Watch this. I’m serious, watch it, it is less than two minutes long and it is important.
Ubisoft are releasing a game called Rainbow Six: Patriots. The short of the game: an anti-corporate terrorist group forms and starts killing people. Sounds like normal Tom Clancy kind of stuff, and by that I mean there is a blatant ultraconservative bent to the entire thing. This post on Medium Difficulty says a lot of stuff about the obvious anti-Occupy bias in the basic conceit of the game, which I mostly agree with, though I wish the author was a little smarter and less polemic in the writing. Refer to the comments on the post for the predictable reaction to the post.
There’s more to it than anti-Occupy. There’s a general feeling in the American population, and in Western Europe, that the upper class, branded with the label “1%,” has essentially been pissing in the faces of basically everyone who isn’t rich and white since, oh, the Reagan administration. And this isn’t just Occupy rhetoric, but it extends across the aisle into the Tea Party movement. Though there are massive political and ideological differences, if you get past the demographic who joined the Tea Party because they hate Barack (Hussein!) Obama you will actually find people who are just generally angry about the same kind of thing
This game is demonizing them, too. The game shows a massive lack of both hindsight and foresight on the part of Ubisoft, and I am frankly astonished by the whole thing. The prime way you indoctrinate people is through media, and video games work especially well for that–you aren’t simply being told something fucked up, but you actually get to live the experience. This is the same concept that I have critiqued in the recent Call of Duty games. Video games have a bad habit of creating very clear enemies and eliminating those enemies based on pure ideological grounds–Player is the good guys, Computer is the bad guys, lets go win this; that is what most AAA titles are all about, sadly.
And we are good at video games. People buy them and win them. They eliminate the bad guys and take utter joy in it. Jane McGonigal even had to make up a name for the meta-acts that gamers achieve in large groups. She calls them ‘epic,’ whereas I might just call them genocide. My point is that we have lots of people who have hundreds of hours of practice at killing people and feeling ideologically okay, and even excited, about it.
What makes me afraid is the way we construct that other. In the Halo series, it is aliens, a fictional adversary who does not exist. Probably not a lot of practical, causative impacts are going to come from mass murdering them, though there are definitely going to be some ideological shifts in the players. The Call of Duty franchise trades on hunting down and murdering Middle Eastern terrorists and their African employees, which is definitely preying and depending on base racism and political anger post-9/11 (and maybe post-1990s on the whole).
The Patriots step is even more terrifying. No longer is it an enemy out there, but rather an enemy here, potentially hidden. It could be your neighbor. This is the very heart of McCarthy ideology, and I don’t think that the racial makeup of the characters in the trailer are an accident. This is a game meant to prey on the fears of your average American on either side of the anti-1% argument. The game is telling us that there are people who do not like us, and though we may not see them now, one day they could do us harm. The subtle, terrifying addendum to that: maybe you should do something first.