VG boundaries 4

Identity Politics in Video Games

Considering that the majority of the dialogue we have been studying centers around diversity and representation of characters, I found Ian Bogost’s article for the Atlantic to be a rather fresh and stimulating viewpoint. I actually get the sense that Bogost seems to somewhat resent the pervasiveness of identity politics in the modern-day video game debate. He seems to think that the reason why identity politics has become such a potent force in the conversation is that it is rooted in a selfish obsession for personal identification and representation. Now, while he evidently has a decent awareness and concern for the ubiquity of social issues and inequality, I think he is still coming from a place of privilege in perhaps not understanding how valuable representation can be for typically underrepresented groups. And perhaps he takes for granted that he’s had to wrestle less with his own personal identification. Thus, it seems unfair that he perceives gamers desire for self-identification as a strictly a selfish indulgence. That said, his argument is still a valid one worth reflecting upon. The notion that we must have characters in games in order to achieve diversity and sophistication is one that should be challenged. The representations of systems and circumstances over individuals can be an incredibly formidable tool in both understanding complex issues of social justice as well as attempting to separate ourselves from our need for personal identification. There is something hauntingly powerful at the thought of abdicating our individual desires in the interest of systems bigger than ourselves. Again, while I think Bogost does occupy a relatively privileged space, his point that it is a luxury to worry about self-representation when there are grander and powerfully destructive forces at work—climate change, wealth inequality, automation, etc. –is a fair critique. Maybe he’s right, that while we are focused on self-expression, and playing a game of identities, billionaires are off playing the game of systems. Given the current state of things in today’s world, we have reason to worry. As Bogost points out, the threat of automation, privatization, surveillance, etc., are all very real. It might be uncomfortable to hear, but there is definitely truth in that to strive for a more promising future, we may need to address the systems themselves rather than the faces of its operators. Otherwise, we will continue to be the Sims “meandering aimlessly in the streets of power broker’s cities.”

One comment on “Identity Politics in Video Games

  1. River_Scallop
    May 13, 2018

    This is a thought-provoking post, ktvg4. I find myself wondering a lot about the role of identity politics in the video game world. How much agency do people from “diverse” backgrounds have within this world, and how much are they being used to bolster the power of today’s billionaires? How much can the video game world be transformed by a diverse set of power players?


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This entry was posted on May 13, 2018 by in IRL, Theory & Criticism and tagged , , .

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