You can't 'just keep politics out of it'



The nasty little secret about this subculture: they don’t read. Imagine trying to reverse engineer the world from tiny bite-size atoms of media. This is why the ambition is so high and the competence is so low.


There is no such thing as apolitical.

Even I Am Bread has a context in history and society that makes it a representative. Even the attempt to be apolitical is itself a political act.


Why are we surprised a supporter of gamergate says something like “adding politics to fiction is regressive”?

I should also mention that his stance is also that people are in fact trying to take away his video games and that games like Hatred have a place in the world as some sort of art.


Correction; they don’t read books.

Especially ones that takes a jab at current society as a whole.


We all know that #GamerGate is just a scandal that spiral out of control and support the narrative that videogames are bad for you; that, and all who support it either hate or were skeptical of Anita Sarkessian.

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Sure there is. Apolitical is when the inherent politics of a system match your confirmation bias so perfectly you can’t even see them.

Fish, meet water.


It should note that not all gamergaters are horrible people (though the same could be said about Nazis or ISIS supporters).

Sure, but you can be “not horrible” and “completely clueless about media criticism in particular and critical thinking in general” at the same time.

The first reaction I had to reading Total Biscuit’s tweet was a pang of sympathy for his English teachers. People who insist on this line of thinking are a PITA to teach. They’ll complain studying novels is useless because “none of it is true” and then voraciously consume sitcoms and, well, video games. And that’s cool if that’s what you’re into, but if you can’t see sitcoms and video games are “not true” the same way novels are, and also are true the same way novels are…


I have very mixed feelings about this.

First, I recognise that dehumanisation is often combined with other atrocities. Some gamergits started their atrocities long ago but I have to be aware that I could end up there if I don’t watch myself.

However, the Nazis got into power because people made exceptions and didn’t think through the consequences. Nazi supporters would make exceptions for Jewish/Slavic/socialist/gay people they knew, they would somehow be different to the others, but they ended up in the death camps all the same.

Some people in the Gamergate movement may be nice people, but it doesn’t change that the movement itself is highly toxic.


Spot on. The only clarification I’d add(more because I’m pathologically bothered by leaving a possibility unaddressed than because the video game market is even close to being subject to this) is that there are situations where ‘political’ is used as a (dangerously imprecise; but meaningfully in this secondary definition) to mean ‘so dominated by its political agenda that any merit it might have had as an artistic work is drowned in a sea of axe-grinding’. (Frequently ‘political cartoons’ are ‘political’ in this sense.)

I can’t really think of this happening in the realm of games, certainly not ones designed to actually move product, maybe there are some ultra-polemical indies I don’t know about(though even Operation PedoPriest was a pretty decent Lode Runner-esqe game, and Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator was an adequate implementation of the old top-down space shooter, and both of those had a very clear agenda); but it’s hardly a common problem.

I’m unimpressed by anyone who thinks that this is a problem that video games actually have(painfully overt polemics are relatively rare; and most of the disconcerting ‘political’ content is disconcerting in part because it is nicely packaged to slide in as an invisible default assumption); but in areas of art that have gone through periods of having any shlock that matches the party line pumped out and distributed, often as a directly state supported propaganda exercise, ‘political’ can have that meaning. It’s not a very good use of the word, since it is vulnerable to ambiguity; but it does exist.


It should note that not all gamergaters are horrible people (though the same could be said about Nazis or ISIS supporters).


But seriously: human beings are generally not horrible, but are capable of doing absolutely monstrous things in pursuit of goals that may be laudable. It’s all freedom and justice until you’re making naked human pyramids in Abu Ghraib.

What makes you a horrible person doing horrible things is when you refuse to acknowledge the pain of those you’re causing to suffer as a Bad Thing.

Most Gators don’t see the pain of the women they’re haunting as even a real thing, let alone a Bad Thing, which is part of how it’s been such a clusterfuck.


That was all one sentence, wasn’t it? I can’t find the verb!

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It’s interesting to note that the goal of “keeping politics out of games” fails to admit that “politics” (more accurately translated as “stuff outside my comfort zone”) has just about always been present in games. It would be more accurate to say that the goal is “to remove politics from games” because “I don’t want to think about it”.

There are tons of examples of subtle influences that developers put into their games as far back as the first arcade cabinets. Missile Command is an obvious example, what with the premise being that you’re defending bases from an endless barrage of incoming missiles. The developer has actually stated that the decision to make the game endless (essentially un-winnable) was a deliberate choice, meant to evoke the hopeless nature of all-out war. He said that the game gave him nightmares for years after he finished it.

“Politics” as a concept was around long before games were invented, and all it took was the ability to render images with more fidelity that a couple of pixels for developers to start writing games about something important to them. This practice isn’t going away.


What about Tetris? What is the unwinnable endless torrent of falling boxes meant to evoke? Amazon warehouse job?

People are overthinking it.

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There are abstract games that probably don’t have heavy political messages. (You could say that Tetris is about planning and making order out of chaos, but that’s not exactly political. You could jump to amusing conclusions about preferences for “straight” pieces over “kinky” ones… no, let’s not go there. You could consider the silly backwards-R stereotypical Russian cultural context that the game was originally presented with, but that’s a thing separate from the game. At the very least, there’s an inherent value judgement that emptiness is better than clutter, and efficient use of space is better than spreading out, whcih could actually tie in to some political thought in a subtle, but probably not all that important way.)

But the majority of top selling videogames today are much less abstract than that, and represent people in relation to other people (often in an antagnoistic way, and often in social hierarchies of some kind). Even the visual appearance of characters is political, whether conscious or not.


Well, the gameplay itself isn’t political, but the history of the success of Tetris is intertwined with Perestroika/Glasnost, so it is political in that sense.


The great Irony of it all is that GamerGate is a political matter as well; Just a bunch of politics center around a scandal that should be buried.

I think the whole “Keep Politics out of…” came from a somewhat unwritten rule that one shouldn’t talk about politics in social gathering and casual conversations.


Well, since you asked…

The host of Game/Show recently mentioned the inherent ties between video games and violence, and he said that a future episode might discuss a broader concept of violence as it applies to video games. We’re not talking about one person taking a life, but the more basic concept of taking an object or idea that exists and and causing it to cease existing, or unmaking it.

He used Tetris as an example of a game that that illustrates this broader definition of violence. You’re given a series of tetrominos that spontaneously pop into existence at the top of the screen, and your job is to delete them faster than they can pile up. You can draw your own conclusions on the commentary being made about the nature of violence, because that’s part of the fun of consuming media in general, and especially so when we’re talking about interactive media.


I’ve actually talked with self-professed Gamergate supporters online on more than one occasion, and at least a couple of them were willing to discuss the reasons why they think games should be free of “politics”. Being able to “escape real life” and “lose yourself in the game” were common responses, but some of them also said straight up that they don’t want to think about political issues like women’s rights while playing games. One dude even went so far as to say “stop tying to make me think things and feel things that I have no predisposition to think/feel.” For some it might be an unconscious irony that their political action is motivated by a dislike for “politics”, but for others it’s a clear case of being happy with the status quo and consciously working to keep it that way.