The myth of the apolitical game

This very good piece is written concerning video games, and the coyness of their publishers and marketing people in “not taking a side” when they very clearly have done, but it goes for manual games as well.

The “translate this page” will work well on this one, but here is the money quote for me, at the conclusion:

Alles ist politisch

Es scheint absurd, dass es dezidiert ausgesprochen werden muss: Kein Werk entsteht unabhängig von seinem Schöpfer, dessen Ansichten, Meinungen und politischer Überzeugung – auch und besonders dann nicht, wenn es behauptet, “die Realität” zeigen zu wollen. Der Wunsch, sich Spiele als unpolitisches, reines Unterhaltungsprodukt zu “erhalten” – mit dem Schlachtruf “keep politics out of our games” -, ist deshalb nicht nur illusorisch, sondern auch problematisch, weil er die vorhandene, unweigerliche Politikhaltigkeit jedes Mediums negiert und deren damit verbunden Botschaften somit unbewusst, und damit noch wirksamer, ihr Werk tun lässt.

Die Kritik, die der Industrie heute angesichts als absurd erkannter Rechtfertigungsmanöver zunehmend entgegengebracht wird, lässt hoffen, dass Spiele irgendwann auch hier zum Kulturgut wie jedes andere werden. Es gibt kein Buch, keinen Film, kein Album und kein Spiel, das frei von Politik wäre – wie bei jedem Kulturprodukt ist die ganze reale Welt ihrer Schöpfer der Stoff, aus dem sie entstehen.

Alles ist politisch; diese Tatsache in vollem Bewusstsein anzuerkennen, ist ein notwendiger Schritt für Macher wie Konsumenten auch des Mediums Videospiel.

Autor: Rainer Sigl


Everything is political

It seems absurd that it has to be decidedly stated: No work is created independently of its creator, his views, opinions and political convictions – even and especially not when he claims to want to show “the reality”. The desire to “get” games as a non-political, pure entertainment product – with the slogan “Keep politics out of our games” – is therefore not only illusory, but also problematic because it negates the existing, inevitable political content of each medium and their Associated messages thus unconsciously, and thus more effectively, lets do their work.

The criticism, which is increasingly given to industry today in the face of absurdly recognized justification maneuvers, gives hope that games will someday become as much a cultural asset as any other. There is no book, no film, no album and no game that is free of politics – as with any cultural product, the whole real world of its creators is the stuff of which they emerge.

Everything is political; Recognizing this fact in full awareness is a necessary step for doers as well as consumers of the medium of video games.

I have said as much, many times.

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

2 Responses to The myth of the apolitical game

  1. Hmm…politics? In gaming? Never!
    As Mark Herman & Volko Ruhnke are both fond of saying, games are models. Designers chose what to include, or exclude, in the model. Designers chose the sources used. In an abstract game the biases or political position may not show but in boardgames, and especially wargames, the designer often brings biases/viewpoints into a game design intentionally – or not. Good designers are aware of them or acknowledge them up front. Some even proclaim them (like Tom Russell in This Guilty Land).
    Many years ago I heard SPI described as “Wehrmacht Lovers” because it was “obvious” their designs favored the Germans on the Eastern Front. In more recent times, I see politics coming to the forefront of Tabletop RPGs (your design worthy unless you have sufficient diversity).
    I find it humorous that so many people describe the Woodland Alliance in Root (Leder Games) as though they are the Rebels from Star Wars. I see a classic Maoist or Communist uprising.
    Some of the most interesting designs make players think twice. Harold Buchanan’s Liberty or Death: The American INSURRECTION from GMT Games is probably the best example out there.

    • That is something I really like about wargaming: People are aware that their game reflects reality, and therefore they need to explain why they modelled things one way or another: Hooray for designer notes!
      And I think it’s no coincidence the Woodland Alliance fits the Star Wars rebels just as well as a Communist uprising. Both are out-gunned insurgents relying on hit-and-run (and more or less belief in an ideology, be that Marxism or the Force). After all, George Lucas based his rebels vs. overwhelming power structure partially on Vietnam (most clearly in the fight between Ewoks and stormtroopers in Return of the Jedi).

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