On Being A "Woke" Gamer


But suppose you want to make this argument:
War is a crime.
Killing one person is a crime.
Killing one million persons is a huge crime.
Politicians that push their countries to war for personal profit, are the biggest criminals in history.

How you make that into a game mechanic?

I think you can make a silent movie in black and white that have that idea. But it would be hard to give this idea with a videogame.

easy, you make the player the victim of war crimes. And those politicians are villains.

Thanks for reminding me to finish reading that series. Very interesting stuff, and ties into thinking about how Victoria 3 mechanics could enrich the modelling of EU from the perspective of the people (in addition to the perspective of the state). EU4 is great, but I’d love to play a game that responds to some of his modelling criticisms.


Agreed not every political point is best presented through game mechanics. But arguably, some are better suited to games than anything else! Because they’re (often) about the dynamic interplay of different systems, games could be great for exploring systemic political problems.

Put another way, if you were to make a game about, say, being a landlord–setting rent prices, making eviction choices, managing maintenance, picking tenants… I don’t think there’s any way you couldn’t touch on some serious real-life political issues. That might make the game unpleasant for some players, and appeal to some audiences and not others, but it’s a game and it’s political.

The history of Monopoly comes to mind.

I’m always amused by people who either object to politics in games or who claim games are apolitical. It takes a real failure of imagination – or, more likely, a willful blindness – to not see politics in games.


Both Monopoly and the Landlord game seem more economic than what I would call overtly ‘political’, but political can encompass such a large swath of things that I could understand calling them political.

Even something as simple as ‘unit unrest’ which is found in many strategy games (4x is what I’m mostly thinking of) is an mechanic that is totally or at least partially political.

Isn’t political being used in more than one way? There’s seeing a game’s political connection as in recognizing a game’s roots in political history and recognizing that a game’s situation in real life would not be a pleasant two hour diversion. And then there’s seeing a game’s political connection as in becoming angry or sad while playing it, or feeling happy or triumphant while playing it. I think some of the difficulty in discussing this issue comes from that some players are fine noting the connection to real events and moving on, and other players want to self-identify with the perspective of or advocacy in the game through the whole experience.

Our group (pre-COVID) was more of the former type, but I would hope we could accommodate the latter type as well. Spirit Island, baby!

Monopoly was a very political invention. The woman eventually credited with the design was part of a utopian/progressive community. She used the game to teach about economic inequality.


What kind of retarded infant needs to look to others for confirmation on whether or not they are comfortable playing a game?

What these articles really are talking about is whether the government must prevent people from being allowed to play a game with subject matter other people might find objectionable, which is utterly crazy, but so is everything postulated by those advocates.

I… don’t think this is true. I’m not sure which article you’re talking about, but no one is advocating making any game illegal.

I’m not sure the game itself teaches this. Any teaching would be outside of the game. Within the game itself, I’m not sure there is a lot of political themes unless you’re defining political as economic. In Monoply’s case I just think that within the game there is a very limited political focus. But you could certainly parse the game as teaching inequality even though I think it’s more of just a tool that can be used to do so, but on it’s own I think it’s totally economic. Again, not that economic can be totally removed from the political.

Monopoly is a horrible game because it was made from long before humanity had invented good game design (ca. 2008). So I’m not really talking about whether it’s good at teaching anything other than the value of Park Place. I’m just talking about its roots, why it was made, and how it was initially used, which @Nightgaunt’s comments brought to mind. It’s a deeply political invention. And you don’t have to take my word for it! I’m sure the Internet will back me up on this if you want to do a quick Google search!


True, but many, many, many advocate “shutting down” a game before it gets made, or boycotting or other actions against publishers after it gets made becauz political opinionz. And this is poppycock (see my comments up-thread) and the 21st Century version of satanic panic/PRMC in board (and TTRPG) gaming. I’ll do me and most certainly have an opinion about a game after it gets made (even a political opinion), but creator’s rights trump all other considerations in my worldview.

Edit - “PMRC” above (hiya, Tipper and Al!)

Oh, I believe you. I’m probably just playing semantics a bit. The game as a whole might be political. But within the game I don’t see any real political mechanics. But the fact I’m involved in a talk about Monopoly is a craptastic way to start my weekend! So thanks for that.

The goal of the game is to drive your opponents into bankruptcy and economic ruin via landowning. How is that not overtly political?

“Creator’s rights” in what sense? Designers have a right to design whatever game they want, but they don’t have a right to get it published. Publishers have a right to publish whatever they want, but they don’t have a right to commercial success.

Agree, and the market will reward or punish them. However brigading a publisher pre-release of a design is despicable, and indeed the equivalent of satanic panic but being applied for political opinionz purposez, but without even seeing the design.

I’d still argue it’s all economic within the game. There is nothing that isn’t wholly economic that can be done within the game. Maybe my definition of ‘political’ is too fuzzy (I haven’t spent much time thinking about this), but in my mind political involves choices that are in a more gray area than the binary (property good for me or bad for me).

Given the very real damage done by Satanic Panic, which is a precursor to the Trump-era Republican Party, I object to your equivalency. But given your use of Z’s instead of S’s, it’s pretty obvious you’re just being facile.