Township – Where everything is political
I’ve often been accused of over-thinking things. So often, in fact, that I’m starting to think people are over-saying it.
One of the things I’ve had a tendency to over-think is the meaning behind the inclusion or exclusion of certain things from media. Studying and working in communications and media for as long as I have, I can’t help but see everything as the ebb and flow of value systems and worldviews, whether the communicators are conscious of it or not.
In major news media, the specific wording used to describe an event can be to draw in hits, to indicate its seriousness, or to frame the nature of the event so people know how much derision or praise to heap upon the inevitable protagonists and antagonists of the piece. On Twitter or in everyday conversation the simple use of the word ‘they’ as opposed to ‘he’ to describe a hypothetical person doesn’t escape my notice, and indicates a tendency not to have a default masculine view of the world – it sends a very clear message, whether you use ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘they’ in such an instance.
So when it comes to games, sometimes I’ve pointed out a lack of diversity, a certain agenda being pushed (either through game mechanics or the inclusion or exclusion of certain aspects of narrative), I’m not so much trying to push my own agenda as I am trying to identify the developers’.
The best thing we can do is to try and be conscious of it, and of what others’ values are, and how we can strive to make games which aren’t offhandedly alienating.
Unless of course you’re actually okay with making your game alienating, in which this article isn’t for you.
Nothing has made me understand this more than the process of making Township. So far, we’ve had to make countless choices which on the surface have seemed frivolous in the extreme, but which required enough thought and decision-making that I felt somewhat vindicated in my previous haste to assert a political nature to the things I absorb from the games of others.
‘Why’, I wondered, ‘would they ever have the character *say* that? I mean, they had to take the time to write it down, have the line recorded and implemented, possibly re-recorded. They had all the time in the world to think whether or not it was a good idea, so I can’t pretend that it doesn’t matter.’
It may only be a couple of seconds of hearing a line of dialogue or seeing an in-game billboard for the gamer, but for the developer, it was likely a considerable amount of time and effort to create everything just so.
My point is this: political messages are all around you in everyday media, and they’ll be found in all corners of entertainment. Don’t discount these things as trifling. They’re intentional, and it’s okay to call developers (or other media producers) on the choices they make.
That’s how we improve our communication and gain an understanding of our own political views, whether we realise it or not.
IMPORTANT NOTE: By ‘political’, I’m not talking gun control laws or partisan democracies – I’m referring to the simple transfer of power by human communication.