Rosa Carbo-Mascarell, co-founder of Games for the Many (a game studio which addresses political issues) and recent winner of our Games Campaigner of the Year prize at the Women in Games Awards, discusses how the far-reaching influence of the industry could be used for good.
Art has historically had an impact on political and social movements.
The Situationists, in the lead up to the 1968 French student uprising, were using play in the streets and subversive art to try to take down capitalism. Muralismo Mexicano made politics accessible to everyone through the medium of a paintbrush. The Futurists, Dada, Surrealists: the examples are countless.
So why do some people in the games industry still doubt their ability to affect change?
Games for the Many is a project of Digital Liberties. We are a games studio made up of political activists and game developers using play for positive political and social impact.
You might know us because of CorbynRun, a campaign game developed and released during 2017’s general election.
It was a short mobile game commissioned by the Labour Party to teach people about its manifesto. The game went viral and was downloaded 150,000 times in one week. It is currently being showcased at the Design Museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition on how “graphic design and technology have played a pivotal role in dictating and reacting to the major political moments of our times.”
We are now designing a board game for Nesta, the innovation foundation, about innovation policy and an as of yet unannounced video game around social integration. Underpinning all our projects is an understanding that culture defines politics.
In 2017, Brightrock Games joined Digital for Good, an initiative by the games industry charity GamesAid. The studio released a comedy skin, The Cynical Imp, as DLC alongside some previously exclusive Kickstarter themes for their game, War For The Overworld, with all proceeds going to the charity. It has made £34,000 for disadvantaged and disabled children across the UK to date.
“In tumultuous political climates there is no time to rest on laurels. Let’s stop dreaming about dystopian power fantasies and start dreaming about the world we want to see.”
Initiatives like this, alongside the £446,000 raised by Special Effect’s One Special Day and the countless millions raised by Humble Bundle, are a shining example of our industry taking on social responsibility.
Games today can provide perhaps the most elaborate and advanced forms of escapism ever created. But to reduce them solely to that escapism is to deny their historic power and place as art.
Charlie Chaplin understood the profound potential of his medium. Even in the middle of World War II he shot and released The Great Dictator, a satirical film condemning fascism and antisemitism. It drew in millions to the cinema despite wartime.
We need to stop doubting our power. The games industry is larger than film, TV, and
music combined – it is the most predominant of all the creative industries.
2.6 billion people around the globe play games, from teenage boys to middle-aged women. Our games carry incredible cultural weight.
In tumultuous political climates there is no time to rest on laurels. Let’s stop dreaming about dystopian power fantasies and start dreaming about the world we want to see. Let’s challenge ourselves and challenge our players to imagine a better future.
We, the games industry, have far-reaching influence. Let’s use this power for good.