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Have You Played… Calm Down, Stalin?

Let your Communistic hands tremble

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I have somewhat of a reputation, which has often preceded me, of being a big Communist. This is because I have a habit of letting my ideological stances leak into my work, like a glass of red wine on the beige carpet of the games industry. Because of this I get sent a lot of notionally “on-brand” games, and one of those is Calm Down, Stalin.

It features ya boi Ioseb Besarionidze Jughashvili, but rendered in such a way that he could be mistaken as the distant, Marxist cousin of Hagrid as he appeared in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone on the PS1. Calm Down, Stalin is a game about the stresses involved in everyday life when you’re the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. These stresses manifest as a sort of dictatorial QWOP, flailing Uncle Joe’s arms about to answer phone calls, whack a faulty desk lamp, smoke from your incredibly fancy pipe, and threateningly hover your index finger just slightly above the “launch nukes” button.

In a way, I think I can sympathise with Stalin – the sad Hagrid video game version, at least, if not the real life cruel dictator responsible for the death of millions of people. From Calm Down, Stalin it seems that there similarities between being a video journalist in the games industry and being in charge of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There are a lot of things that you need to juggle when you work both in games and on YouTube, which can get incredibly stressful. Stuff will just stop working, so you need to thwack computers and repeatedly mash mouse clicks in some desperate attempt to fix things. It all contributes to my smoking habit.

Also you’re sometimes unironically accused of trying to establish an authoritarian rule, complete with mass censorship, leftist propaganda, and rampant restrictions on freedom of speech. In fairness, the accusations have much more weight in Stalin’s case.

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Who am I?

Astrid Johnson


Deputy Editor of this very site Alice Bell once described Astrid as a "Neo-retro-revolutionary." Now, she embodies that aesthetic via an audiovisual medium for Rock Paper Shotgun's YouTube channel. Got a weird game that's political, or gay, or political and gay? Send it here:

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