Battleifield V, Wolefstein, Far Cry 5 and the intersection of Culture Wars and Consumerism


#1

In the wake of Battlefield V’s reveal, I doubt anyone here is surprised, but most of us are probably disappointed.

The most recent entries in the Wolfenstein and Far Cry franchises found themselves in similar positions of heated non-controversy.

Before I get into what this post is really about, I think I should explain what I mean by “non-controversy”. There is nothing controversial about slaughtering half the Wehrmacht single-handedly in a video game. There is however a demographic of consumers who when given the option of identifying ideologically with the people fighting Nazis, or identifying with the Nazis themselves (even if only on the most surface level of Reactionary thought and emotion), will twist themselves into a pretzel to tacitly defend Nazis because it’s easier to look at their enemies in this context as a real threat that extends beyond the fictional setting of a Wolfenstein game. Because a particular demographic have conditioned themselves into not being able to see a cast that includes a Black woman with long natural hair, an explicitly Marxist pastor, a jazz playing Anarchist Black man, and a differently-abled Jewish protagonist as a group of people they can relate to in any way. Said demographic looks at the cast of Wolfestein The New Colossus and sees their enemies, ideologically and otherwise. Said demographic looks at that colorful cast of characters and sees “feminazis” and “Black Lives Matter thugs” and “antifa” and “cultural marxists”, you get the idea. So this demographic of almost entirely white male consumers who immediately identify the protagonists as their enemy feel attacked by proxy when said cast are slaughtering Fascists. This is what the Wolfenstien non-controversy was over, White men in the political spectrum of Reactionary thought feeling attacked because The New Colossus addressed the fact that the Nazis weren’t just bad guys because of the Holocaust, but because they have an ideology that lead them to that and many more crimes against humanity. This demographic is likely use to media involving Nazis doing nothing to address, let alone combat their ideology. So they look at the logical ideological opposition to Nazism in Wolfenstein, and see people who are more than likely their ideological opposition too. And instead of taking a look in the mirror and wondering why the enemies of Fascism also read as their enemies, they lashed out at Bethesda for acknowledging Nazism as an ideology to be fought, and not just Hugo Boss-design clad nameless faceless storm troopers.

That’s what I mean by “heated non-controversy”. And it applies to Far Cry 5 and Battlefield V too. And it’s probably gonna apply to most Triple-A releases for the rest of our lives. Because everything is culture war. With Fascism’s resurgence, and already Reactionary people (in this case specifically White men of all ages) going further and further Right, and our consumerist “You are what you consume and you consume what you are” society being what it is…

Obviously this is all bigger than games, and media period. The same people complaining about Battlefield. Far Cry, Wolfenstein, etc as if they’re rights are being infringed upon are the same people attending Richard Spencer rallies and treating Jordan Peterson like a prophet. And on the exact opposite end of the spectrum there’s people like me, I guess. And I mean “I guess” in that I’m not sure other Leftists have the same reaction to this stuff that I do. Because my response to this is almost always “I have to support this now”. And I’m not sure if I’m any better or worse than my enemies in this regard. Whenever they complain about Marxists putting women and Black people into their games my immediate response is to basically declare my economic allegiance to these games, regardless of how whether or not I think I’ll actually like it.

I genuinely wanted Wolfenstein before the “boycott”, knowing people I consider my enemies were mad was just icing on the cake. I knew Far Cry 5 was gonna be a let down when it came out that you have to play as a cop, still bought it. I’m looking forward to Battlefield V though. And that worries me because when I heard it was another fucking WW2 game, I was already done with it, then I watched the trailer and the preemptive hate went away when I saw that they were going more colorful Fortnight-y hero shooter style instead of another brown WW2 game. Then I read the comments and got on Twitter and saw Battlefield V trending and fell in love with this game and pre-ordered it. Not because the trailer was that good (I did like it though), but because my ideological opposition was losing their collective shit over it.

Because when you are what you consume and you consume what you are, you can’t just not consume something you disagree with, you have to attack it as if it’s existence is an attack against yours. I can’t just look at a product and decide if I want it or not, I have to factor in how likely it is to give my enemies aneurysms and heart attacks to feel comfortable in deciding to financially support said product.


