A Matter Of The Continuing Cold War

One thing above all others confuses me about gaming. It’s not how the games are made, it’s not how all that information manages to fit on a disk, its not even how, at the push of a button we can be playing with or against someone on a completely different continent. It’s how we can still get away with shooting Russians in the face!

The holy grail of games design today is the successful first person shooter (FPS) genre. No other genre creates more hype, divides opinion, tests the skill of the games designer and player alike and no other genre immerses you in a world quite as much as the FPS.

A successful FPS can make a games company a tidy profit. Call of Duty Black Ops has grossed an estimated $1 billion worldwide and holds the record for highest opening day sales of any entertainment product including film. The queues for these titles at the recent Eurogamer convention only compound this. CoD Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Rage, Counter Strike, Binary Domain and Resistance 3 to name but a few. The market of the FPS is certainly a crowded one.

But what of the contents of these games? They are, for the large part visually impressive games with great AI and slick fast-paced action that gets the heart pumping and hones the player’s reflexes. But what else do they contain?

Well for some of them the subject matter and enemy at hand is clear. Kill the aliens and save the planet. Simple! But is there an undercurrent of political savvy in some of these games? Are they the new form of propaganda? And are you being brainwashed as you play? Stop and think about for a moment. If it’s not aliens, it’s usually Russians, Iraqi’s or Afghans.

Far be it from me to test the credibility of games makers and their motives I have no doubt that their motives are just and true, but why is it that every time you blast your way through a human based enemy they are a recognised foreign enemy? It’s a question I’ve wondered about for ages. Are there versions of these games in Russia, where the aim is to kill Americans, and if not – why not? Do they even know that games where the aim is to kill graphic representations of their race exist? I’m sure they do? Why is there never more of an out cry? What does the Russian or Iraqi living in the UK or America do to get his gaming kicks, stick to FPS games that only kill aliens, monsters or robots? Come on that’s not fair – sometimes there is no substitute for killing a person (purely in-game you understand).

I’m not talking here about the violence of these games or what they do to the psychological state of the person playing the game (that is an argument for another blog – and believe me that is coming… big style!). I’m merely pointing out that there could, just could be an under current running through these games that is saying more than you realise. A faint whisper that says “The Cold War officially ended in 1991, but remember you hate them…. remember you hate them”

Surely the games market cannot be considered truly global until these countries are catered for. Maybe there’s not a market for it yet. It is true that the economy in these countries is probably not stable enough to support a mass gaming market. But when they do eventually emerge from the gaming community wilderness (and one day they will) and stumble into their version of Games Station should they really be confronted with games where their only choice is to kill their own and help America defeat their brethren?

How would we like it if there was a game out there called Call of Jihad? Not much I would have thought, and what’s worse it would probably be banned and classed as inciting racial hatred.

I don’t profess to have answers. I don’t even profess to agree or disagree with any of these points I’m merely intrigued by what the rest of the world thinks of a billion pound industry based on killing their own. Should we stop producing these games? Hell no! I like shooting the shit out of the Russians as much as the next person (unless that person is Russian of course) but should we, as consumers and the game creating market, have more of a conscience? Again I don’t have an answer or a specific opinion either way that’s for you to decide.

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