Lack26 spotted this in the Telegraph, and it’s interesting. Basically, the Russian Ministry of Communication has requested 500 million roubles (or 10.8 million quid) to develop six patriotic games, mainly about the patriotic war, because they think the games industry is overwhelmingly slanted towards presenting Russians as dodgy. As Youth Policy Committee member Pavel Zyryanov puts it to the Telegraph…
What we need is more programmers who have a patriotic education, who are on the right ideological level… Computer games today are part of a vital ideological platform that effects the consciousness of our young people. They learn history, they adopt values, and it’s important that this process is given a pro-Russian background.
More below, including quotes about Bears on Unicycles…
What was that about bears, Mr Zyryanov?
In other genres, the games tend to simply ridicule Russia with images of bears riding unicycles down the street, and I mean, come on, this just doesn’t correspond to reality.
This is true.
What to make of it? Honestly, I’m a little mixed. Yeah, government funded propaganda, obviously, and almost cute in how it’s stated so plainly. They’re not even doing basic PR-message hiding of “We think gamers need a more balanced view of Russia, etc, etc” which I suspect most Western-governments trying the same thing would do. The first step of propaganda is hiding that you’re performing propaganda, surely?
On the other hand, they’ve kind of got a point. To paraphrase Grant Morrison’s line, America is the first Empire to rule the world with light. I’d argue that by far the largest proportion of real-world-set games have a firm pro-American slant. And if it has a pro-American slant, it looks for its enemies where it can find it, and tends towards demonising or ridiculing them. Hence, Russia’s treatment. It’s made for America, then sold to the world. And I do think the media people process helps provides the building blocks for interacting with the world. The narratives we use matter, and the narrative games sell tends to be pretty hard on the Russians.
To put it another way: advertising works.
I’ll stress, this is me seeing what the Russians are thinking here rather than agreeing with their responses or the idea that Russia is totally unfairly stereotyped. There’s certainly justifications for painting Russia dark. Russia can be a very scary place, as anyone who’s followed Anna Politkovskaya will know. But there’s justification for painting America in darker tones too, and that rarely happens in media – and in games especially.
The main problem here is that I doubt it’ll work. People working in Commercial Russian Development have motivation to produce games which are acceptable to the (more profitable, at least on a per-unit basis) Western Market and 10 million quid is a barely a ripple in the mountains of development.
I suppose the one good thing about this is that it’s another example of a governmental body actually taking games seriously enough to consider in policy.