I didn’t know of that Palestine detail before playing the game and writing my own review, so oops, I probably should done that. My bad. I read the Scars as like six different kinds of native group, Palestinian never came into my head having not read Druckmann’s interview. I think Israel might have been on Druckmann’s mind, but maybe not anybody else’s. I read quite a bit more Vietnam into this game, quite a bit of Spec Ops: The Line, not much Middle East.
But greater ethnic violence itself seems to just be an echo for Abby and Ellie’s conflict, which is entirely personal and lacking any real structural history behind it. The game just isn’t actually interested in it other than as flavor.
As for ethnic hatred being universal… I’m not exactly proud of this but I was a white American kid after 9/11 so I actually do know exactly what feeling Druckmann is conjuring. That tribalist fear and need for revenge was in the damn air back then, everybody was drinking it. Years later I knew how awful all of that was and how those feelings had been manipulated to drive us into insanity.
So maybe as a feeling it is worth exploring in an artistic medium. But not as a tragic heroism issue. It wasn’t my little personal 10-year-old me’s character flaw, it was a mass structural problem acerbated by cultural and media forces. So building a game where damnation comes from such a thing on a personal level feels twisted. You can’t bake mass hysteria and bias into a game and then blame the hero for making a wrong personal choice.
And yeah, this is nihilist as fucking hell. The game recognizes the madness and violence but also revels in them. Because if there isn’t madness and violence, there isn’t a fucking shooter game. What would you do if everything worked out nice and clean? You wouldn’t have anybody to kill and no game. I’m not sure if violence is the symptom if an ideology or the actual point of the whole exercise.