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"Battlefield 2042", "Far Cry 6": How Much Politics Fits in a Video Game?


Wars, refugee crises, environmental degradation and battles against dictators: computer games are often about politics. But many manufacturers do not want to act politically. Now one dares to go forward.

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»Battlefield 2042«: The multiplayer shooter takes place in a world after the climate collapse

Photo: EA Dice

The world of the near future is apocalyptic. In 2035 the EU will collapse and the climate catastrophe will turn over a billion people into refugees. Huge storms and rising seas cause democracies to fall, blackouts and the failure of satellites add to the chaos. In the struggle for the last resources, proxy wars erupt around the world, in Antarctica, South Korea, West Africa and the ruins of Qatar. The fighters are recruited from refugee armies.

What sounds like the gloomy forecasts of pessimistic climate researchers or shrill activists is the setting for a game.

“Battlefield 2042”, recently presented to the public, lets its players fight as mercenaries in this conflict, in huge multiplayer battles.

There is no story apart from the apocalyptic plot, the focus is on action.

Remarkable: A video game warns of the climate catastrophe with shocking, haunting images.

Or maybe not?

“This is just a multiplayer game.

We just wanted more spectacles and huge events.

The setting fits in perfectly, «says Design Director Daniel Berlin in an interview with the industry website IGN.

The Swedish game developer EA DICE, who develops the Battlefield series, is adopting the classic stance of the games industry on this topic: Political settings, themes and motifs are probably used in the games - as a comment on real events, circumstances and developments but to understand none of it.

Not to mention a message that it is supposed to convey.

Climate catastrophe, refugee crisis, war?

Everything just wallpaper.

Just kidding

"It's just an entertainment product" was the answer to the question about politics in the games of the industry giant Ubisoft. A new American civil war with a burning Capitol in "The Division 2", the fight against right-wing extremist militias in the hinterland of the US state of Montana in "Far Cry 5", undercover drug war by American special forces in Bolivia in "Ghost Recon Wildlands": all just entertainment , free of any political statement, as Ubisoft staff mantra-like confirmed over and over again.

This is also assured in the sixth part of the »Far Cry« series, which is also newly presented.

This time, the open-world shooter is set to take place on a fictional Caribbean island that looks like Cuba and is ruled by "El Presidente" Antón Castillo, played by the actor Giancarlo Esposito, known from "Breaking Bad".

As a resistance fighter you take up the armed struggle against this dictator in "Far Cry 6".

"Far Cry 6" should be a real "guerrilla fantasy", enthused narrative director Navid Khavari.

In order to be able to make the story and characters as realistic as possible, the authors traveled to Cuba and spoke to contemporary witnesses and former guerrilla fighters about what it was like to take part in a revolution.

And yet: They do not want to make a political statement, especially not about Cuba, which has been affected by the longest lasting trade embargo in modern history;

that is a "complicated island".

Escape to the front

»Far Cry 6« - a guerrilla fantasy between historical authenticity and entertainment product?

Here too, according to disappointed critics, the billionaire company Ubisoft was once again afraid of its own courage.

And in front of the audience, which regularly protests loudly when it senses any political messages.

"Keep your politics out of my games", please no politics in games - this generally means the rejection of clumsy political propaganda, especially from the left-wing liberal side. The fact that games often disseminate politically unambiguously conservative to right-wing views of the world hardly bothers a fan; for example when - as with Ubisoft's numerous franchises - the bestselling author and Republican hero Tom Clancy is emblazoned in the name.

A blog entry on Ubisoft's website entitled "The Politics of Far Cry 6" was all the more surprising.

And that with the very first sentence: "Yes, our history is political," announced Khavari, thus taking the long-overdue flight forward.

“A story about a modern revolution has to be [political].

Far Cry 6 has tough, relevant discussions about the conditions that lead to the rise of fascism in a nation, the cost of imperialism, forced labor, the need for free elections, LGBTQ rights and much more, all in the context of ours fictional island of Yara. "

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What there is, however, according to Navid Khavari, are simple, binary political statements, especially on the current political climate in Cuba.

What sounds banal and self-evident is no small matter.

After all, the multi-million dollar high-gloss segment of the games industry can only recoup its constantly growing development costs if as far as possible no potential buyer group is annoyed.

The middle-aged gun-loving Trump fan should ideally buy the product as well as people who think completely different politically in Europe and ideally also in China, where completely different sensitivities have to be taken into account.

To take responsibility

For a long time, the industry has therefore simply denied that its games, which are so fond of depicting the real, complex world in an increasingly photo-realistic manner, also make political statements about this world - whether they intend it or not. A »Far Cry« that admits that the stories of revolution, dictatorship and imperialism told over and over again are of course political, that is actually new and overdue. The step, as small as it may be from the outside, has been difficult. And, as the example of Battlefield 2042 shows, it is far from being followed by everyone.

It is ultimately irrelevant whether the makers of »Battlefield 2042« intend to send a political message with the climate apocalypse shown or not.

In times in which there is fierce political and social struggle over precisely this horror vision and the methods of defending it, its virtual version is more than just a backdrop.

How much politics can you fit into a game?

As much as you can get.

Because ultimately the interpretation is decisive: whether one sees a destroyed earth full of refugee warriors as a drastic warning call to action, as an exaggerated fantasy with no real content or as an already unstoppable future is one of the central political questions of the present.

And the answer to that is not provided by the games, but by their audience.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-06-23

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