The following essay is based on the third part of my keynote speech 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 impromtu replies by Tobias Winnerling and Robert Heinze. The second part “On political communication in digital games” can be found here.
Political mythologies in digital Games
by Eugen Pfister
When analysing the different possible aspects of political communication in video games I am most interested in those aspects that are normally ignored; political statements that are easily overlooked and therefore most of the time not questioned: aspects of the political, that are not per se “hidden”, but at the same time not consciously acknowledged. Political messages that dissimulate as “natural” components of a given genre for example, that claim to always have been part of these games. Think of the predominance of war and conflict in video game mechanics for example. We commonly hear that the merger of game and conflict is a natural, a historical constant. Bataille navale, chess, go, etc. etc. The Prussian “Kriegsspiel” is mis en scene as a direct ancestor to “America’s army”… It is suggested to be natural, that a large part of all new video games center on war, battles, armed conflict, etc. But what about early prehistoric role playing, what about gyan chauper ( the forebear of our snakes and ladders), a game intended to teach morality? If a presumed “common sense” answer to a question is suspiciously simple, we should at least take the time to verify or falsify the answer. The french philosopher Roland Barthes did exactly that when writing his “mythologies” in the 1950s.
Games are never innocent weiterlesen →
by Tobias Winnerling*
“All things considered, it looks as though Utopia were far closer to us than anyone, only fifteen years ago, could have imagined. Then, I projected it six hundred years into the future. Today it seems quite possible that the horror may be upon us within a single century. That is, if we refrain from blowing ourselves to smithereens in the interval.”
– Aldous Huxley: Brave New World. With an introduction by David Bradshaw, London/Stuttgart 2000, S. 32.
Fun is said to unpolitical – or better, to be apolitical: Without any necessary connection to anything political. Eugen Pfister has just argued in this vein in his discussion on the political dimension of games. Games like Bejeweled – which do not carry any conscious political message – may easily be seen as unpolitical therefore apart from them being a more or less direct emanation of the sociopolitical circumstances of the time of their making. If all these little games would be political, the word would be depleted of its meaning. To my mind however this does not go far enough. Of course, if everything is political, nothing is political anymore, that’s how the argument can be carried further. And what is constructed with the ultimate purpose of delivering pleasure is not made for the political arena then, because it has neither meaning nor purpose of a grander design; it does not care about People, Society, Economy, Truth, Justice or other values or goals politics are supposed to be directed at. But I would like to suggest that what is at hand here might really be case of categorical confusion.
Panem et circenses: Bejeweled, Fun & Politics weiterlesen →
The following essay is based on the first part of my keynote speech at the FROG conference 2017 on October, 14th 2017 at the Wiener Rathaus. The second part on Political Communication in Video Games can be read here and the third part on Political Mythologies in Games here. The remaining third part on political myths in games will be published subsequently.
by Eugen Pfister
Games and politics
To start a discussion on games and politics was for the past decade a sure bet for at least a handful of flaming ripostes: “Keep your politics out of my games” was one of the more polite examples. For many self-proclaimed “gamers” games and politics appear to be two antithetical concepts. In their logic they form two independent and incompatible spheres. A contact – or worse a blending! – of games with politics appears to be a sacrilege for many. When analysing the vocabulary of the relevant commentaries, you’ll see that political agendas in video games are understood as a sort of contamination. The “Political” is here understood as a stain, as something corrupting the fun. This alone is indication of a fundamental political problem of our society; we will get to that later.
In the following short essay (as well as in two following texts) I will demonstrate, that on the contrary games and politics cannot be thought separately and – what is more – that the interaction of every game with politics is something natural and in fact prerequisite for every media to work. I will try to prove, that every game is the result of a very specific cultural and political environment and therefore gives evidence of very concrete world-views.
„Keep your Politics out of my Games!” weiterlesen →