Russia raises funds to allow developers to make “patriotic” games to highlight the history and values of its country.
Often synonymous with second-rate developers, in particular because of numerous cases of plagiarism or discount games, Russia has demonstrated for a few years now that it actually has a real strike force in the video game industry in addition to having many talents. Just like China, moreover, which, from this point of view, shares many similarities with its neighbour.
Countries that are booming on the market and which are slowly beginning to make a name for themselves (without taking into account the mobile landscape on which they have already largely imposed themselves), and for which video games have a greater importance than mere entertainment.
If China has already shown many times how important gaming is for its image and its policy, in particular through numerous censorships, Russia for its part has remained a little more lax on the subject, despite several disagreements. and censorship too.
This time, however, it’s not about censorship but rather about creating “patriotic” games, designed by Russians and highlighting the values of the country and its history.
The Russian Proposal: Sharing Russian Patriotic Ideology Through Video Games
It’s a fact, video games are reaching more and more people and Russia alone represents more than 65 million players. The market is constantly changing and cares less and less about borders (in most countries anyway). It is precisely this field of action and this freedom that interests Russia, although the primary idea is to deliver “patriotic” games exclusively on the territory.
The current government has just launched a call for tenders aimed at developing video games aimed at promoting Russian patriotism. by using in particular the image of famous historical patriots, feats of arms of the country or their special forces. However, the options for highlighting the country will certainly not be limited to these simple examples.
Help Will Come Tomorrow recounts the October Revolution in 1917.
Public fundraising with an undetermined budget and which will depend above all on the companies that will present themselves as well as on their project. Moreover, the video game sector is not the only one to be solicited since the call for tenders casts a wide net and also gives a leg up to the creators of digital content.
The objective is clear: to reach a young target, even beyond simple country borders, and restore the image of the Motherland. Moreover, in the columns of Kommersant, Russian business newspaper, Alexander Khinshtein, Chairman of the Information Technology Committee of the Lower House, says:
I think the political potential of video games cannot be ignored. A far-sighted path would be the promotion of real values: patriotism, interest in the country’s history, the ability to think independently and correctly assess the political situation.
We could perhaps find that a bit “too much”, but, without entering into the political debate or even taking a position, it must be admitted that most of the time our Russian comrades have a bad place in most video game productions.
Especially in American war games (whether historical or fantastic) where nice American thugs almost always face a bad Russian, when it’s not the whole country. However, if the main idea is only to provide these games in Russia, we could see in it a new form of propaganda, moreover unprofitable.
No Russian, famous controversial level and considered anti-Russian in Call of Duty.
Anyway, that’s what I fear. Maxim Fomichev, producer at Owlcat Games who, in the papers of Kommersant, declares to estimate that local actors will not really be motivated by the idea of begging for money from the state, while Western and Asian countries have been doing “cultural export” for years on “all fronts: books, cinemas, video games…”, despite the presence of a handful of Russian studios on the market international like the recent Black Book from the Morteshka studio. Moreover for him, an exit of these plays on the simple territory of Russia would be a clear financial loss.
In any case, no need to tell you that this decision makes people talk given the current circumstances. It must be said that the political climate in Russia is complicated and that propagandist speeches are not so foreign to the country and its history. Not to mention the situation on the Ukrainian border which does not help their image around the world. The idea therefore that Russia wishes to relearn the notions of patriotism in its country and potentially beyond its borders, is not – and will not be – to everyone’s taste.
On the other hand, using video games to convey various messages, politicized or not, would not be a first.
Transmitting targeted messages, a maneuver not so foreign to video games?
If this call for tenders makes people talk and divides, it should be remembered that this is not the first time that video games have been used to transmit values (historical, social, ecological or even political) or that the media is even sometimes modified to stick to the ideology or even the politics of a country.
Glorious Leader, a game glorifying North Korea.
For years, video games, like other forms of art (cinema, music, etc.), have been used for purposes that go beyond simple entertainment, and there you are not taught anything. Many works contain strong themes, more or less diluted in their framework which, in addition to sometimes bringing a singular identity to the game and a natural context, raises awareness, normalizes or denounces subjects that are sometimes taboo in our society, or even ideals, and are sometimes even censored for it.
It is indeed not uncommon to come across apps bringing strong messages on current topics (for example Flower, FF7 and Firewatch which deal with ecology), or whose purpose is to make players aware of other powerful themes such as mental illness (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Celeste).
We could also talk about Life is Strange which puts on the table several difficult subjects (school bullying, suicide, quest for identity, etc.) and even The Last of Us 2 which, through neat and natural writing, normalizes several currently unfairly controversial topics in today’s society.
Finally, and it’s in tune, we can also talk about games like Battlefield or Call of Duty which, through dozens of episodes (cumulative licenses), constantly highlight the American armed forces facing many bad guys more or less linked with existing conflicts, or whimsical, but stigmatized by a certain historical trauma.
On the other side, several countries have already censored or modified the content of a video game since the message, explicit or implicit, did not match the ideology or the politics of the country. A way here again to convey or change a message in order to convey their own ideas. We were able to mention China above, which is known for this kind of practice, but we could also talk about Germany, which had banned Football Manager for geopolitical reasons, or even Saudi Arabia with the Pokemon license judged to run counter to the beliefs of the country.
So it’s a fact, video games convey many messages and are sometimes hailed or criticized. They are sometimes intentional carriers and have for only reason to be what they have to transmit, while others do it in an implicit or absolutely natural way, these values being an integral part of the play and its universe. Video games have a great power of impact and affect a very wide spectrum from all walks of life., virtually anywhere in the world.
It’s Winter, to discover the precariousness and loneliness of a post-Soviet apartment. Not sure he will help endear Russia. On the other hand, it suggests that the former USSR was much better.
It is therefore not surprising to see the proliferation of maneuvers like the one Russia is currently carrying out. Serious or not, it’s not up to us to decide, everyone is free to think their own way, especially as the subject is particularly complex and many parameters must be taken into account, such as the context, the message itself or even who transmits it and for what purpose in the end. The fact is, however, that this is not a first and certainly not the last.
Cover illustration: Mother Russia Bleeds.