Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Video killers

Video games are not all about Billy-no-mates living out pixilated fantasies in a virtual world. There are now a multitude of games, some subversive, and some extremely jingoistic, that engage with political realities. Shamil Khan presents a guide to what’s what in the world of political video gaming and literally cost the earth as well as your pocket

August 1, 2006
5 min read

Gamolution!

Commercial product placements in video games are now big business. But some developers are hitting back with ‘anti-advergames’. In Disaffected! (www.persuasivegames.com), you play a casualised worker in a Fedex Kinko photocopy store, while in the McDonald’s Video Game (www.mcvideogame.com) you must exploit underdeveloped countries and low-wage workers, and feed growth hormones to cattle. The McDonald’s game is one of a series by the Italian collective, Molleindustria (www.molleindustria.org), who make ‘political videogames against the dictatorship of entertainment’.

If you want to buy a game that takes on big business, try Red Faction (www.redfaction.com). You work on Mars in the mines of a multinational slave labour corporation called Ultor. A deadly plague as a result of a nano-technology experiment that went wrong sweeps through the workers colony, forcing you to rise up against Ultor and solve the mystery of the disease.

An older inter-galactic take on earthly politics, but still available second hand, is Abe’s Exoddus (www.oddworld.com). It is the story of an alien worker who discovers the corporation he works for actually sells his people as pies. So he sets about escaping and eventually finding out who ate all the pies.

The ultimate eco-friendly game is Ecco the Dolphin – a guilt free game for those of us who get a twinge every time we eat tuna. It’s a basic platform puzzle-solving adventure involving a very clever dolphin who’s never in any danger of getting caught up in a fisherman’s net. He utilises his sonar as well as the dolphin equivalent of sixth sense to solve a myriad of complicated problems, all the while educating us about the beauty of the unspoiled oceans and coral reefs.

Neo-con games

The US has seen a proliferation of video games that seek either to gain revenge for 9/11 by hunting Arabs or to get back at those nasty gooks for Vietnam.

In Delta Force (www.novalogic.com), you are a gung-ho US special forces soldier shooting Somalis, Ay-rabs, Eye-ranians and Chechens from your Apache helicopter. Quest for Al-Qa’eda — The Hunt for Bin Laden (www.dosgamesarchive.com/download/game/164) does pretty much what it says, with the addition that you have to overcome Pakistani double agents at every turn.

Full Spectrum Warrior (www.fullspectrumwarrior.com) is actually based on US army training simulations. Set in the Middle East, you can blast away to your heart’s content without any chance of picking up Gulf War syndrome or other nasties from the depleted uranium. This realistic game was used as evidence in the court case about Abu Ghraib and has led to massive debates about video gaming and violence.

Then, finally, there’s America’s Army (www.americasarmy.com), an online game that is used as a recruitment tool by the US military. It has also given rise to anti-war protest, when visual artist Joseph DeLappe (www.delappe.net) entered the game using an avatar named ‘dead in iraq’ and began listing the names and dates of death of all US military personnel killed in Iraq on the game’s server.

Collateral damage

The perfect antidote to all this militaristic gaming is September 12th (www.newsgaming.com). In this simulation, you have to bomb a city to kill terrorists. But ‘collateral damage’ is inevitable, with every bomb killing more civilians and creating more terrorists

Banned games

Political gaming isn’t only a battle between the left and the neo-cons. For example, white supremacists in the US created a game called Ethnic Cleansing (www.resistance.com/ethniccleansing), in which the player shoots blacks, Jews and various ‘mud races’, who make monkey noises as they die.

There is rumoured to be a game called Global Jihad in the pipeline, featuring battles in Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine with an eventual battle with a demonic Uncle Sam. The first-person shooter actually halts during prayer times.

Lastly, Special Force (www.specialforce.net) is a video game based on actual battles by Hezbollah with the Israeli army, which has sold over 100,000 copies in the Middle East. In the practice area you shoot large images of Ariel Sharon, while in the main game players are especially encouraged to shoot settlers. Mahmoud Rayya, a Hezbollah official, claims: ‘This game is resisting the Israeli occupation through the media. In a way, Special Force offers a mental and personal training for those who play it, allowing them to feel that they are in the shoes of the resistance fighters.’

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers

Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali