As a former video game developer, I empathize with you. I remember the long hours and time spent away from my family at the game studio where I worked. I remember designing and scripting formulaic games that I didn’t really like just to please the publisher. Often I questioned what I was doing and wondered if my contributions would really matter in the grand scheme of things.
I also respect that fact that you as an artist, designer or producer are passionate about what you believe. You want to make a difference with your life. I respect that, I truly do. But this crusade you are on that compels you to indoctrinate gamers with your political beliefs and ideology is plain wrong, unethical and dishonest.
Video games are not the place for propaganda. You were hired to be a game developer, not an activist for a cause. Your job as a game developer is not to indoctrinate your customers with your own personal beliefs or political ideology to “change the world”. Your job is to make great games for gamers!
If you really want to change the world, how about instead of demanding that everyone else change, how about you start with changing yourself? Once you have changed yourself, maybe then you’ll have the moral authority to lecture gamers. Until then, I beg you, please, just stop.
If you are really against real injustice and genuinely want to change the world, I encourage you to channel your passion and support any number of worthwhile international aid organizations that are helping to alleviate the suffering of persecuted and enslaved people around the world. Those are real human lives not imaginary characters in a video game. A few years of being exposed to the plight of victims of real injustice far away from the sheltered, air-conditioned confines of the video game industry might just open your eyes and give you a much needed reality check.
You claim to be in support of diversity but from what I see, you do not tolerate diversity of thought and opinion from others. It’s either your way or the highway. Sadly, your zealotry has you transformed you into everything that you purport to hate.
If video game developers were inserting right-wing, conservative or religious propaganda into video games it would be equally wrong and inappropriate. And I would be calling them out as well. The fact is that this is not happening. Propaganda in video games is a serious and growing problem emanating from one particular ideological group of people: the progressives and the extreme left.
Somewhere along the way, someone forgot to teach you that bringing your ideological and existential baggage to the workplace is highly unprofessional and unethical. Not only that, your efforts to indoctrinate gamers are damaging the credibility and reputation of the entire video game industry and your fellow developers who show up each day, do their jobs and play by the rules.
You see, what is exceptional about our pluralistic society is that even though we have our own beliefs, convictions and causes, we leave them at home when we show up for work. Please save the world on your own time and on your own dime.
This is not all about you and what you believe. This is about the gamers that spend their hard earned money playing your games in their precious free time. You need to respect that they too have their own beliefs, convictions and causes. You need to also realize that they might not agree with you. Step back for a moment, take a deep breath and think about it. They don’t need you to lecture them or indoctrinate them.
Your cause, no matter how righteous or just, does not give you the right to indulge in proselytization that might violate the conscience and beliefs of those that play your games.
How would you like it if someone tried to indoctrinate you during your daily entertainment and leisure activities with opposing views? I think you’d be pretty upset and rightly so.
Gamers unashamedly play video games to briefly escape the reality of the world they live. Your job is to facilitate this and create a fantasy world free from the cares and drudgery of this life. When you inject ideology into the player’s game world you have violated the sanctity of their chosen sanctuary.
So is it any wonder that these days gamers are feeling persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized by the very people who should be defending them and looking out for them: corrupt video game journalists and sanctimonious video game developers like yourself who believe that agitating for “social justice” is far more important than creating exceptional video games.
Your dismissive attitude toward gamers reeks of arrogance, condescension and contempt. You have violated their trust. You have crossed the Rubicon of propriety and are venturing into dangerous territory by foolishly biting the hand that feeds you.
Not only that, you and your fellow agitators from within and without have created a culture of fear and coercion where fellow game developers are afraid to speak out. Those that dare to speak truth to your power are falsely labeled as oppressors, misogynists, sexists, homophobes, and bigots and then summarily drummed out of the industry.
Your desire for power and control has gone unchecked and unopposed for far too long.
If you continue to venture deeper into this ideological rabbit hole and persist in disrespecting your customers, it will not end well for you and the video game industry. Nothing lasts forever. Industries rise and fall due to their ability to satisfy the needs of their customers. The invisible hand of the marketplace and the voting feet of the consumer are about to teach you a very hard lesson.
As we have seen in the past year with the GamerGate scandal, gamers are highly intelligent and fiercely independent people who refuse to be bullied and intimidated. They are finally wise to your agenda. In a world where groupthink seems to dominate, they are steadfast individuals that can think for themselves and do not need you to think for them. Gamers will not tolerate their beloved hobby being hijacked by the dictates of your ideology. They will not roll over for you or anyone. Ever.
Instead of spending valuable time and energy pushing your political agenda within your video game, why don’t you focus your considerable talents on making a video game that gamers will actually purchase and play? After all, that’s what you are being paid for.
Your sole duty as a video game developer is to create art, stories, content and gameplay that provide the player with a user experience that is enjoyable, entertaining and immersive. That’s it and nothing more. If you can’t man or woman up and at least try to do your actual job then you are a sorry excuse for a game developer.
If you cannot carry out this most fundamental and basic job requirement of your craft then you need to leave the industry and seek employment as a consultant with a politician or special interest group. I’m sure they would greatly appreciate your abilities as a budding propagandist. At least have the intellectual honesty and personal integrity to withdraw yourself from video game industry and exchange it a career for that is more compatible with your talents and aspirations.
Never forget that you are here to please the gamers, they are not here to please you, validate your beliefs or prop up your ego.
Gamers have every right expect that the games they purchase and play will be free from indoctrination. So it’s time to stop the dissemination of propaganda and start behaving like a professional. By doing so, you will be extending the appropriate courtesy and respect to those gamers that buy your games and pay your wages. If you cannot do that then please leave gamers alone. They were doing fine before you arrived and they’ll do just fine without you.
Special thanks to Chineseposters.net for granting us permission to use a reproduction of a piece of Chinese communist propaganda created by Yu Zhenli from the Landsberger collection for this article.
This stance is very weird. How can any game have a story without pushing some sort of world view? If anything, no matter how just and logical, can be “wrong” in a game, because it’s “propaganda”, then how the heck is that still art?
Provocation and the perspective of the artist have always been a part of art. This is capitalism; nobody is forced to buy a game. The right way to deal with propaganda is to give it some thought, not to shun it.
That’s the thing with pluralism. Not everyone sees things the same way. For some, games are pure, light entertainment. For others, they’re art. For some, they’re a political platform. There is no obvious reason to call one view wrong or the other right. Why should anyone be able to define what the sole duty of a game developer is?