Back in E3 2004, when the first teaser for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was announced, people cheered and stomped their feet zealously as Miyamoto posed on stage with the Hero Shield and Master Sword in hand. However, when The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was announced in 2014, and the audience witnessed a hero donned in a cerulean tunic, they wondered whether the Link portrayed was a female for the very first time. They were gravely disappointed when they realized that Nintendo hadn’t flipped the switch on him yet. That didn’t stop them from dreaming of a “better” future, though…
Why is this so significant? Well, the answer lies in its implication. Why are gender-identity politics being mixed in with videogames now as opposed to 13 years ago? When did it suddenly become so important to label videogames as not conforming to the times revolving around political correctness? This now seemingly never-ending odyssey for the videogame industry started back in 2014 when the “anti-women” pseudo-intellectual conspiracy known as “Gamergate” made headlines. That was essentially what set off the war of information: you have one side claiming that gamers are misogynistic, basement-dwelling white males who live to ruin women’s lives. On the other, you have the gamers claiming that Gamergate is truly about one woman ruining her ex-boyfriend’s life after he found out she cheated on him with five guys– oh, and let me not forget the conflict of interest accusations for doing so.
Having said all of that, this opinion piece is not about Gamergate, but rather its implication; this particular keyword will be of utmost importance to get my point across. And what exactly are these implications I keep bringing up? To find the answer, we have to look at the content being shoehorned– uh, I mean, introduced in games today. Let’s look at the upcoming triple-A titles coming out of E3 this year as point of reference. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Far Cry 5, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, and even Beyond Good and Evil 2 (which I thought did it better than the others), all have something in common: sassy black girls kicking butt in one way or another. Now, I know that people are going to take my words completely out of context, but I’ll explain what I mean. Having minorities as leads in videogames is not something we at Gamers Heroes condemn by any means.
There’s nothing wrong with having minorities leading by example. Hell, developers, as the artist and content creators that they are, should be free to choose the gender, skin, costume, makeover, and all the nitty-gritty regarding their fictional creations. The freedom of artistry is not what I’m questioning here, but its authenticity. We all know at this point that the reason why another media art form like film is coming under heavy fire for Hollywood blockbusters such as the Ghostbusters remake is not because of the sassy black female played by Leslie Jones. The real reason why it was criticized so much is because of its lack of authenticity; its obvious concern for pushing an agenda against a certain group of people… The very same people that are being pointed at for harassing the damsels in distress in the Gamergate controversy: the alt-right “white males.” Note the quotation marks here, since heads-up; not all alt-right people are “white males” (shocker).
If you don’t believe me, then let’s look at the three games I mentioned above. Let’s start with Wolfenstein II, which features a witty, black female mocking the white male lead B.J. by calling him a “white boy” and profiling him as a Nazi. Oh, right. I forgot to mention that the plot involves an alternative reality in which Nazi fascists have taken over America. In Far Cry 5, the gameplay trailer everybody got to see at E3 involved an empowered sassy black woman named Grace Armstrong (notice the emphasis on the last name) as she kills the zealous Christian nuts who have run society to the ground. Now, remind me again, to which side do the conservative religious people belong to? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the left. Even Beyond Good and Evil 2 features a new colored female lead instead of Jade from the original game. We haven’t seen her shooting any white males yet and that’s a good thing. Although, this could be because lead developer Michael Ancel has revealed that the game is still very early in development, which means that things could change between now and launch day.
Now those are the triple-A games. The other side of the pond where supposedly the “hidden gems” comprising the indie section seemed to be floating in tainted waters as well at this past E3. Perusing through the Indiecade section, the overarching themes of these games, which include inclusiveness, diversity, and like-mindedness (as opposed to open-mindedness), were unofficially high atop an invisible flagpole swaying in liberation to those willing to stop by. Inside that section, were games like The Cat in the Hijab, Borders, and Herald: An Interactive Period Drama. The first game is pretty self-explanatory. Although the developer wants the player to know how harmful the effects of hate speech can be for wearing a hijab in the west today. Borders focuses on the plights that Mexican immigrants face as they cross the US-Mexico border – which includes perma-death, by the way. The last game Herald: An Interactive Period Drama is a swashbuckling point-and-click adventure that immerses the player in the 19th century; a time when there was plenty of oppression by, you guessed it, privileged white males who constantly divided society with racism, sexism, and class warfare. Oh, I didn’t even mention the last game called PolitiTruth. It’s just a game that’s supposed to test how much you know against “fake news” or something along those lines. I’ll leave the trailer below for this one. You won’t believe it until you see it.
Since when does a website owned by a cat lady and her sleazy husband ever get to be self-righteous enough to decide for an entire country what they should be reading in the news or not? Oh, wait… My bad. That’s Snopes. Wrong website, but the same thing, regardless. PolitiTruth is co-developed by one of the internet’s most trusted Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checkers: PolitiFact – a website that has already been proven to be just as compromised as the fake news they’re trying to discredit. But more importantly, why is this garbage creeping into the industry and masquerading as a videogame? Since when do gamers need to be educated on fake news? When did this become a thing? And finally, just what is the name of this condition affecting our games? Two words I mentioned previously: political correctness.
As I mentioned earlier, freedom of expression given by the US first amendment essentially allows a content creator to materialize whatever he or she sees fit into a videogame. However, these heavily loaded political statements like the ones in Wolfenstein II and Borders are a by-product of shoehorned leftist agendas or a result of a reactionary movement? You could argue that the latter game is, but definitely not the former. Wolfenstein has been in development before the 2016 elections took place. And even if it wasn’t, that still doesn’t take away my right to criticize its shallow message and its heavy handed sassy black female– all in the name of political correctness. These artists sure have the right to put on whatever the hell they want on screen, but they shouldn’t expect everybody to kiss up to it. A work of art should be judged accordingly based on what it portrays and what it delivers. If that includes a wide array of slapdash content thrown in at the last minute to appeal to a group’s political bias, agenda and ideologies; then that doesn’t exempt it from being scrutinized over doing so.
In spite of what the naysayers will assume of me, I am actually quite open to new ideas in games. Go read my review of a true indie gem called Detention that covered similar socio-political themes that I am lambasting on this editorial. I praised that game for tastefully implementing its message. If only these games managed to do half of that, I wouldn’t be so bothered. All this shoehorning does is please one side and piss everybody else off. Most will disagree when I claim that I want a diversity of ideas. I truly do want people to express themselves without abandon. That’s the reason why people flock to countries like America to begin with; to find that elusive thing called “freedom of speech,” which is unknown in their native land of origin – whatever that may be.
While we are seeing a surge of politically charged, racially motivated, and socially aware individuals coming out with games trying to make a change in today’s “unjust” western society with a wide-array of quotas being filled– again, in the name of political correctness. All you have to do is check and see if the game has a socio-political tinge to it, and then you know that the message isn’t as organic as it claims to be. And even if it’s not funded by any third parties, hold a magnifying glass to it and verify its authenticity. What a sad day and age we live in when we have to double check every single work of art to make sure it’s not tainted by some racy agenda. Those are all the implications from Gamergate, gender-identity politics, and the current US commander-in-chief. Basically it’s the left all rolled-up into one massive organism that’s infecting everything in its proximity. Unfortunately, videogames don’t have the antidote to this yet, which is why we must scrutinize accordingly. Don’t we all want to go back to the times when political correctness wasn’t a thing? I’m sure I’m not the only one who yearns for this. A guy can dream… and write about it, though.