#RPG – The Politics of Postmortem Studios

f2388bfcfd4cad5fbf8dd05fa090cf7a.pngIn the run-up to the US mid-term elections, several game companies put out statements on their political stances and exhorting people to vote in particular ways. This struck me as a little crass, and somewhat beyond the remit of a games company, an entertainer or – indeed – an artist.

This is far from the first time that this has happened, with games companies ‘excommunicating’ fans with particular outlooks, or even outright telling them ‘we don’t want you’. In a time of increasing division, this is even more divisive and this seems – to me – to be especially unhelpful when games and other diversions are a way to reach across the aisle and to humanise each other.

Still, I thought it best to explicitly state my political position as a company writer, game designer, artist, employer – and as an individual. So first, my position as a company, and the one I would prefer (but not demand) that anyone who works with me adopts…

I do not care who you are or what you believe. Your politics are not relevant to whether you enjoy my games or not. I do not want to deny anyone access to my material and while it is inevitably, somewhat, coloured by my experience and outlook, I make no demands and exclude nobody. Whatever your politics, creed, colour, sexuality, gender identity or ice-cream preference you’re welcome to play and enjoy my games, to work with me ore interact in any which way you prefer.

Hopefully, that’s clear enough. The TL;DR is that I don’t care about your personal politics, and you shouldn’t care about mine. Games are a way to look past all that, see each other as people, set aside politics and other divisions and to just have fun.

So as regards my personal politics, if you care…

I am a left-libertarian on the political compass, waaaaay down on the bottom left. Ideologically I’m an Anarchist-without-adjectives, but closest to an Anarcho-Technocrat. Ideological ideals rarely survive contact with the real world however, and my guiding principle from Anarchism is to maximise freedom for the greatest number of people, which in the current sociopolitical climate leads me to adopt Socialism as the best option to meet that goal.

I am pro free speech, for anything that falls short of The Harm Principle and believe the role of the state should be as guarantor and defender of people’s rights, rather than a source of constriction, censorship or oppression – and I extend that to the private sphere. Those rights should be as equal as possible between everyone, without special treatment either positive or negative. I believe we should work as hard as we can to maximise people’s opportunities so that everyone has the best possible chance to achieve their full potential.

I’m also an atheist, apparently I’m obliged to mention that.

Overriding anything else I think or believe, pragmatism and correct information has to come first. Effective action can only proceed from accurate facts, and pragmatism requires compromise where such is possible without losing touch with those base principles.

You may have heard things about me that seem to be in conflict with these ideals. There is a lot of bullshit going around, mainly – ironically – because I choose to speak up about the regressive, censorious behaviour of others in the industry who – also ironically – often consider themselves progressive. If you want clarity, my door is always open.

Behind all this is, of course, is an argument over politics, art, political art, the ‘personal as political’ and all that jazz.

Can art be political? Sure. To an extent, we can’t help but project our own politics and worldviews into what we create. This is more obvious in some forms of art than others. That doesn’t mean that art has to be political, nor that it has to beat people over the head with politics.

There’s a term for wilfully, evangelical political art, and that is propaganda.

That’s also behind what I call the ‘Christian Rock Problem’. The reason Christian Rock is so fucking terrible is because it puts its religious message first, over and above the concern of making it any good. This is also why Rage Against the Machine’s breakout album is the only good one they did.

  • So, art can be apolitical.
  • Art can be about politics.
  • Art can be political, and that’s when it becomes propaganda.

Art to any purpose can be worthwhile and beautiful. Even a TV commercial or a cereal box, even a Soviet-era political poster.

In divisive times like this, streaming art and games according to political tribalism only stands to worsen things and to increase the polarising effects we already suffer from social media bubbles, tabloids and tribalistic news channels. Games, hobbies, sports, these are places where we can meet across these lines and understand each other – or they should be. I cannot stand that people are willfully and deliberately politicising these spaces and making the problem worse, not better.

If you are interested in my more political games, feel free to check out The Little Grey Book and @ctiv8.

If there are any specifics you’d like me to clarify my positions on, I’d appreciate the opportunity to do so. Feel free to ask below or via Ask.fm/grimachu