The game is bigger than ever. With die-hard fans shelling out as much as $70 per game with budgets in excess of $200 million, the video game industry it is now bigger than the film and music industries combined. Video games got an especially big boost from lockdownwith players escaping the confines of their homes into immersive fantasy worlds in ever-increasing numbers.
But as with much of our cultural life, the video game industry is now under increasing ideological pressure. Both industry brass and journalists see gamers less as fun-loving amateurs than as an uncompromising army of reactionary white men in need of moral correction.
One title that epitomizes this trend is Naughty Dog’s The last of us. This action-adventure game was widely acclaimed since its release in 2013 for its beautiful immersive graphics and gripping story. After his own daughter dies in a zombie apocalypse, the player character Joel must go to great lengths to protect Ellie, a girl who is immune to the disease that turns people into zombies. Joel and Ellie travel across the United States hoping to use her immunity to find a cure. The story was praised at the time for being ‘stunning and beautifully real‘ and for presenting masculinity in a positive light. Flawed but stoic, Joel became an immediate fan favorite.
Fast-forward seven years to the long-awaited the last of us part 2, and Joel is killed early in the game by a new character, Abby, who is trans. ‘Stupid old man,’ she says, as she clubs him to death, a metaphor for culture wars, if there ever was one.
Fans were understandably unhappy with this callous treatment of a much-loved hero. The gaming press, however, simply dismissed fan criticism as ‘ignorant hate‘, and accused them of not liking the ’emphasis on LGBTQ characters and stories’; later we also find out that Ellie is gay. even the President of Sony Entertainmentwhich produces Playstation consoles and published The last of ushe was quick to call out ‘toxicity’ from fans.
Woke’s ideology is even making its way into first-person shooter action titles, noted for their realistic violence and strict age ratings. Electronic Arts Game 2018, battlefield v, a first-person shooter set in World War II, sparked a backlash among fans after it prominently featured a female soldier in marketing, including on the game’s cover. The move was particularly puzzling given that the vast majority of those who fought and died in World War II were men. As usual, the industry was quick to accuse fans of ‘misogyny’. One critic could barely hide it contempt to fans, labeling them “angry young white men”.
It seems that each and every area of culture, even video games about war, should promote an awakened worldview.
You can see this change in Activision’s marketing Obligations Serie. In 2010, the advertising campaign of covert operations He left with the line,’There is a soldier in all of us‘. Today, like a rap and full of sports cars trailer for the long awaited modern warfare 2 shows, the game’s military content is being deliberately downplayed.
The influence of political correctness in the gaming industry extends to the code. epic games, creator of Fortnitereleased the latest version of its free game development software, Unreal Engine 5, earlier this year, along with its new official coding standards. Among the many pages of technical coding rules are numerous commandments about what language developers can use when coding in the engine. While Epic presents these edicts as “guidance and suggestions” to help coders be “more respectful and appropriate,” it is made clear elsewhere that they are top-down rules that are “mandatory” to use the service.
For example, coders are told not to ‘use words that refer to historical trauma or lived experiences of discrimination’, such as ‘slave, master and nuclear weapon’. Other prohibited terms include ‘abort, run or native’, and even ‘blacklist’ and ‘whitelist’, all of which are commonly used terms in the huge technical task of game development.
That is ‘inclusive’ authoritarianism In one word. In other words, be nice, or else. Many developers have no choice but to comply. Thousands of smaller studios trust the Epic Games engine globally. They simply cannot afford to develop the same cutting-edge technology in-house.
Gamers themselves also have no choice but to accept this preachy twist on video games. Few studios can currently make high-budget story-driven games of the quality of The last of usor action shows at the level of Obligations.
Video games are supposed to be an escape from real life. They are a showcase of the creativity and imagination of developers. What a shame it is to see all of this sacrificed for the sake of awakening, and games reduced to yet another tool of indoctrination.
Laurie Wastell is an intern at spiked.