Sincere & Positive Leftism In Games


I still get salty that we never got to, like, break the blockade on the Vorcha homeworld or actually see Elcor tanks.



But then you get bizarre moments like a side quest during the pirate DLC in 2 where union pirates pick a fight with you and call you a scab.

They get all the broad strokes generally right, but it’s in the details where a lot of problems come up. Honestly, Borderlands isn’t alone in this. Adult Swim and Williams Street, who have produced some of the best animated and live action comedy in the past two decades, thrive on a similar sort of absurd satire (though usually more experimental and with a lot of forays into anti-comedy), yet also end up producing stuff like Rick and Morty’s incredibly confused nihilism or somehow manage to greenlight and air a few episodes of a sketch show staffed and run entire by internet nazis (yes, that happened, ).

When you remember the head writer of the franchise is a white guy who destroyed his own marriage by getting so full of himself he bragged about a non-existent threesome he had (that one still takes me aback) and the best written game in the series was mostly handled by completely different staff within TellTale, you can start to see why issues like this pop up in an otherwise pretty damn leftist framework.

TL;DR: Too much irony and a white writing room tends to lead to messy results.


How do y’all judge Dragonfall? I know categorizing anarchism as Leftism might be controversial, especially with the more libertarian model in Berlin. There’s also the “bully union!” stereotype in a later mission.


Anarchism IS leftism though? The goals of anarchism are of challenging and dismantling hierarchy and ultimately building an egalitarian, socialist society. Unless you’re like… a Max Stirner type or a “post left” anarchist, in which case you’ve gone so far left you’ve wrapped around the political compass and become a right wing militia man.

I think Dragonfall has good if not flawed portrayals of anarchism. But uh… I really like Cyberpunk and I have my biases with this stuff lol


That depends on what you think “left” means. Communism is “left-wing”, and is usually considered to default to authoritarianism, rather than “anarcho-communism”. (Hence us using “anarcho-communism” to talk about the latter.)
Part of the issue here is surely that different people emphasize different aspects of “left-wing” politics.


Hence why I brought up Stirner and “post-left” anarchism. Neither of which I would consider leftist.

It really does, like you say, matter what part of the politics are being emphasized.


Despite the roots of anarchism, it can’t really, in a modern sense, be (by default) left-wing OR right-wing. Anarchism is an opposition to authority. So if conservatives want less regulation of industry and less oversight, that’s anarcho-capitalism. The concept of the free market is inherently anarchist because the idea is that there shouldn’t be any rules restricting it. But the left-wing wants regulation and oversight. If the left want healthcare to not be a privatized industry but something provided by the government, that’s not anarchism. But then there are issues like authoritarian enforcement of borders and strict control of voting rights, which the Right want, and the Left don’t. So here the Right is less anarchist and the Left is more. Then there are gun rights, which the Right want less regulation of and the Left want more, so again it’s flipped: Right is more anarchist on this issue and Left is less.

Just because the Left may not want a ruling class, in the way of billionaires and lobbyists, doesn’t mean they’re anarchists. Likewise I’d say just because conservatives don’t want regulation doesn’t make them anarchists either. Both essentially want rules and authority, but differ on the who/what/how those things are, and it varies WILDLY depending on the topic.

When it comes to the Left and the Right, anarchism seems less the goal and more a means to an end, depending on the specific issue, that both at times employ.


I’m not going to do a big long post because I don’t want to derail this thread from what it was originally about, but I highly recommend reading some anarchist lit (the conquest of bread is a very obvious and very easy one), as well as checking out some leftist YouTube on the subject.

Ancaps are not anarchists. Here is a good video outlining why.


I agree that most anarchists who aren’t anarcho-capitalists tend to regard anarcho-capitalism as not being a kind of anarchism; however, anarcho-capitalists definitely do think of themselves as a kind of anarchism (and, I am pretty sure I remember them arguing that, inherently, they’re more “anarchist” than anarcho-communism, from their perspective, as all communist structures inherently require some reduction of “free action” in order to maintain common ownership).


Well it’s fortunate that their perspective is wrong then. Because not all flavors of communism require the hierarchy that would lead to construction of something like a soviet-style authoritarian communism, which to right wingers (and many center left liberals due to propaganda) is the only kind of communism.

Ancaps, even if they would argue that they are inherently more anarchist, are still wrong in that assumption. Anarchism challenges hierarchy. Capitalism is a hierarchy. Their ideology is entirely made up of right wing cognitive dissonance. Unfortunately words mean things!


