Axby Stories: How videogames influenced my political outlook

Videogames are still looked down upon by many of the population, generally those of the older generation, all they see are a collection of pixels either causing death and destruction, or as time wasting where the player could instead be doing something “important”, like maths.

Maths might be important (especially, ironically enough, if you want to make videogames), but that doesn’t mean that videogames are worthless; quite the opposite. Many studies have identified the positives that arise from playing videogames, notably the their effects on reaction times and spacial awareness. However as videogames continue to experiment with how the player can interact within the created virtual setting and develop more engaging stories players are able to experience scenarios that they might have been unlikely to otherwise.

I have been studying politics in depth now for seven years, and whilst doing so has obviously had the main impact upon my political outlook, videogames have been right there supplementing my studies and having a greater impact than I thought they could. Whilst there aren’t too many overtly political games, that does not mean that other games cannot be interpreted as political, and even then there can be different ways in which they can be interpreted.

I have had a soft spot for sci-fi for basically as long as I can remember (cliche’ I know) which is why it should be no surprise that I am a big fan of the Halo and Mass Effect series’. What’s more both had a surprising impact on where I stand in regards to global politics; or more accurately a global world order. In both series’ Earth is merely the home of humanity, for the human race now has colonies across the galaxy. Therefore the concept of nation states has considerably less relevance, governance now extends from a regional level, although the global level now has considerable influence. Nationalistic differences are petty when there are entire planets with other people occupying them. To maintain order but also to aid prosperity and progress a more expansive system of governance is required; hence the United Earth Government and United Nations Space Command in Halo (despite the UNSC existing today as the United Nations Security Council) and the Systems Alliance In Mass Effect which also has Earth split up into; the United North American States, the European Union, and the Chinese People’s Federation as the main governments.

For me whilst studying institutions like the UN and European Union I often found myself thinking back to the experiences I came across during my time in Halo and especially Mass Effect. People around the world are still arguing about how different each nation is, which getting in the way of humanity advancing by working together. The distrust of the EU here in the UK always confuses and infuriates me. The EU dates back (through its different predecessors) as a means of preventing another World War, of which both have primarily centred around disputes in Europe. The aim was that by working together and integrating the nations of Europe into a single market and single identity then the possibility of a European war would become unthinkable. Within the EU states this has largely been achieved, and when I think of the positives that the Union brings, I think back to the positives identified in the Sci-fi games.

When it comes to my view of the world as a whole I have become an idealist, merging the ideas of that from political philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace in which he talks of a single world government and therefore a world citizenship, with that which exists in Mass Effect and (to a lesser extent) Halo where humans largely come under the same umbrella. Although Mass Effect also succeeds in showing that it is possible for different species to coexist together prosperously as well. Admittedly in both series’ the concept of the “other” helps to reinforce unity among humanity, but today with the help of the internet people have more in common today (or at least the potential) than they have ever had previously. One day my dream for a unified Earth may come true, I just hope that it doesn’t have to involve fanatical space aliens who are trying to wipe out humanity.

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