On False Politicization (Of Games)

On False Politicization (Of Games)

Now I know that this blog hasn’t been used for my original intended purpose in a long time, namely that of discussing philosophical ideas and sharing my thoughts on all sorts of mind-fuckery, but I think it’s about time to start up again. I’ve been reading, hearing, and seeing a lot of political commentary about things that do not need to be politicized: Games.

Let’s start with a new game, just released on March 27th of this year: Far Cry 5. Much like the earlier installments in the series, you (the protagonist) are put in the shoes of an outsider dumped in a new location to rebel against, and overthrow, a corrupt or dangerous organization, allying yourself with the locals to rise up against the big bad boss and his minions. In this one, you play a Deputy, sent to Hope County, Montana, and tasked with arresting a religious cult leader who is leading his group on a ‘sin cleansing’ mission. You set out on your errand to raise an army of rebels, liberate towns from the cult fanatics, and eventually defeat the leader and his cohorts.

Now, this doesn’t sound very politics-ridden, right? As noted in the “Controversy” section on the game’s Wikipedia page:

“Many journalists opined that Far Cry 5’s setting and narrative concept, involving themes of religious fanaticism and the emergence of far-right political movements within the borders of the United States—as opposed to the more exotic locales depicted in other Far Cry titles—would likely make the game highly controversial in the current climate.”

This is evidenced later, by mention of a Change.org petition that was written “by individuals objecting to what they called the portrayal of American Christians as villains”, who wanted to change the setting to replace the antagonists to “followers of Islam, inner-city gang members, and other non-white antagonists”, and even change the setting to Canada.

The politicizing attacks on the game only exist due to the current political climate in the US, and have no relation to the point of the game’s storyline. As Youtuber Subverse puts it very neatly in her recent video on this subject (Stop Politicizing Far Cry 5! The Review Review), the game was in production long before any of the political bullshit started rearing its ugly head, and any possible political commentary is unrelated to our current issues. Whatever pseudo-political satire is present in the game is there to bring more depth, to better immerse the player in a world that is possible. Any anger directed at the game due to the possibly political nature of in-game events, is useless, pointless anger; It accomplishes nothing, and only serves to further divide the two major sides of this proverbial debate coin.

Conversely, once the game was released and reviewed by several media outlets, they criticized it,

“for trying to be inoffensive and apolitical rather than directly engaging with contemporary political issues.” The game has been described “as a ‘defiantly inoffensive mess’ which “wants to appeal to everyone, but ultimately says nothing”, while the villains are “an ‘easily digestible evil’ deliberately crafted so as not to offend gamers of any political persuasion.”

The game is accused of being too soft on the political commentary, not direct enough with current political issues to be considered a deep, motivating story. Clearly, political ideas did not make the game any more real or immersive, so even if the commentary was pointed and jabbing at our modern-day politicians, it doesn’t do a very good job at poking political figureheads where it hurts. Let’s just say, I don’t think Trump would mind a federal peace officer overthrowing a radical group of religious zealots bent on wiping out all who don’t follow their order, especially considering this is all in a fictional alternate universe. But I digress.

The purpose of a game is to escape from reality, enjoy a fun game, and forget about all the stupid bullshit that surrounds us on a daily basis. Political issues in games can be fun aspects of gameplay, and can add a great deal of depth to the story, whether you’re overthrowing a dictator, rebelling against a group of marauders, or leading a people to glory. From the Far Cry series to a selection of games from the Call of Duty franchise, and beyond, politics have played a major role in the storylines of the main characters, providing motivation, whether it be through fear or compensation, to go through the campaign and get to the end.

Politicizing apolitical things, such as games, is like peeling open an orange and complaining when it’s not an apple. Games aren’t meant to be political commentary, and in the case of Far Cry 5, development of the game started taking place years before the current political bullshit entered the scene, so any allegations of a link between the two are nonsensical.

I hope this post has been at least somewhat interesting to those of you still reading. This took quite a while to put together, mostly due to myself being busy this past weekend, but nonetheless, here it is. Feel free to share with friends and leave comments, and as always, thanks for stopping by to read my ramblings.

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