Should Game Studios Stay Out of Politics?
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Insomniac Games, the studio responsible for the Ratchet and Clank series, The Song of the Deep, and the upcoming Spider-Man game for the PS4 have taken a stand against one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders. In a video posted to their YouTube channel, the studio announces that they have officially joined the growing number of game developers and tech executives, including a number of indie game studios and Microsoft's president and CEO on this issue. The order in question is Trump’s ban on immigrants and travellers from seven specific countries whose majority population is of the Muslim faith. Though Insomniac Games is clearly a very diverse studio, some folk might believe this is an unwanted insertion of politics into video games. However, I believe this is the perfect way to get the gaming community more involved in issues that might affect our favorite games.

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Again, this kind of public stand is a great way to get the gaming community involved, and I think Insomniac Games and other developers are very much in the right because they are part of one of the most global and diverse industries in the world. Although some employees work from remote locations, it is sometimes much more convenient to have them on site. As such, as Trump's executive order comes to fruition, it will affect our games. To have employees suddenly usurped from their positions, regardless of the reasoning, is extremely detrimental to one's project. From animators to engine designers to the game writers themselves, they are not easily replaceable in the middle of a project. The game could very well come out looking half done or at least lose focus and consistency.

In addition, to those that hate the explicit inclusion of real world politics in their video games, I can tell you that when a creator is as passionate about an issue as Price is, it will come out in all of their work. Even your favorite zombie game is going to have its share of political statements, either through easter eggs, gameplay, or story. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next Call of Duty reflected current political conditions in some way. It hasn't shied away from making subtle statements on government corruption before (see Advanced Warfare). Especially if Activision goes with the Vietnam War period, it would be easy for the developers to slip in a '60s song that applies all too well to both past and present situations. Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" comes to mind.

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As a result, some folks might say that Insomniac Games has absolutely no business getting into politics this way. That it will “ruin” future games into something that graduates away from entertainment and escapism to a sharing of political views. They wouldn't be wrong, but I also wouldn't call it “ruining” games. In such times of political and social upheaval, art will reflect the world more obviously than ever. And that's not a bad thing if it brings such important issues to the audience's attention. If the world needs change, involving the video game industry is probably one of the best ways to go about it.

So as much as some might say that it is better to keep politics out of games, I think what Insomniac Games is doing is admirable. This is something that can get the entire gaming community to stand for a common cause, despite whatever other differences in opinions we may have. Both as artists and businesspeople, companies affected by political events have a right to speak up.

Christine Pugatschew
Christine Pugatschew

Contributing Writer
Date: 02/02/2017

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