Seven video games that also serve as propaganda

02 August 2014
A still from Guardians of the Skies, a game developed for the Indian Air Force.
A still from Guardians of the Skies, a game developed for the Indian Air Force.

When it comes to recruitment, the Indian armed services usually rely on staid ads invoking grand patriotism, and promising glory and adventure. Recently, however, the Indian Air Force embarked on a new recruitment method by releasing a mobile game, titled Guardians of the Skies, intended to induce such an intense patriotism in players that they immediately sign up for the air force. “The best message actually goes through if we can make people go through the act of playing the game as a fighter pilot,” said Sameer Joshi, the creative director of Threye, the Delhi-based startup that created the game. “Flying an aircraft, taking on enemies, that’s the ultimate propaganda experience.”

While your enemies in GOTS are the fictional Zazurians of a neighbouring country, other games in the past have been much more specific in their premises, directly promoting political and ideological stances. Here are seven games that are less about play and more about propaganda.

1. Fight as an American soldier

America’s Army was released by the US Army on 4 July 2002 and, up until now, 41 versions of the game have been released in total, all financed by the US government and available for free download. The game is a recruitment tool, and each version has two parts: Operations, in which the player battles opponents in a first-person shooter mode, and Soldiers, in which the player advances up the various ranks. The most notable feature of the game is its attention to realism: a player’s stance and breathing determines their aim; standing too close to an exploding grenade means that the character won’t function for ten seconds because it is stunned; and in accordance with the US Army’s Rules of Engagement, a player’s character is imprisoned if it kills its teammates or innocents. However, it has been noted that the game “globally promotes a one-sided and self-glorifying message about this army and its interventions.” NYU Professor Alexander Galloway wrote in Game Studies that the game could be viewed “as a bold and brutal reinforcement of current American society and its positive moral perspective on military intervention, be it the war on terrorism or ‘shock and awe’ in Iraq.”

2. Find and kill Saddam Hussein

Kaushik Mishra Kaushik Mishra is an intern at The Caravan.