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Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

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Posted March 16, 2011 - By Guest Writer




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By Andrew Groen

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

When we think about propaganda most of us probably conjure up images of Rosie the Riveter, awesome Soviet propaganda posters, or World War II era war films. However, the form of propaganda has evolved over the last sixty-five years or so since its hey-day in the great war. A work of art doesn't necessarily need to be specifically commissioned by a government to fall into the category of propaganda. It's a form of communication that selectively picks facts in order to influence the audience. It doesn't even necessarily need to be manipulative.

It's often very difficult to discern what works are actually propaganda during the time they're being created. It usually requires hindsight to understand the motives of the creator. These are a few of the games we think future generations will look back on as propaganda vehicles that may be influencing how we see the world.

When future generations look back at gaming in the early 21st century they'll undoubtedly see some of our entertainment as American propaganda. Here are some of the games they'll give that dubious brand.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Call of Duty: Anything
Released: 2003-2011

Call of Duty has been a staple at military recruitment fares and on military bases for years. While other shooters developed about the military strive to provide a realistic account of warfare for those who fantasize about military life, CoD often becomes so-called 'war porn.' It glamorizes the action of a military conflict and instills the belief that firefights erupt every fifteen minutes during a war and each American soldier can take out 25 of the enemy in each engagement. Rather than truthfully depicting the reality of war, CoD presents a glorified version of it that is absolutely stupendous for providing entertainment, but is deceiving and dangerous when users think it represents the reality of war.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

America's Army
Released: 2002

America's Army was originally created as a recruitment tool, and as such is probably one of the only games on this list that was deliberately created to boost enlistments and nationalism. It has been remarkably effective at fostering gung-ho pro-American militarism throughout much of the country. The American Civil Liberties Union even said in 2008 that the Army's video-game development team found that 60 percent of recruits had played America's Army on a nearly daily basis, and 4 out of 100 said they joined just because of the game. The ACLU has alleged that the game was designed to reach young teens online that are legally protected from recruitment attempts.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Kuma/War 2
Released: July 2006

This game is unique because it is delivered in episodic format based on events as they're actually happening around the globe (or rather, slightly afterward once the designers have had a chance to craft the levels.) This one gets bonus propaganda points because not only is it content created in America, for Americans and based on battles as reported by the American media, but it's also created in real-time, without the benefit of hindsight. World War II games have likely benefited from the slightly more balanced viewpoint that comes from having historians rewrite the history books more accurately over the years as correct information becomes available. Kuma/War is filled with an irremovable, inevitable pro-American slant.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

De Blob 2 
Released: February 2011

Underneath it's spunky, colorful exterior, de Blob 2 actually has a very serious anti-Communist message. It starts out subtle at first. First you start to suspect that the way color and individuality bring color, life and happiness back to the landscape are a metaphor. Then little puns like “better dead than red” show up which may seem innocuous due to the game's focus on color. Then you remember the game's antagonist is called “Komrade” Black, and it starts to get clearer. Before long, one of the game's colorful, adorable little blobs is halting a line of tanks ala Tienanmen Square, and secret police are kidnapping people and sending them to gulags.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Homefront
Release: March 2011

At least the old anti-communist propaganda made some sense. There was a plausible fear of Russian aggression, but North Korea conquering all of Southeast Asia, raising and training a 20 million strong standing army and invading the United States by just 2027? More than a little far-fetched, and we wouldn't be surprised to find future generations describing this as fear-mongering. We're not suggesting that THQ or Kaos Studios intend to deliberately spread fear of a North Korean invasion, but as history gets fuzzier future generations will likely link the recent North Korea/South Korea skirmishes with the release of Homefront. Even though it's really just insanely lucky publicity for THQ.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Special Force
Released: 2003

It doesn't take a historian to classify Special Force as a work of subversive propaganda. It was created by the right wing, Shi'a Muslim militant group Hezbollah, and they're seemingly more than happy to call it what it is. An official from the Hezbollah information bureau said that the decision to make the game was made by top Hezbollah directors in an effort to help them win the ongoing media war. “In a way, Special Force offers a mental and personal training for those who play it, allowing them to feel that they are in the shoes of the resistance fighters,"he said. The game features players as freedom fighters campaigning against Israel. It even goes so far as to include a shooting range where players can take target practice on then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Not very subtle, guys.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Left Behind: Eternal Forces
Released: 2006

With sequels as recent as 2010, other organizations besides governments can spread their message through engaging media as well, even though we doubt this game can really be described as “engaging” anyway. Eternal Forces is based on the insanely popular Left Behind series of books that describes what will happen to all the sinners when Judgment Day arrives and all the good Christians are whisked away to party with Jesus in Heaven. This mostly non-violent strategy game tasks the player with destroying enemies with the power of prayer and worship. This game probably didn't do a very good job getting its message across though because it was very poorly reviewed with an abysmal score of 38 on Metacritic and 2 out of 5 from us.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?

Quest for Bush
Released: September 2006

No, this isn't the title of the latest raunchy teen comedy where a slick womanizer and his buddies are all trying to score with chicks. It's actually the name of a game released by the Global Islamic Media Front in 2006. Taking the opposite side of the typical Western shooter, the player battles through six levels killing American soldiers, and is ultimately tasked with assassinating then-president George W. Bush. It sounds shocking at first until you remember that it's essentially the same thing we've all been doing for years in action games, only from the opposite perspective. Although Western games rarely depict actual real world figures being killed.

Homefront and Propaganda In Video Games - What Are They Trying To Tell You?
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