Politics and War Games

Hezbollah has published a video game called “Special Force“, in which the player’s job is to, well, kill Israeli Jews. Many are surprised to see politics injected into the fantasy world of video games.

To me this isn’t surprising nor is it new. Any game which simulates real-world events is inherently political. A typical example of this is “Sim City“, where your city’s success is dependent on certain sociopolitical assumptions that are, in the real world, still subject to a lot of debate. Even “The Sims” has political issues inherent in the behavior of its citizenry, which only promise to get more controversial as the Expansion packs expand their simulated social horizons.

War simulations are no less political. The more representational (of real-world nations and events) the simulation is, the more political it is.
The “Special Force” game seems especially political because the protagonist (and the game designers) are “the bad guys”… but games made by “the good guys” are political, too. There are countless games where the goal is to defeat The Soviet Union, the Nazis, etc.

There’s a *huge* number of games where the goal is to defeat Hezbollah-like groups, as the “Special Force” creators are quick to note. Are these games not also political?

To muddy the “good guy/bad guy” waters a little bit, there was a popular game a few years ago in which you played a Russian soldier and the enemies were Chechen terrorists. Or Chechen freedom fighters.

In the art/game area, John Klima‘s “Serbian Skylight” and “The Great Game” use video game motifs to explore the politics of war.

I used to be a nationally-ranked online Quake player, but when it comes to playing war simulation games in which I am fighting my way through a poor village on our own planet Earth, fighting other human beings, using real-world weapons (as opposed to plasma rifles), the politics of the simulation usually becomes too much for me.