You heard it here first – in fact, you heard it here in November. Salon has finally gotten around to writing about Velvet-Strike, the effort by artist Anne-Marie Schleiner, to protest militarism within the online game world of Counter-Strike. Salon is so often way out in front of the rest of us in covering online topics, that I can’t help but gloat that we got there first for once.
Informed Technology Review readers will remember that this movement took advantage of a built-in feature of the game to allow players to spraypaint anti-war icons and language or images evoking childhood innocence within the game world. This action got players pretty upset since they argued they used the game to get away from the craziness of the real world and they didn’t like to see the game (which, after all, deals with things like counterterrorism) politicized. Here’s what the artist had to say about these concerns in the Salon interview:
Anger is an important tool. First, people get angry. Then they are forced to take a position and defend why they are angry. Then, if there is dialogue, they may change their minds. This happened to me with at least one of the flamers I wrote back to. The fluffy, teddy bear-type sprays bring to mind connotations of women and children, components that are excluded from the harsh, bare military world of these types of games. And humor has a subversive effect.
I enjoy playing violent games and I enjoy watching action movies. But I don’t want to play violent games where I am an American killing Arabs in a contemporary Middle East setting. Then there is no difference between entertainment and propaganda. The U.S. government is well aware of the propagandistic potential of games, which is why they have developed free military games like “America’s Army” and “Full Spectrum Warrior.”
This is another example of the ways that games are being used as a form of political speech.