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  1. The Hidden Politics Of Counter-Strike 1.6
  2. by The Class Conscious Gamer (theclassconsciousgamer@hushmail.com)
  3.  
  4. "Remember, terrorism is the surgical strike capability of the oppressed. Keep on keepin' on!"
  5. -Man selling T-shirts, Slacker, 1991
  6.  
  7. As an Anarcho-Foyeurist and political radical in general I thoroughly believe politics penetrates every corner of the mind and every facet of society. As such I do not believe
  8. there to be a single work of art or creation of man untouched by some form of ideology, no matter how small or how big. To this end, today I'll be writing about what I have
  9. analyzed to be an underlying ideology in the video game "modification" cum retail product Counter-Strike (coloquially referred to among gamers as Counter-Strike 1.6).
  10.  
  11. To give a sort of context of the meta-game surrounding the particulars (the scenarios or game avatars players are given to choose from) it seems necessary
  12. to explain the available modes of play (each revolving around a different facet of terrorism). In the retail version of Counter-Strike 3 different modes are included.
  13. Demolition scenarios revolve around the "terrorist" side having a bomb that they must plant at 1 of 2 objectives that they then must ensure detonates by protecting them for
  14. a period of time after they set the bomb to explode. The hostage rescue scenarios require the Counter-Terrorist team to lead non-player controlled hostage characters
  15. to an "escape" zone after rescuing them from the terrorists to win the round. There is also a rarely played assassination mode which only has one included scenario in unmodified
  16. Counter-Strike 1.6, the objective of which is for the Counter-Terrorists to lead a player controlled character known as the "VIP" to an escape zone while the terrorists
  17. attempt to kill him.
  18.  
  19. The scenarios that players are allowed to choose from in Counter-Strike (referred to by gamers as "levels" or "maps") include the aforementioned assassination of a VIP
  20. aboard an oilrig, Counter-Terrorists raiding an airport to rescue hostages aboard a landed jet, terrorists bombing all manner of nondescript buildings, bombing Aztec ruins,
  21. bombing a tourist attraction, taking hostages in nondescript buildings, and so on. The narrative framing that accompanies SOME of the scenarios (some have no narrative at all!)
  22. generally paint the terrorist side as comically evil and wanting to destroy things and hurt people for no concrete reason. By juxtaposing a thoroughly childish idea of what
  23. causes terrorism (if any cause is given at all besides wanton destruction) with the realistic aesthetic (the graphics were decent for the time the game was released) of
  24. terrorists striking an area and killing people easily reveals the prejudices of the designers. To think an organized group of people would set out to do large amounts of
  25. material or physical harm for no meaningful reason to a population or government is pure Western fallacy. To craft a work based on these ignorant ideas is tantamount to
  26. creating propaganda.
  27.  
  28. Even more telling than some of these scenarios, and indeed probably the entire game's most tacit approval of racist Western imperialism, are the characters of each team in the
  29. game (known as "terrorists" and "counter-terrorists"). On the side of the "counter-terrorists" we have the much lauded Seal Team 6, the German GSG-9, the famous British SAS,
  30. and France's GIGN. These require no real further explanation as you can read about the real-life forces these are based on, and the deeds they have done, and draw your own
  31. conclusions from there.
  32.  
  33. On the all-fictional "terrorist" team you can choose to play as the "Phoenix Connexion" described as operating out of eastern Europe, the "Elite Crew" described by the game as such:
  34. "Middle Eastern fundamentalist group bent on world domination and various other evil deeds." The "Arctic Avengers" from Sweden, and "Guerilla Warfare" which again I
  35. will print the in-game description: "A terrorist faction founded in the Middle East, this group has a reputation for ruthlessness. Their disgust for the American
  36. lifestyle was demonstrated in their 1982 bombing of a school bus full of Rock and Roll musicians."
  37.  
  38. Quite telling how the only terrorists from Western areas are completely drawn from the makers imagination and the rest are... from the Middle East. And hate "Freedom" and are
  39. "Fundamentalists". Combine this with the fact that the terrorists (at least in Counter-Strike's designer's understanding) never strike for any real reason and are just out to
  40. kill people and blow things up and you start to put together the designer's milquetoast and neoliberal understanding of geopolitics and the oppressed people of the planet.
  41. Opposite of the terrorist team are Orwell's "rough men who stand ready to fight" and de-facto "good guys", various Western military and police groups.
  42.  
  43. Indeed, Counter-Strike even created in the late 90's describes today in 2014 the game industry's general line of politics regarding anything but the latest small surge of
  44. liberal feminism, with it's tacit and unthinking approval of imperialist force and Liberal approved Bill Maher-style casual racism. What I've written here easily applies
  45. to many politically generic and mechanically boring shooters that are being designed as we speak or have recently been released, making this not just a "critiqueing nostalgia"
  46. thinkpiece but also showing that the game industry, though specifically shooters, has barely moved one iota into any critical arena and is still by and large masturbatory military
  47. pornography and a reflection of the boring ideas of the people who both design and play them.
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