Video games are political. Don’t agree? Go touch grass

For many gamers, video games serve as a form of respite from the grueling agony of life’s day-to-day issues. But whether it be blasting monsters to bits and pieces or tending to a tranquil farm, the idea that the fictional worlds of video games are removed from the real world could not be further from the truth.

With the release of Helldivers 2 in February 2024 by Arrowhead Gaming Studios, a video game in which the plot overtly satirizes facism, there once again comes a spike in the seemingly endless online discourse about the inclusion of political themes in video games. Gamers must come to terms with the inclusion of politics in video games, because at the end of the day, it’s included in every other aspect of their lives.

The main issue with the debate about the inclusion of politics in video games is the very argument itself and what players perceive as “politics.”

Despite complaints about modern video games being riddled with political messaging, things have been this way for a long time.

For example, the widely celebrated Metal Gear franchise, released in 1998, involves a “gigantic robotic weapons platform with worldwide nuclear striking capabilities.” While a gamer can become distracted by the story of the game, it’s hard to miss the clear political messaging, something the game’s director Hideo Kojima confirmed later as being anti-nuclear weapons in a 2014 interview with The Guardian.

Despite having clear parallels to modern issues in regards to the U.S.’ possession and use of nuclear weapons, MGS received significantly less controversy due to the politics being hidden in subtext as well as the theme overall being something that people agreed on.

If people agree with the message, there is no reason to complain about politics in video games. One example is in the video essay, “How to Radicalize a Normie” by YouTuber Innuendo Studios, in which the content creature states that saying “Nazis are bad” is apolitical because the majority agrees regardless of political leaning.

In contrast, Splatoon 3, which was released in 2022, replaced the option from the previous two games for a character to be a boy or a girl with picking a “style” for a character. Some gamers saw that as political, as gender being non-binary has entered the political realm over the past decade. Splatoon 3 also didn’t hide this subtly in a narrative, as MGS did. What Splatoon 3 did was hit a common trigger for anti-woke gamers: the inclusion of minorities in video games, something that often triggers a condemnation of politics in such games.

People have every right to complain about seeing things they dislike, but it needs to be addressed that you can’t just mask your intolerance with “politics ruining your video game.” Because it’s not about all politics: It’s just about politics you disagree with.

What is the solution? There is none. Good stories make for good games, and good stories will always take elements from real life due to their inherent relevance. Any subject meaningful enough to be worth discussion will always have people for and against it. All we can do is acknowledge that, “Hey, politics are in video games, and that is okay.” Spare your hairline the stress and either accept that differing opinions exist or, as they say online, go outside and “touch grass.”

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