Video Games in the Age of Trump

Nicholas Reed, Contributing Writer

The election of President Donald J. Trump was one of the most shocking upsets in recent history. Trump’s inauguration would go onto birth the tense political climate that would forever change the world around it. 

Trump’s election seemed to be an endorsement by the American people of regression and racism; that America was not ready for real progressive change. His presidency has seen almost four long years of racial tension, violence, and record unemployment as America has faced crisis after crisis.

One of the best ways to encapsulate reactions to political turmoil is art, and some of the first to react to this shocking American endorsement of far-right ideals were the artists. Media can represent escapism, detailed analysis, and critiques of political and social issues. When it feels like the world is burning, art is a one of the most valuable forms of expression.

Musicians paid tribute to Donald Trump, from YG and his eclectic “FDT” to a reformed interest in P!nks classic “Dear Mr. President.” As the years went on, many musicians weighed in with their own opinions on the Trump presidency. Hearing political opinions from the shockingly apolitical Descendants to the wholly less shocking Green Day, it seemed like everyone had something to say. 

As it may come to the surprise of many outside of gaming circles, the video game industry blew up with political messages in Trump’s America. Here, in my opinion, are some of the best games to play if the Trump presidency has you feeling down. 

Far Cry 5

Far Cry as a series has always dealt their hand very close to reality. Their stories are usually set amidst political turmoil in far off places – from the Himalayan mountains to the African Savanna. Far Cry 5, however, was set right in our own backyard in the great state of Montana. 

Far Cry 5 drew the ire of right wing internet trolls early on when it was revealed that the antagonists were thinly veiled stand-ins for a Christian-based cult made up mostly of white men. The game soon received backlash in the form of petitions and long-winded Youtube rants.

The game follows a sheriff’s deputy sent to rural Montana to stop the rise of a traditionalist doomsday cult led by the eclectic David Koresh stand-in, Joseph Seed. After a confrontation turns sour, the player finds themselves fighting their way through a cult-controlled Hope County as they take on the Seed family one by one in an attempt to liberate Hope County from Cult control.

Released in 2018, the game deals with one of the largest issues facing rural America; the growth of radicalism in rural communities. Seed’s cult finds itself drawing in many locals with apocalyptic ramblings and a chauvinistic worldview. As well as that, Seed himself is covered in tattoos and sports a man bun, something not unlike the clean and proper face of the modern alt-right image like Richard Spencer.

The game gives players a large assortment of allies across gender, racial, and political lines to fight the cult. Allies range from an Afghanistan war veteran, a Christian priest, and many homegrown Hope County residents. This, in essence, makes the message of the game clear; that this sort of ultra right wing christian traditionalism is inherently un-American. 

One of the best moments in the game comes when the player liberates a region, setting off fireworks and fanfare as American flags are waved in the background. This game was made for the Trump era; it was made to make players feel proud to be an American again. That America may have its issues, but no true American will ever stand for hate.

Wolfenstien: The New Colossus

Wolfenstien: The New Colossus had similar negative reactions as Far Cry 5. There was a large amount of backlash as an ad campaign seeming to play off Trump campaign slogans went semi-viral. The ad in question featured the protagonist tearing heavily-armored Nazis to shreds as the words “Make America Nazi-Free Again” flashed across the screen.

The game followed up the critical darling and cult hit Wolfenstien: The New Order, which saw protagonist BJ Bloskowitz wake up in an alternate timeline where the Nazi’s won the second World War and took over the planet. The plot follows Bloskowitz as he tears his way through Europe, attempting to grow his resistance network and free the world from Nazi control.

The New Colossus continues that journey, as Bloskowitz and his crew take the fight to the United States. The imagery here is shocking. The streets of New York obliterated by atomic bombs, New Orleans converted into ghettos that resemble those of Warsaw – all of this intentionally done to shock players. 

One scene in particular is especially shocking. The player must walk through a small southern town to deliver part of a bomb to a resistance member. The town is full of typical nostalgic 1950s iconography. The difference here is that there is also a massive Nazi parade and members of the KKK parading around town in full view, as well ascasual conversation about contomperary slavery. 

The game finds players building a massive American resistance network through finding allies amidst the Black Panthers and political dissidents of the New Orleans ghetto. The game itself  is pure Nazi punching bliss. Players tear their way through the Nazi’s of America, through every possible setting as the Nazi regime crumbles before them.

Bloskowitz, himself, is relatable to many. He is a picture of Aryan perfection (as a famous clip from the game tells), yet he actively resists the Nazi’s years after the war. In many ways, he is representative of the average American; not victimized directly by Hitler’s policies, but opposed to them because that’s what is politically correct.

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is similar to Far Cry 5 in that it makes players proud to be American, especially in a time when being proud to be American is especially hard. Both games function as a way to remind us that resisting is part of being an American, and that hate will always lose when put to the test.

Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2 came out just five days before the 2016 election. Years later it feels like an uncanny prediction. Despite the games relatively short campaign, it would go on to garner a cult following for its ingenious mechanics and touching characters.

The game is set in the distant future as a mega corporation known as the IMC attempts to exploit the resources of planets in the “Frontier,” while the Frontier Militia rises to fight them. 

Titanfall 2 tells a story of widespread exploitation by corporations with no regard for the environment in which people live, putting their own profits first. This follows a similar vein to the current state of America, where oil executives find themselves chairing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

This reflects real life in another way as well; that the majority of climate change is the responsibility of very few people. Just like how the IMC exploits the resources of the Frontier, there are one hundred companies responsible for 71% of global emissions. 

So then the people of the Frontier have no choice but to take up arms and resist the IMC or face certain destruction at their hands. Despite being outnumbered, outgunned and outfunded, the Militia manages to beat back the forces of the IMC on more than one occasion.

This game proves that billionaires can be stood up to, and that resistance is in fact possible (though maybe not running on walls). Even though people may often feel powerless in the face of global warming and other important social and political issues, the fight can be taken to the source and something can be done.