“Keep Your Politics Out Of Video Games”

It’s four o’clock in the morning in the South Australian Parliament and incredibly, the House of Assembly is still in session. Forty-seven MP’s sit in debate over the Death With Dignity bill – an attempt to pass legally assisted voluntary euthanasia into South Australian law. Many in attendance are irritable and tired, having been staring at the green carpet of the 159 year-old room since early the night before.

The good news is that the debate has finally reached an end. Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia since 2011, votes for the introduction of the bill. But the bad news is the votes are now tied at 23 for and 23 against. It is a deadlock and the debate threatens to drag out even further into the early hours of the morning.

There’s one person who has yet to cast their vote. The Speaker of the House. They hold the final vote which will sway the bill either into law or further political quagmire. This night, and all the debating that came along with it, stands as the fifteenth time euthanasia has been through the South Australian Parliament seeking to become legal. The speaker votes in the negative. The bill is yet again defeated and everyone goes home.

This happened four weeks ago. The speaker of the South Australian House of Assembly was and is 58 year-old Michael Atkinson. Some of you may remember the name. In a previous life, Atkinson’s position as a South Australian backbencher and also Attorney General saw him fight against the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games. Using that old “But what about the children” argument, Atkinson became the devil in the eyes of a lot of Australians who were dedicated enough to following this video game news. He was the full embodiment of everything wrong with censorship, luddite politicians and the old guard who just didn’t understand where modern media was headed. The vilification of Atkinson was like an unstoppable tsunami.

For years, he was the subject of pure seething hate from a lot of corners of the internet. He was sent mountains of hate-mail and death threats. Even his home address was made public. An opposing political party was created to contest him in 2010 and he received a massive swing against his re-election. Atkinson regained his seat but it was clear that a force for change was surrounding him. His outdated ways were to be stomped into the ground with whatever rage and aggressive measures were required. Damn him all to hell. His kind was to be fought. For years and years if necessary. No matter the cost to personal energy or perspective on the world at large.

Then the R18+ rating passed in January 2013 and nobody who played video games cared about Atkinson ever again. In the light of day, with no more fight to be fought, he wasn’t the devil. Just a stubborn person who was out of touch. The world is full of them. But the tap from where all that rage flows can’t simply be turned off. The sheer force of it needs to be directed elsewhere. Even to completely different places. Otherwise, a dark murky substance builds up and eventually – it bursts.

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In the last few years, there’s been a certain phrase in the video game community that seems to be once again rising to a big crescendo. It has been applied to movies, music and even sports teams but it seems like it first took root in games. The phrase goes like this:

“Keep your politics out of video games”

It lives in a lot of comment sections and Youtube videos. Typically, it is in response to games that concern some unexplored topic, storyline or character trait that has been either under or misrepresented by developers and publishers in the past. It’s a relatively new collection of words but the people who use it are all too familiar.

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These particular people are employing this particular phrase because they believe something unnatural has entered their midst. The landscape of video games has been broken and they’re not happy. Their claim is that these new experiences are being forced into their view without an invite. Things like a black woman protagonist or stories about same sex love. Games about a family dealing with cancer or dialogue that criticises current real-world trends. A lot of things that reflect the reality we all currently live in. Anything that disrupts the norm. The norm of years and years living inside adventures that never challenge the player beyond of the dexterity of their fingers. Never to question the status quo. Never to explore new ideas.

“Keep your politics out of video games”. Let’s break these words down. Firstly, it’s a demand. It’s not offering a solution to any problems. It’s only there to put a stop to something. The ‘keep out’ aspect implies ownership. It says games are mine. You and whatever you’re peddling don’t belong. You don’t love video games as much as I do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be trying to ruin them with your agenda. You haven’t earned your place here so just go ahead and do an about face. Go back to where you came from. Because nothing you’re offering could ever be of any value.

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That’s what these words say. But despite the amount of inadvertent effort that it took to create them, it’s not what they mean. That’s where the word “politics” comes in. It’s the part of the phrase that rings the most false. It doesn’t make sense. There’s a reason for that. You can see this same falsehood in other phrases too.

“A woman wouldn’t be able to do that in Star Wars”

“Peter Parker has always been white”

“Why is Heisenberg’s wife such a bitch?”

“Why aren’t there more white people in Luke Cage?”

“There aren’t enough transgender people out there for this to matter”

“They should protest peacefully”

“He’s just telling it like it is”

If people want to have stunted, backwards views that prevent them from adapting to the world around them, then fine. Have at it. It’s pretty obvious that they will have one or two people who agree with them these days.

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However, why are they so ashamed that they hide behind empty phrases? Why the blanket cowardice? Own that racism. Take pride in being a sexist pig. Shake with uncontrollable rage when somebody talks about transgender rights. What are you hiding from? All your heroes don’t sugarcoat what they say. They’ve made careers out of it. Why be satisfied by only being a casual bigot? When you talk about Asians being everywhere these days, don’t whisper it. Say it loud and clear. For everyone to hear.

On one hand, there are some similarities to politics here. A lot of decisions made by career politicians were made out of fear. That’s how they got votes. Fear at the loss of how things are. So in that respect, you can see a lot of parallels. But on the other hand, politicians have power. Legislative power. Enough to change laws or prevent them. Decisions that can affect millions of people’s lives. Immeasurable power based on prejudices and fear of the unknown.

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That’s where any similarities end. People demanding to keep politics out of video games or movies or sports are yelling into the wind. An empty wish to see the world either remain as it is or even return to a previous era. The phrase itself only acts as a beacon to signify what kind of person uses it. Someone who can’t relate to playing a game as a person of colour. Or gets uncontrollably angry when their comfortable lives are criticised. To the point of believing in conspiracies seeping in throughout the studios of game developers. Stories in games suddenly become propaganda. Beloved franchises transform into a worthless thing overnight because a new trailer featured a woman. Reddit becomes an altar of approval singing a chorus that it is okay to have such thoughts.

In fact, you owe video games. It’s up to you to be the defender against people who have these agendas. How else are you are going to continue having the same adventures with the same characters and the same stories made by the same people. In every game. Forever. All of this starts to make perfect sense. How could you not see this before? Of course Mass Effect is garbage. You can’t buy Watch Dogs 2 when they’re forcing a black guy on you. Female soldiers in Call Of Duty? Not your Call of Duty. If only game developers focused on entertainment and not politics and stop being the social justice warrior trash that they are. Anita Sarkeesian is the devil. Just like Michael Atkinson was. All censorship is evil and game reviewers should never have personal opinions. They’re ruining everything. Keep your politics out of video games.

Into the wind it goes. A tunnel of white noise. A drain swirling into a void. This is all about the individual who uses this phrase, not politics. Politics is much worse. Politics is allowing a maniac to be anywhere near nuclear weapons. Politics is ordering mass death from halfway around the world. Politics is preventing the freedom of slaves. Or voting rights for women. Or government assistance for poverty-stricken families. Politics is voting at four o’clock in the morning against a bill that some people desperately require because they need the suffering of a loved one to end.

The phrase itself is meaningless. But it’s a good shortcut to knowing the person behind it.

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