#2

Just because neo-Nazis hate Far Cry 5 (or even just the ad campaign leading up to the actual game that didn’t say even as much as the pre-release PR did about US Xian religious extremist cults), I don’t think that’s a reason to buy it. More widely, I didn’t notice any major Leftist upswell to seriously embrace that game just because it annoyed some reactionaries and Rightists. Maybe your experience is typical but that’s not been my reading of recent history (and how other Leftists are reacting).

I don’t see the equivalence (between supporting diversity of characters and supporting neo-Nazi propaganda as two sides of a coin) because it’s perfectly normal for media to present many different experiences (billions of people out there, sure seems to be too many of the experiences written down focus on White people and so that would suggest a swing should happen in what is being produced) while it should be unexpected for media to only traffic in reactionary politics. I don’t see progressivism or communism or anything pushing forward as just a mirror to reactionary and far-Right ideology. I think that massively undersells the various Left (and even some Centrist) projects and how they mesh with the human belief in the potential for a better and more united tomorrow (and for the oppressed to be our own path to liberation).

Either everything has always been a culture war (which current descriptions of it rarely acknowledge and so make the term pretty useless) or today it is no more a war than it was decades ago. I don’t accept the premise that we are just now experiencing some heightened war around “cultural Marxism” (or any other descriptions of various anti-Semitic or White supremacist narratives used to radicalise terrorists by claiming they must rise up against some mythical new threat). I don’t think we should entertain those ideas because they are crafted to activate reactionaries.

Battlefield V is not being extremely reactionary and regressive in this one way and this has enraged a few extremists online. Good for the developers on that but also that’s not exactly the end of any conversation about media. This isn’t a reason to break out the cookies (there are no cookies) and things have gone wrong if “doesn’t bow down and comply with what neo-Nazis demand” is a meaningful bar we applaud when media/companies clear. This is below the minimum expectations.

The Bechdel test is not a mark of quality, it’s the sign that a movie has done the absolute minimum to consider that at least one women onscreen may actually be human. We should criticise media that fails that, not praise any media that rises to such a simple test. BF V considers that there exists more than men in the world (and reactionaries are mad): well it should. Shame on any series of games that doesn’t and we should all shun those people getting mad online about this.

But individualism is a trap baked into capitalism and we shouldn’t think that we are “doing something” via our limited and constrained purchasing decisions. There is no space on your money to write and tell EA that you purchased this because they didn’t let reactionaries write their design document.


#3

But… why? Like, I get purchasing based on your values, and if that pisses of my “enemies”, then that’s cool. But to have that as a reason to buy a game seems odd. Far Cry 5 could have had the most progressive rebuke to militia culture in the US, but I had my fill of that franchise’s gameplay by Far Cry 4. I don’t need to sit through 20+ hours of boring gameplay to have my opinion on stuff validated.


#4

i dont really factor in reactionary outrage when deciding to purchase media, necessarily, but i do definitely feel a weird obligation to be aware of said outrage, and keep up with the conversations about it. like, my computer can’t even run Wolfenstein 2, or Far Cry 5, or Battlefield V, and even if i could, they’re not really my thing on a gameplay level. but i’ve still followed threads here and read plenty of articles about them. i dont know why, either. maybe its a morbid fascination with those spheres, or an irrational fear that their Voting With Your Dollars™ nonsense will end up being right?

also, i know we’re on the same page about the “outrage,” but i just watched that trailer and like. this is a trailer where they jump out a 2nd story glass window unscathed, a car lands on a dude like wiley goddang coyote, and a (presumably British) character uses a cricket bat as a weapon. the fact that the thing that was Too Unrealistic™ was women existing is so so telling about the people who are angry.


#6

#7

Hey everyone,
We’ve talked it over and we don’t feel the premise of this thread or the direction it appears to be going in is a sufficient basis for healthy, good faith discussion so we’ve decided to preemptively lock it.

Thanks
Waypoint Mods