On Political Communication in Digital Games

The following essay is based on the second part of my keynote speach at the FROG conference 2017 on October, 14th 2017 at the Wiener Rathaus. The first part „Keep your Politics out of my games!“ can be found here, as well as an impromtu reply by Tobias Winnerling. The remaining third part on political myths in games will be published subsequently.

by Eugen Pfister

Why a better Understanding of Politics in Popular Culture matters

It is true, not all video games have a conscious or an intentional political message but they communicate political aspects nonetheless. Games are not developed in aseptic laboratories under vacuum and without contact to the exterior. They are the result of their culture and society of origin. Their developers are not creating games ex nihil but are falling back on the world they know. They are – most of the time – recreating the world they are used too.  To give you a simile: just think of the „aliens“ in the Star Trek Universe. Therefore all games can be analysed for traces of a political discourse. Video games are an excellent source for ideological values and worldviews in mass media.

Classical political history traditionally focuses on political elites, on parliamentary protocols, memoirs of politicians, party programs, diplomatic correspondence, campaigning etc. This sources however represent only the political action and thoughts of a very small elite. The mass of the citizens however has to stay unheard by most of the historical researchers. If we are really interested in the popular understanding of a good government – what makes a good head of state for example – it’s not enough to analyse newspapers and TV reports or to question a sample of hundreds or even thousands on people with predetermined questionnaires. To fill this blank, this yet unanswered question of what people expect and how they understand their government, it helps to take a closer look at popular culture, and especially the so called pulp genres, like horror, science fiction, etc. On Political Communication in Digital Games weiterlesen