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October 15, 2007

Filed under: gaming»perspective


Since I never tire of repeating myself, we rejoin the theme of... well, of themes in games. Today's exhibit is Harvey Smith, designer of Blacksite, speaking to Gamasutra.

HS: People give me shit off and on about the left-leaning politics in BlackSite, and I'm like, "Don't you realize that games like [Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon] are implicitly, strongly political?" There's a patriarch figure. You're a good citizen, because you follow orders. The bad guys are the guys in religious garb who are poor. The good guys are the ones with a command infrastructure and the millions of dollars worth of equipment, and are following orders. It's like, oh my god.

Gamasutra: And it's good to kill the bad guys.

HS: It's good to kill them, you're right! You're a hero for killing them. We'll give you a medal. I'm not the first person to say that, though. Ian Bell was like this total hippie developer guy. ... this awesome guy who did the game Elite [with David Braben], the space trader game. He said that he loved Elite, but he only realized years later that he had made an inherently capitalistic game that very much supported the values of the haves having more and more while the have-nots have less and less, because of positive feedback loops that are in economics.

If he had known then what he knows now, he would have tried to balance that, or put in a consequence, or shown you the difference of what happens when one company becomes a mega-monopoly, and buys the rainwater rights for a third-world city-state so they could sell the bottled water or whatever. It's like, how did this happen? It's all about positive feedback loops and emergent economics. Unless we cap it, it'll just keep running.

People make a big deal about sex in movies. There's not nearly as much fuss about movie violence, even though the violence can be not only appalling (and I say that as someone who enjoys action movies and bloody horror flicks) but also serve a misogynistic and hateful agenda. If nothing else, think about how many movies the armed forces assist with each year, films which are required to portray the military in a golden light.

Video games do not usually engender sex scandals, with a few notable exceptions. Violence does catch the public eye, some of it with good reason. But just as with the movies, people tend to criticize the excesses without ever mentioning that the violence could be shown with less blood, but it could still promote attitudes of military capitalism. And it is not usually subtle. America's Army is now available for PC, XBox, and XBox 360. But heaven forbid that Grand Theft Auto include a hidden sex minigame, or Oblivion use anatomically-correct textures.

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