Starting with copies of table or outdoor games, “snakes,” computer games have grown to works equal to or even surpassing movies not only in their budgets, but also in the storylines and experiences they create. But isn’t sometimes what the analysts call soft power instruments sometimes behind the engaging storyline and the many special effects?
Aivaras Žukauskas, a doctoral student at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, and Artūras Rumiancevas, a board member, game reviewer and critic of the Lithuanian Game Developers’ Association, shared their knowledge on how to make an impact through video games.
One of the most influential media flourished during the pandemic
Video games are rightly considered part of the creative industries. Games and creativity integrate a variety of areas, including such as visual arts, graphic design, the use of sound elements, music, virtual cinema, the creation of game history. Together, video games are the fastest growing entertainment industry. In terms of global revenue, it outperforms the film and music industries combined, and the gaming audience has long transcended the boundaries of a niche group. By the time of the pandemic, there were an estimated 2 billion gamblers in the world, and 40 percent of U.S. video games, for example, had played at least three hours a week. population. The global pandemic has given an even greater impetus to the development of video games, and the number of players continues to grow rapidly. According to A.Žukauskas, this alone is a serious reason to evaluate games in various aspects – culturally, socially, politically, especially since this area of creative industries in our region is still considered to be frivolous.
After all, video games need to be seen as a type of media that, like other media, can be used for a variety of purposes, including propaganda. A.Žukauskas, who participated in one of the discussions between the Ministry of Culture and the Media and Information Literacy Network, stated that video games, as one of the means of soft power, can have the same effect as cinema, television or other media. Games can directly and indirectly represent the political and institutional narratives of states, usually large ones, and the institutions themselves often influence the output of the gaming industry. This is especially true of games with a military and historical theme, which can be both openly propagandistic and attempt to subtly broadcast a political or historical narrative that is convenient and not necessarily objective for the state. Therefore, just as when analyzing films, literature, or other works, it is necessary to use critical thinking when confronted with such narratives. In the case of video games, also because they have additional means of influence, such as those encoded in the rules, when you obey them, you are rewarded.
Best racing games have an even greater impact than other media for the simple reason that here the player is not a passive user or observer, he is active. When you play the game, it offers you choices that the following scenarios depend on. As in reality, the player has the right to choose and decide. In fact, even in reality, not everyone and not always has the right to decide, and the game gives it to you, here you become the decision maker. If it’s a politically engaged game, it can give you bigger rewards for the choices and decisions the creators want and push you in the right direction, even subconsciously, without even having time to think about it. Of course, the better the game, the less noticeable it is done. Those choices based on shared human values might not be close to you, but they are politically important to those who created the game or funded its creation. Here we are approaching the not always clear limit from which propaganda begins, “said A. Rumiancev, adding that it has long been no secret that special funds are allocated to finance this influential type of media in the major countries of the world.
Our tanks are the best: simulations, manipulations and critical thinking
A.Žukauskas emphasized that car racing games have the potential to create simulations of the political environment and bring players closer to the real problems of political life, but that reality is often oversimplified, thus opening the way for manipulations. “This form of media, through its elements, can promote one or another view of the world. But often very schematic: black – white. This is especially true of historical and military games. Such a principle does not encourage critical thinking, it deprives the ability to better understand the multi-layered, more complicated reality. While the description of the common game states that the game presents everything historically and realistically, in reality, such games often become a tool of political struggle, “said the video game researcher, adding that sometimes propaganda games are presented as documentaries, about the 9th Company ”, praising the Soviet army and its alleged achievements in Afghanistan.