And anarcho-capitalism and anarchism come from completely different intellectual traditions. While there were some early anarchists who were into markets (Proudhon was), most foundational anarchist thinkers recognize exploitation as the central problem and that exploitation is an inextricable consequence of capitalism, which can’t function without value extraction from labour.

Even inside anarchism there are thinkers who tend towards individualism, but there’s a whole bunch of circle-squaring going on, because the power of the individual to challenge unjust heirarchy is extremely limited. There’s some good (albeit long) discussion about that here:

AnCaps tend to think that exploitation is okay as long as it’s voluntary, but they never seem to be around when people are talking about things like prison abolition or prison labour isssues, so it’s not clear whether there’s material commitment to their position really.

To pull this back on topic, Eco is a game I’ve been playing a lot of lately and while it’s not directly a leftist game I think it has a lot of power to function as political education/experimentation with left policy.


I would agree that Anarchism is almost always Leftism, and I normally categorize it as such, but I think saying that egoist-anarchists or anarcho-capitalists aren’t anarchists can frequently deflect from interrogating the distinction between the two. (Admittedly, Stirner is a bit of a wild card) “Leftism” is generally just a umbrella term for any kind of socialism. I think fundamentally ancaps aren’t actually anarchist, but simply removing them from a categorization of “Anarchists” smacks a bit of no-true-Scotsman to me, and I find it pretty unproductive for that reason.

Point being: I normally categorize Anarchism as Leftism, but not all ideologies that call themselves Anarchism (the Flux State in Dragonfall, for example) are actually Leftist. I think it’s worth interrogating, for that reason, the politics of Dragonfall within this discussion.


This is where I’d usually move from the notion of leftism for the more precise anticapitalism. I don’t like defining an ideology in the negative, but it’s clear by definition that AnCaps are not anticapitalists where historically anarchism is almost entirely characterized by anticapitalism.


Fair enough. I still regard ancaps as confused conservatives who haven’t fully thought out their ideology, however. Most of their beliefs, even if they believe themselves to be anarchist as I’ve said, tend towards maintaining hierarchical power structures and systems. I don’t find it surprising that many people who leave ancapism behind don’t do it to move left, but to go further to the right. Often going full fash.


This seems like the hard part. I have only talked to a few ancaps but untangling the knot of liberation into some kind of shared definition seems to be the difficult bit, especially since there are such disparate definitions of the relationship between property and violence.


We super need to get this thread back on track but I just wanted to say thanks for linking this. It’s actually been a fun read, with Bookchin taking various trains of thought to task:

“Although he advances this as a revolt against the educational system, its more desirable effect might be to render the Bey’s various ex cathedra injunctions inaccessible to his readers.”

Damn, Murray! Dunk on ‘em!


In spirit of getting things back on track, do you think the model of Anarchism is Dragonfall can be called positive or leftist?


I sat and thought about it for a while and I came to the conclusion that any positive depiction of leftism in that game came from my role playing it as an idealistic anarcho-communist within the Flux State, which (and correct me if I’m wrong it’s been a bit since I played it for the 101) felt very much like a disorganized place more akin to a lawless pirate city than an anarchist utopia.

Like I said a while ago I think Dragonfall’s portrayal is complex and worth examining but whether that’s because I superimposed my own views and ideological leanings onto the game is… well I think a lot of us might tend to do that to some degree.

Edit: so essentially I derailed this thread for no reason and I’m very sorry :neutral_face:


Having only played Dragonfall and not done any further reading on the Flux State, it seems to me that the main issue with its flavour of anarchy is how it exists in an island within a sea of capitalism. The ideas are there, but so much has to exist in knowing-opposition to not-anarchy, and the people of Flux must also interact in various ways (personal relationships, resource trading, etc) with those not-of-Flux.

I’d say on the whole it’s a pretty positive representation; it recognises the difficulties that such a situation would face, but presents the people of Flux as trying to consciously and critically live anarchy.


Even though it is published by Beth-‘the president’s brother is on our board of directors’-esda, I can’t help but shout out Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for having diverse, positive portrayals of self-id’ing leftist characters. Alternate history Black Panthers, communists, anarchists. It’s rare a game even uses the word ‘anarchist’ to mean anything other than ‘chaos’, so I gotta give it a nod for that.

On the subject of anarchism, while the game doesn’t really have any leftist themes, the studio behind Dead Cells is an anarcho-syndicalist workers collective. It’d have been cool to see those ideas play into the game, but perhaps it’s still worth supporting compared to the myriad of game that says ‘big business is bad’ while the people behind it are working crunch and can’t unionize.