[Election held. Referendum on changing the voting system. Voted 'Aye, why not?' Nation voted 'Shut up, Brendan.' Sulked home to play games and daydream of better tomorrow. Discovered tomorrow does not belong to me. Belongs to someone named Gideon. A curious turn of events. Article follows...]
Politics is a dirty business. Just look at those elections out there. Filthy, just filthy. Luckily for us, games have absolutely nothing to do with politics, right? Wrong. There’s loads of politics in the games you play. Just laying low, waiting to pounce on you like a tax avoidance activist hiding in the clothes rack at Topshop. Some games are so thoroughly politicised that you could never be forgiven if you misinterpreted their alignment. Handy then, that we’ve highlighted some of the most blatant acts of propaganda.
Half-Life 2 – Authoritarian
Gordon Freeman. The clue is in the name. The clue is also in every time some cycloptic alien starts babbling about “the one free man.” And every time those angry people in gas masks offer you a lead salad. If you thought the story of military resistance against an oppressive collaborator government was enough to prove Half-Life 2’s democratic credentials, the absolutely rigid, inescapable corridor shooter formula should make you reconsider what the game is really about. Overtly, it’s about the struggle for freedom. Underneath, it’s a story on a train. It’s a gorgeous, futuristic train but it’s still stuck to the same tracks every time you play. You might think you’re breaking free of the combine. But who’s really in charge? The game, that’s who. Now, pick up that can, you pleb.
Medieval II: Total War/Empire: Total War – Imperialist
It’s possible to play Medieval II, or any of the Total War series, as a pacifist. A relaxed and tender leader. Playing as England, you could send diplomats to everyone and keep kissing hands and licking boots as if they were drenched in delicious Hoi-sin. Of course, what silly fellow would do that? The game isn’t called Total Peace. It’s called Total Kill Everybody Not Wearing a St George’sFlag Innit. It starts with nicking a little bit of Scotland. Then pinching some of Ireland. All necessary for a robust security policy, you understand. Before you know it your expansionist greed has you invading Marrakech, chuckling like a spice-crazed lunatic. The map MUST be red. Just one more region. Just one more. Those Imperialists, they weren’t evil or greedy. They were just misunderstood. They just had OCD.
Abe’s Oddysee – Environmentalist
In Oddworld, there are only two political parties. One is the Glukkonservatives. The other is Green Party. By establishing a clumsy Mudokken called Abe as a hero, Oddworld Inhabitants put the ‘mental’ firmly into ‘environmentalism.’ Those Glukkon fast-food corporations weren’t as ‘armless as they seemed (har har – they had no arms, like). They were well on their way to making animal life on Oddworld extinct and were about to embark on some seriously nasty business against all those Mudokkens. That is, before Abe stepped in and sabotaged all their machinery – obviously a massive metaphor for PETA activism. A petaphor, if you will.
Minecraft – Libertarian
“We’ll do what we like, and we like what we do,” in the words of latter-day prophet and objectivist Andrew W.K. Minecraft follows this tenet. Not to Darwinian extremes, thankfully. But still with the requisite amount of survivalism. By placing blocks around you can make anything you want within the confines of physical reality. In singleplayer no other humans exist, so nobody but you is going to come to harm. Thus, no government middleman is gonna come out and tell you what to do. Hurrah! Liberty! Ah, but you must always be aware of those out to get you. In this way, the Creepers represent the destructive looters of communism. Simpering into places they don’t belong and spreading their destructive beliefs. Those dirty reds. Those dirty, green reds.
Red Faction – Socialist
Those dirty reds. Those brilliant, dirty reds. Dirty because they’re bloody hard at work down t’pit. On Mars. Breaking their backs for their exploitative corporate masters who shank them for everything they’re worth and rape from them all political or personal power. Parker, the player’s character, is most certainly an Arthur Scargill character, taking on the might of Marsy Thatcher. Yeah. Workers unite! Solidarity! In the end, Parker and the Red Faction win. Just like Arthur Scar – oh… wait…
EVE: Online – Anarcho-capitalist
“We’ll do what we like and we like stealing everybody’s money so let’s do that,” in the bastardised words of investment bankers who listen to latter-day prophet Andrew W.K. There must be a Venn diagram of that demographic somewhere. I know it exists. It’s certain. It can’t not exist. Oh! Oh, I know! Add another circle to the diagram for people who play EVE: Online. The central section would be a devious place. A wretched hive of individualists and profit-making swankypants’ with twenty glossy Mercedes’ each. They wouldn’t be kind people, that’s for sure. But hey, it’s fun to hear about them picking each other’s pockets as they infiltrate enemy corporations and fly around null-sec space getting blown up by ever more expensive lasers.
Super Mario/Legend of Zelda – Royalist
Save the Princess? Okay, hold on here ‘til I shine up the ol’ coat of arms. There, now I’m ready to risk my life for somebody whose only claim to governance is that they were born in a frilly pink dress. Assuming she is actually in this castle, I will undoubtedly be given a commendation of faultless chivalry. Perhaps I will even become romantically involved with the princess. Just like in the fairy tales they show on BBC these days. Alas, I am nought but a lowly plumber/village pleb. She will never deign to marry me. In fact, she seems to get kidnapped quite a lot. If this isn’t some form of Stockholm syndrome, I am beginning to suspect Bowser/Ganon is being ritually wheeled out as the old “constant external threat” card. Kings, queens and despots have been using that one for millennia. Save the Princess? Screw that. The people wait with bated breath until the day Ollie Cromwell guest features in a Nintendo title.
Assassin’s Creed – Nietzschean
“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” This is the wisdom Machiavelli imparted to Ezio Auditore in the late 1400s. Then he swan dived off a bell tower. Oh wow, you’ve just learned history! But more than that, you’ve also learned the mercenary credo of 19th Century mad bastard Freddy Nietzsche. He ruled that ethics is for silly people and that whoever wanted to get ahead should be prepared to do anything. And that’s exactly what you do in Assassin’s Creed. To complete the game, you must be prepared to do whatever unseemly, amoral deed is required. That includes listening to some Allah-awful hogwash conspiracy theories. And forgetting everything you ever learned in school about when planes and tanks were invented. Forget… forrrrrrget… have you forgotten yet? “Forgotten what?” you say? Excellent. Whatever you do, don’t read this paragraph back.
Worms – Nationalist
Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. What’s another word for scoundrel? That’s right – ‘worm.’ No, don’t try and argue. I’ve looked it up in a thesaurus. What’s another word for ‘thesaurus?’ That’s right – ‘don’t argue.’ Those worms certainly wouldn’t. They’d be too busy prancing about exclaiming about the dangers of explosive sheep in a Welsh accent. Or the perils of bananas in a Caribbean accent. Or beaming themselves up with teleport devices in a Scottish accent. These are all nationalistic stereotypes obviously. Of which these worm-scoundrels are all fiercely, insanely proud.
Metroid – Feminist
So you’ve navigated your way through screen after screen of nasties. You’ve shot up a seriously rude Pterodactyl looking S.O.B. who’s been squinting at you all night. You’ve put a missile into that soggy Mama Brain and jogged merrily out of an exploding facility. Finally, the big reveal. Who is Samus Ar – OH MY DAYS IT’S A LAYDEE. Well… chuh. I guess. Why couldn’t it have been a woman this whole time? Metroid is the videogame equivalent of that riddle about the brain surgeon who turns out to be a woman, making you feel like a massive presumptuous pillock. And then you go look for pictures of her on the internet. Although, maybe you wouldn’t. Oh heavens, I’ve been presumptuous again.