One of my Critical Reflection papers on Games at UB [Fall 2020]
“software is composed of algorithms”
For Unit 6 The Eyes of Empire / The Military-Entertainment Complex, I explored the world of Gaming in relation to the topic of Immigration. Some very interesting, well-thought out planning of these games where generated giving perspective not usually given on this topic in this genre of entertainment. Too often, over the past decades, an American, or even Eurocentric point of view is presented in games. Lately, I’ve seen a changing trend in newer perspectives, challenges and characters that can be played, instead of just playing an Italian plumber jumping barrels.
I really got addicted to playing Oiligarchy, by a far-left website by an Italian company called Molleindustria, challenging traditional displays of video games in explicit antagonistic way against the mainstream industry. This game really focuses on, and even feeds into, The Capitalists guide to ruling the oil industry. I played a similar game on PC back in 1993, with a lot less quality in graphics and less intrusive of foreign entities. Ironically, I was playing it towards the end of my service in the US Navy. After getting through the “Grind Levels” (America 38) and exploring for oil reservoirs I drilled for the “Tennessee Tea” or “Black Gold” as they called it in the 1960s TV show The Beverly Hillbillies. This game was the exact opposite on reasoning given for our occupation in Iraq. “The aftermath – the war on terror – provides a fuller illustration of the Hardt and Negri’s thesis that, in Empire, war is waged not to resolve disputes between states but to maintain order within a global territory” (Banal War 99)
The game’s lesson I learned here was just how dependent America has been on oil, and how the conquering of oil rich lands can prevent the drilling of our own oil reserves. Not to mention the proverbial petroleum that keeps the Republicans oiled to keep policies flowing in my favor. Sadly, the protection of the well is different from country to country, thus strategies to maintain the production safely is different. To win this game, you have to kill off the opposition and have to feelings towards the protestors – you just have to stay focused and dominate. Similarly, the movie Actor of Valor (2012) demonstrates the use of military assets to produce a film, used as propaganda, to recruit the next wave of infiltrators to foreign lands, pinning the Americans as the heroes (Listening Post – Feature: The Pentagon’s grip on Hollywood). Not unlike any other game that’s popular today.
In my quest with my The Military-Entertainment Complex in Oiligarchy, I was retired in the 2080s after beefing up my troops and paying for mercenaries in Iraq and hiring the locals in Nigeria to protect my assets, paying off governments, bribing politicians, drilling all of the world’s reserves, and hording all the money I could. I amassed over $2 million on my second try. I found out just how greedy I really am after playing it. Maybe I was just competitive, or maybe just an over achiever, but I play to win. The migrants in this game appear to me the US soldiers and representatives from my oil company making deals with the locals. There was no balance of allowing any Nigerian, Iraqi or Venezuelan the ability to come to America as an immigrant. The game had a sense of “Telesthesia [perception at a distance, which] allows the speeding up and coordination of movement along all other lines” and “makes possible the completion of topographic space, where vast territories are coordinated within the bounds of the line’ (America 41). It was easy to move from Iraq to Washington and then to Alaska in seconds.
In the late-1990s and early-2000s, I was a fan of Sid Meier’s strategy computer games, especially Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and Gettysburg! (Greene). “Sid Meier, known as a voracious reader, turns history and anthropology books into strategy games. Civilization III even comes with its own Civilopedia, a reference work for a parallel world” (America 50). Most of the strategy was to colonize other parts of the planet, or foreign lands. As the immigrant to new spaces, we had to fight the natives for more resources. Colonization was the name of the war game. It was far from a boring game as “It draws the gamer’s attention not to the storyline but to the combinations of elements from which any given storyline might be selected” (America 51). It was a consent set of thought processes.
Errant Signal reviewed on his YouTube channel, that he loves This War of Mine because it can generate strong narratives while you play (1:57). These graphics and interactions with the non-player characters in this war game that gives you many choices throughout to decide the ending while “generally expending your resources to stay as healthy and happy as you can” (3:29). It seems to be a great thinking man’s (or woman’s) game that allows you to make some bad choices and not necessarily fail or lose, just an outcome. There is no political statement other than the disruption in civilian life and “tries to get us to think about the horror of war in the context that we normally don’t consider it” (6:45). I don’t see a connection, though, with immigration in this game. It’s possible the ones surviving during the war are migrants trying to navigate the spaces in a foreign land after migrating, while they are in a civil war. The point is to try and make good decision in the gaming world. Games rely on the “procedurality,” to play, or the “software is composed of algorithms that model the way things behave” within the game (Bogost 122). The theory is that games can help us learn about how the world works.
But, are we playing too many games and not being in the moment of reality? Game designer Jane McGonigal said in her Ted talk that, contrary to popular belief, increased game play is important. She states that “three billion hours a week is not nearly enough game play to solve the world’s most urgent problems” (TED :47) and that she suggests “to spend an hour a day playing games, until we solve real-world problems” (15:15). So can we solve the world’s problems playing Fortnite? Maybe that isn’t the best game, but, it can help develop team building skills.
I played the Syrian Journey game, giving me choices to select with optional results in the choices and where it can land me in a real-life situation. The game was based off of an actual real-life story. Each time, I end up ding in a shipwreck. So sad. In this game, the struggle for the migrant to land on European soil safely with the family intact is the ultimate goal. Many people, that don’t pay attention to theses issues no very little on how to survive this situation. I liked the optional videos below the game that tied in with the topic. What is the purpose of this game? “Is the game about story or play? Is the authoritative method “narratology” or “ludology”? (America 49). I think it helps to answer some questions on the process of migrating from one land to another, and opens the eyes of the outsider on the struggles people have to overcome to become a citizen in a new land.
“America (on Civilization III).” Gamer Theory, by McKenzie Wark, Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 37–55.
“Banal War: Full Spectrum Warrior.” Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig De Peuter, University of Minnesota Press, 2009, pp. 97–122.
Bogost, Ian. “The Rhetoric of Video Games.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, by Katie Salen, MIT Press, 2008, pp. 117–139.
Greene, Shawn P. “Gaming.” Shawn Patrick Greene, 27 June 2020, shawnpgreene.com/gaming/.
“Listening Post – Feature: The Pentagon’s Grip on Hollywood.” YouTube, Al Jazeera English, 1 July 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT4JyhZgrO0.
McGonigal, Jane. “Gaming Can Make a Better World.” TED, Feb. 2010, http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.
Molleindustria. “Oiligarchy.” 2008, http://www.molleindustria.org/en/oiligarchy/.
Signal, Errant. SWT: This War of Mine. YouTube, 30 Nov. 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP0aDTZD-uU.
“Syrian Journey: Choose Your Own Escape Route.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Apr. 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-32057601.
“The Beverly Hillbillies.” (1962-1971).