Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Political Games
Matteo Pasquinelli on Fri, 27 Aug 2004 19:37:17 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Political Games

[bbc on italian creactvism, euro mayday parade, chainworkers and  
Molleindustria's political videogames. /m]



Political Games
August 26th 2004

Computer Games are not normally particularly thought-provoking. In  
fact, most gamers would prefer to shut themselves off from the outside  
world while playing. But in recent years games with a message have  
emerged, aiming to make those who play them a little more aware. David  
Reid met up with some Italian activists for whom politics is the name  
of the game.

Steeped in history and wealth, Milan - Italy's commercial capital -  
seems an unlikely place for a revolution. However, venture down a side  
street off the tourist map and you can find the Centro Sociale La  
Pergola. It is a gathering point for a group of Milan's young radicals.  
Many of them are media professionals for whom the Internet has become  
an essential tool for political organisation.

Alex Foti, of www.chainworkers.org explains why. "It's because it's a  
many-to-many medium, whereas traditional politics is done one-to-many -  
from Gates to many, from Murdoch to many, from Berlusconi to many and  
so on. It is a way of harnessing the wisdom and vitality of the crowds.  
Social research has proved that groups, when confronted with  
well-defined problems, show a marked interest in them." To find out  
more about Chainworkers.org, look for the 'Who are we? - in English'  
graphic on their site.

The Internet allows the Centro to organise political demonstrations  
cheaply and easily. But for activists who can't take to the streets,  
the organisation's web-site, Molleindustria, or 'soft industry', has  
offered them the virtual equivalent - an online MayDay parade which  
allows people to add to the throng and stylise their own demonstrator.

Yet it is for video games that Molleindustria is best known. In line  
with its radical politics, the aim of the games is to highlight what  
its creators believe is most unfair about global capitalism and the  
modern labour market. Their online game, Tamatipico, gives players  
their very own employee whom they have to keep happy to maintain  
production. Fail to give your worker enough sleep or time in front of  
the TV and he calls in sick or goes on strike. But ultimately the boss  
has the upper hand: if you're unhappy with your worker's performance,  
you can fire him on the spot.

Games designer Paulo Pedercini explains Molleindustria's thinking. "We  
don't think it's enough to simply change the graphics' look, or to  
change the characters in order to give a different message. The real  
meaning of a video - its ideology - is expressed mainly through the  
internal rules of the game, its structure and mechanisms."

This approach is best illustrated by the Uruguayan group, Newsgaming.  
They've produced a Shockwave-based game called September 12th. In its  
frightening logic, players hunt down terrorists. But with clumsy  
missiles, collateral damage is impossible to avoid. Meanwhile their  
game Madrid, if it can be called a game, is sombre in its simplicity.  
The rules require players to click on the candles so they burn  
brighter. But like all remembrance, the flames eventually fade.

The producers of these games are developing a sort of gaming  
counter-culture, seeing themselves as the latest in a line of political  
satirists playfully poking fun at passers-by or at those in power.

One of the main targets of such games is the United States, because of  
the internationalisation of its culture and more recently the war  
against terrorism. But Americans themselves, indeed none other than the  
Republican Party, are using video games to score political points. The  
Republicans' version of space invaders is Tax Invaders. It depicts  
Republican President George W. Bush as the only hope in the battle  
against high taxes.

Video games are normally a form of escape - a way to tune out from the  
troubles of the world. However, the producers of this new breed of game  
have shown they can also act as an effective vehicle for political  

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net