This week, a piece written by Alfie Bown, author of The PlayStation Dreamworld, was published in The Guardian. The core argument of the piece was that video games inherently, and particularly recently, project far-right tendencies onto players. Through playing the games, players are effectively given an interactive experience of right-wing ideologies, which acts to indoctrinate them and is feeding the swing towards a lack of compassion in the politics of young people nowadays. I’d advise you to read it in full, because while it is a bold argument that I don’t really agree with, it makes for interesting reading.
So, as I’ve just said, the argument didn’t quite gel with me. I have to start by saying that I absolutely believe there is a problem with right-wing, xenophobic, and misogynist tendencies in video games, as there is in many parts of society. Many people are living in a state of fear because the world as it stands is quite a hostile place, which only encourages “every man for himself” thoughts and a disgust for anything labelled as “other.” Some people don’t even need that existential fear to feel hatred for others. The thing is, I don’t feel like it is video games stoking the fires of hostile politics. If anything, I feel like people with those politics project their feelings onto games.
The topic is way too large to cover in a single weekend editorial, but I want to give a few responses to specific points made in Bown’s article. Some parts of it seemed to jump the gun a little or be too selective in its examples. The points that stuck out for me as not quite right were the following:
- “Games are ideological constructions which push a set of values on the user.”
- “Right-wing ideologies have been overrepresented and dominant throughout the history of video games.”
- “Video games put the user to work on an instinctual level, making the gamer feel impulsive agreement with these ideologies.”
- “The rationale of gaming is to unite pleasurable impulse with political ideology, a process which renders gamers susceptible to discourses that urge people to follow their instincts while also prescribing what those instincts ought to be.”
- “…games can have a concrete ideological effect on us – and make us desire politically charged things on a personal level.”
Right – let’s get started on unpacking this.