Sometimes, a game will have a political statement to make, which you might disagree with.
For example, in the game “Papers Please,” you must perform bureaucratic duties in a stifling faux-Eastern Bloc nation, and there is a strong negative message about the oppressive regime. But what if you think that totalitarianism is actually a great sort of government?
Similarly, in Super Mario Bros., you must save the princess, but what if you aren’t a monarchist?
If you disagree with the political statement of the game, it is possible that you will find your opinions challenged in some way, which could be either annoying or informative.
In order to prevent this, we introduce the following proposal: an option in the game settings that will let you customize the political message of the game (Figure 2), as well as the normal settings that most games have already (Figure 1).
Fig. 1: Most games already have a basic set of user-configurable options, like the example here.
Fig. 2: By modifying the “POLITICS” slider here, the user can pick their desired political message along this single-dimensional axis that represents early-2000s United States political affiliation. This may be insufficiently granular: see Figure 3 for one possible alternative.
Fig. 3: The classic two-dimensional “political beliefs” plot may be somewhat more useful than the single LEFT / RIGHT slider.
The implementation of this “politics slider” would vary on a per-game-genre basis.
In the easiest example, dialog could change to uncritically praise the the player’s actions. For example, a gritty military shooter might feature the dialog “Good thing we burned down that village, those civilians were definitely going to betray us!” or “Good thing we didn’t burn down that village, now the citizens have joined our cause!” The gameplay would remain the same, so this would be an inexpensive change.
Graphics could also be altered; for example, if a map appeared in a game, there could be different borders displayed for areas such as Taiwan and Kashmir (depending on the player’s opinion of the proper political affiliation of the region in question). Even bodies of water could be re-labeled: for example, “Sea of Japan” vs. “East Sea of Korea”).
Differing graphical options could also be used to avoid political controversy or antagonizing important markets. This has already been partially implemented in some games: in the simulation of San Francisco in the game “Watch Dogs 2,” no Taiwanese flags are flying in Chinatown—only (mainland) Chinese flags are present. One could imagine this being a user-defined setting, or perhaps automatically set based on a user’s location as inferred by their IP address.
Even in a game like Dr. Mario, the pills could be relabeled as “VITAMINS” or “HOMEOPATHIC REMEDY” or “JUST A PLACEBO.”
Fig. 4: For the gamer who never wants to see an opposing opinion, this high-dimensional settings option will let you customize the game to parrot back your exact beliefs in every conceivable axis.
No one wants to feel like they’re wrong: now you can have a game affirm your beliefs at every turn!
PROS: No more hurt feelings when a game challenges a person’s opinions!
CONS: May only be applicable to a tiny set of games that actually have a message to convey in the first place.