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Politics in games - implicit or explicit formation of opinion?

In real life, politics is an uncomfortable and uninteresting subject for most of us. When it comes to games, the attitude towards this subject is entirely different. In games, politics is a synonym for interests and fun. Can games be used to form an opinion?

In real life, politics isn’t a synonym for fun, however, it plays a very big role in the games development industry. Most games are implicitly political, even though this wasn’t intended by the developer. 

Games are one of the most important and most social media of our time. They are reflections of the society in which they have been created. At the same time, they affect our society and can be used to spread ideologies and political propaganda. 

Just like other media, games can represent political interests. You can find subjects like gender, work, democratic awareness, state surveillance, armed conflicts and refugees depicted in digital games. 

Games with political nature like the EVE online universe can lead their players to organize themselves into complex economical and also political systems. EVE, also known as New Eden, provokes emotions like envy, ambition, revenge, greed, hate and friendship, just like in real life. 

The similarities of the stories to the real world play an important role in the success of electronic games. Games allow their players to immerse in imaginary worlds that are completely different to real life. Still, it’s impossible for people not to look for parallels between fiction and reality. Games with plausible stories facilitate the player’s identification with the game world and make it easier to immerse in them. If the player believes that a fact in the fictional world could be true in real life, it’s easier for him to immerse in this world. 

Contrary to other games, an action within the game EVE is final. If you destroy an important ship or even the whole fleet of an opponent or you conquer the enemy's home base, it will last. This leads to fascinating developments like a shortage of resources and emotional ties to objects.

Virtual political polarization

We always had opposition in the political world. It can’t be different in the virtual world. If you choose a political party in World of Warcraft, the members of the other parties are automatically your enemy. Furthermore, there are “joint enemies” as challenges in the game that can only be defeated by unions of parties. In this context, it’s obvious that politics in games is not simply black and white. Just like in real life, politics develops and has many shades. 

Andrey Coutinho, writer and games designer at supernova.games, explains that this active political participation of players is taking place in games because the people don’t feel that they are heard by the politicians in real life and that their input isn’t relevant. In games, they receive immediate feedback to their actions and the consequences are much bigger than in reality. “I think that real-life politics can learn a lot from games on how to take the voices of the population seriously.” 

Can games be used to form public opinions?

There’s a huge difference between only consuming political content in the real world or experience this content in a game. “Yes, I believe, that games have a bigger impact on forming public opinions than any other media”, says Coutinho. 

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Thank you for reading this!

Wilgen and the alugha team!

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