers have unlocked the potential to lend more of their own opinions and ideas to a game in way of character personalities and plots. In other words, while you can't really display any sort of opinions through Pong, you can easily send an anti-war message through a new WWII game. With increased realism, developers have been making great games based loosely around modern events, in which they can easily display personal political and worldly views. There are many examples of this, but I'd like to provide two very opposite examples in this article: Nintendo's bestseller Resident Evil 4, and the fairly underrated game Destroy All Humans. With both games, I'll point out where the political bias can be found and how the developers are able to put it in the game without pissing everyone off with an overload of propaganda.

Resident Evil 4? Huh, wha? Yep, believe it or not, RE4 has quite a bit of political bias in it, though it can be tough to spot unless you're really looking for it. I'm going to assume most people reading this site are pretty familiar with the story, but here's the quick version for those of you who are not:

Leon S. Kennedy is working for the US Government and has been assigned to search for the president's missing daughter. A lead sends him to a tiny European village out in the middle of nowhere. When he gets there, he's greeted by blood-crazed homicidal villagers. Things get worse when your typical Resident Evil monsters and mysterious shadowy figures start showing up. As Leon continues to investigate the situation, a vast anti-American terrorist cult group is uncovered. Lead by Lord Saddler, Salazar, and Krauser, they intend on turning the United States in to the hell the tiny village has become. Take over the world, blah blah, Leon saves the day, the end. You get the idea.

So what? It sounds like the typical action/Resident Evil/kill everything that moves game, right? Well, sort of. When you have a game with a story like that, politics kind of comes with the whole package.

Leon: What do you intend to do by restoring Umbrella?
Krauser: To bring order and balance to this insane world of ours.
Leon: A psycho like you can't bring order or balance.
Krauser: You don't think a conservative mind can chart a new course for the world, do you?

Leon (Not only in RE4, but also RE2) has always had a strong sense of duty and loyalty to his country and job. He knows what he believes in and nothing changes that. He's basically a pretty conservative guy. Then, on the other hand, we have our bad guys that you're not supposed to like. Their ideas of a world of "puppets" can be viewed as almost a messed up version of Communism. In short, though, they're cultist and terrorists; super extreme liberals to say the least.

Salazar: The sacred rite that is about to begin at this tower will bestow the girl with magnificent power. She will join us, become one of us.
Leon: This is no ritual, this is terrorism.
Salazar: My, isn't that a popular word these days? Not to worry, we've prepared a special ritual just for you.

The makers of the game can't make you hate certain political views, but if they make the views a tad more extreme and give them to characters who are complete assholes... Yeah, you get the idea. You hate the character, so you hate everything they stand for. Then, if you stop and think about what they actually are standing for, you realize that there are people in this world who think almost exactly the same way. Tone those ideas down a bit and you'll see that quite a bit of people, some even major political figures, have similar views.

Leon: What's so funny?
Saddler: Oh, I think you know. The American prevailing is a cliché
that only happens in your Hollywood movies. Mr. Kennedy, you entertain me. To show my appreciation, I will help you awaken from your world of clichés.

As the story develops, more and more small political hints sneak their way in to the story through cut-scenes and items found. These things come in such small subtle doses, that the average gamer might never pick up on them unless they were actually looking. While the message can be effective if you want it to be, those who don't care about politics will probably never notice. The writers and developers did an excellent job of stating their opinion without making it overpowering and altering the overall game.

Well, that pretty much covers RE4. Now, we have Destroy All Humans. Unlike RE4, the bias is not as difficult to find or as hidden. Everything about the bias in this game is far from similar to RE4.

Destroy All Humans takes place in 1950's America. Kind of a Leave It to Beaver type setting. Highly intelligent aliens who have lost the ability to reproduce need human DNA to continue cloning each other. They come to earth to steal human brains, then kill as many people as possible... sort of... These aliens aren't exactly what you'd consider killing machines.

Unlike RE4 which hides the limited bias, DAH makes the bias very well known. But then how do they game makers get away with it? Simple: comedy.

Cyrptosporidium: But they're covered with nipples!

This game has more political jokes than a bad late night talk show. Not that it's a bad thing, though. Most people, especially ones who would pick this game up, have a good sense of humor when it comes to the material found in this game. Plus, they use the political cracks in moderation, so you don't get sick of overdone propaganda.

Silhouette: Fool... do you think America is the only civilization on this planet?
Cyrptosporidium: Well, all the Americans seem to think so.

A horde of invading aliens isn't a group you'd expect to be patriotic or anything like that. This game is no different. However, the way this game differs is that you're on the side of the aliens. The aliens are viewed as the "good guys" and you want them to win. Remember what I said about the characters in RE4? The same goes for this game. So, you've probably guessed the political standing of the ones trying to stop you. Yep, the big bad republican scientist is doing his best to cover up any signs of alien invasion throughout the game, leaving the innocent, stupid American public in the dark.

Overall, DAH does come across as a lot more political than RE4. While RE4 could have easily been just as amazing without any political opinions thrown in, DAH would have taken a major blow to its humorous storyline without the running political commentary.

Soldier: Boy, I wish I’d been put in the Texas Air National Guard. We all know that’s easy.

Two good games, almost complete opposites, yet both affected by political bias. With more ways to voice opinions through games, developers are taking full advantage of the opportunities provided. Conservative and liberal ideals alike are being fed to us in new ways some would never expect. While, in a way, making certain games more realistic, do we really care about the opinions of those making today's games?

To see the actual article (even though this is a full replica, Ctrl+C Ctrl+V), click here.


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