Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
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.
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
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.’
Deregulation and tax loopholes are justified by saying that they 'protect growth'. But really, they just protect the wealthy, writes James Fox
Inequality is often treated as a law of nature - but really, it's the result of conscious political choices. It's time to choose equality, writes the IPPR's Carys Roberts.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones