By Willie Johnson | USA
Nearly every young person today plays video games, an entertainment medium that has been extremely common since it first gained popularity in the early 1980s. In those days, basic 8-bit games were meaningless fun for children, but as platforms became more advanced and adults began taking part, issues completely irrelevant to the games themselves were imposed on developers and players alike. Claims that violent video games cause aggressive behavior or influence decision making have long been the subject of controversy, but in today’s climate, many games are unfairly politicized and used as ammunition for certain viewpoints.
It’s no revelation to say that the purpose of games is entertainment, but keeping this obvious fact in mind when debating political issues is not always simple. The settings of video games range from atomic wastelands to futuristic space stations, and making comparisons between fact and these fictional scenarios is an easy way to enhance an argument. Goals of these games are also an important factor, because one ideology pitted against another, even in entertainment, is fuel for debate. For example, it is in this way that certain radical groups on the American left claimed that the newly released Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (in which the protagonist fights Nazis) will anger right-wingers; the conclusion that right-wingers are pro-nazi had already been made, so any negative depiction of the Third Reich must be against their ideology. Ridiculous.
Such controversy surrounding games not only hurts feelings but sales, too. Wild claims that a game represents a certain political viewpoint are bound to turn away many of those who are opposed to said viewpoint, in turn hurting video game companies who are more often than not just trying to sell a product for the sake of entertainment. That’s not to say that the premises of some games aren’t based on politics, just that forcing ideologies upon games that do not claim to represent them can negatively impact business. The livelihoods of the nearly 50,000 people who work in the video game industry no longer rely only on the quality or playability of their products, but the political atmosphere as well.
The controversy that erupts over video games is usually short-lived, but it represents the ongoing issue of politicizing every part of culture and society today. Keeping politics out of the realm of entertainment and entertainment out of the realm of politics would be beneficial to both, preventing audiences from being alienated and keeping the industry itself going strong. Next time a debate arises over the mindless killing of digital zombies, it would be best to ignore it altogether.