Video games: the latest weapon in the culture wars

The game is bigger than ever. With hardcore fans paying up to $70 per person for games with budgets over $200 million, the video game industry is now bigger than the film and music industries combined. Video games have been particularly boosted by the lockdown, with gamers escaping the confines of their homes into immersive fantasy worlds in ever greater numbers.

But like much of our cultural life, the video game industry is now under increasing ideological pressure. Top industry officials and journalists see the gamers less as fun-loving amateurs and more like an uncompromising army of reactionary white men in need of moral correction.

A title that embodies this trend is Naughty Dog’s The last of us. This action-adventure game was widely acclaimed when it was released in 2013 for its beautiful, immersive graphics and gripping story. After his own daughter is killed in a zombie apocalypse, player-character Joel must go to great lengths to protect Ellie, a girl immune to the disease that turns people into zombies. Joel and Ellie travel across the United States, hoping to use her immunity to find a cure. The story was praised at the time for being “overwhelming and beautifully real” and for presenting masculinity in a positive light. Flawed but stoic, Joel immediately became a fan favorite.

Fast forward seven years to the long-awaited The Last of Us Part II, and Joel is killed early in the game by a new character, Abby, who is trans. “You stupid old man,” she says, as she beats him to death with a golf club – a metaphor for the culture wars if there ever was one.

Fans were understandably unhappy with this callous treatment of a much-loved hero. The gaming press, however, simply dismissed fan criticism as “ignorant hate” and accused them of disliking the “focus on LGBTQ characters and storylines” – we’ll also learn later that Ellie is gay. Even the president of Sony Entertainment, which produces Playstation consoles and publishes The last of uswas quick to call the ventilators “toxic”.

Woke ideology even makes its way into first-person shooter action titles, which stand out for their realistic violence and strict age ratings. Electronic Arts Game 2018, Battlefield V, a first-person shooter set during World War II, caused a backlash among fans after it featured a female soldier in marketing, including on the game’s cover. given that the overwhelming majority of those who fought and died in World War II were men. As usual, the industry was quick to accuse fans of “misogyny.” One reviewer could barely hide his contempt for the fans, calling them “angry young white men.”

It seems that all areas of culture – even video games about war – need to promote an awakened worldview.

You can see this change in Activision’s marketing Call of Duty series. In 2010, the advertising campaign for Black Ops went with the line, ‘There’s a soldier in all of us’. Today, as a rap-filled, sports-car-filled trailer for the highly anticipated modern warfare 2 shows, the game’s military content is deliberately minimized.

The influence of political correctness on the gaming industry extends to code. Epic Games, creator of Fortnite, released the latest version of its free game development software, Unreal Engine 5, earlier this year alongside its new official coding standards. Among the many technical coding rules pages, there are many commandments on what language developers can use when coding on the engine. While Epic presents these edicts as “tips and suggestions” to help coders be “more respectful and appropriate”, elsewhere it is clearly stated that they are “mandatory” top-down rules for use. of service.

For example, coders are told they should not “use words that refer to historical trauma or lived experience of discrimination”, such as “slave, master and nuke”. Other prohibited terms include “abort, run, or native”, and even “blacklist” and “whitelist” – all commonly used terms in the huge technical task of game development.

It’s “inclusive” authoritarianism in a nutshell. In other words, be nice – or else. Many developers have no choice but to comply. Epic Games’ engine is used by thousands of small studios worldwide. They simply cannot afford to develop the same advanced technology in-house.

The players themselves have no choice but to accept this moralizing turn in video games. Few studios can currently make big-budget, story-driven games of the quality of The last of usor action glasses at the level of Call of Duty.

Video games are meant to be an escape from real life. They are a showcase of developer creativity and imagination. What a shame to see all of that sacrificed to enlightenment – and to see games reduced to just another tool of indoctrination.

Laurie Wastell is an intern at dope.

Comments are closed.