Weekly Reflections: Politics in video games.

Posted: 10th March 2016 in Uncategorised

Recently, I have been reflecting about the quantity of discussion when it comes to politics in the United Kingdom. We live in an environment that is now called the ‘digital age’, with social media and new technology combining to bring debate right to the forefront of our lives. However I still feel that the quality of political debate is inadequate for the world in which we live in. In these times, where governmental policies are being critiqued by members of the public nearly every waking hour, I feel that this is not being reflected in popular culture. We do have televised political debates during Prime Minster Questions or Question Time. But I feel that these are more like ‘showdowns’, where it is the ‘villain vs the hero’ as opposed to any meaningful and open-minded discussions. I believe that part of this problem lies in the fact that we need to revolutionize the sort of mediums in which political ideas are conveyed. TV, Radio and PC have been the mainstream way to participate in political conversation, with the Mobile becoming increasingly popular.

However I believe that with those 4 platforms, we fall in to the trap of identity politics, where the reputation of the individual takes precedence over what the person is actually saying. We see this in the theatrical nature of PMQ, where personal insults are actually being cheered by other members of parliaments, we see it on PCs with the development of the ‘keyboard warrior’. Even mobile twitter has succumbed to the same fate, where egos and the pressure to have a significant amount of followers often leads to people write controversial statements just to garner attention. These sort of characteristics are not uncommon on radio programs where the presenter often attempts to play center stage by cutting certain telephone calls that don’t approve of the presenters overall message.

Katie Hopkins

Katie Hopkins has built up a reputation for being offensive for the sake of being offensive.

This is why I believe that video games should be promoted as the growing medium to discuss or at least outline political perspectives. As this article as neatly pointed out, games have the ability to convey powerful political messages without falling into the trap of identity politics. Video games are designed and constructed by hundreds of different technicians and writers. There is no ‘face’ that can be used by the audience to attribute principles and ideas, unlike films with actors or political parties with leaders. Video games operate in an open but competitive public sphere, where controversial ideas are discussed and engaged in by the player. Because the audience actually participates in this form entertainment, it takes the focus away from the game developer, which thus allowing them to insert lots of interesting ideas with less public scrutiny that you may get with a film director. In the popular historical  video game Assassins creed III, you get the chance to play as part of group that believes in political liberty or can you can join an alliance that believes order and discipline, of course the narrative of the games is not completely neutral, but it gives that player the chance to at least understand the two differing points of view.

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Assassins Creed has developed its place in the gaming market for its ability to combine political history and fast paced adventure gaming.

I am not saying that video games should be championed as the best way to learn about political principles, but it should least be used as a credible way of reflecting the vast spectrum of ideas. Deep and meaningful discussion of politics through the mainstream channels of public access has become superficial and shallow. Video Games provide a world that is separate from political reality but also give the public the chance to engage in a political culture that discusses serious issues.

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