The widespread use of technology, accentuated by Covid-19 over the past year, has ushered in the digital era at least a decade ahead of previously projected timelines.
And online gaming which includes real money games (RMG), fantasy games, mobile-centric/casual games, and e-sports has emerged as an integral part of the wave of digitalisation the world is currently witnessing. But quite apart from the potential boost to the economy gaming is predicted to provide ~ in India, for example, gaming attracted $350 million in venture funding between 2014 and 2020 while the sector on the whole clocked revenue of Rs 7,700 crore in 2020 which is expected to double by 2023 even as online gamers grew 20 per cent from 300 million in 2019 to 360 million in 2020 ~ it has also emerged as the latest arena of geopolitical and strategic contestation globally.
In February, the video game publisher Victura announced it would launch what it described as a realistic video-game portrayal of the Second
Battle for Fallujah (Iraq). Based on dozens of interviews with US troops who fought in the 2004 battle, ‘Six Days in Fallujah’ was billed as more of a documentary than an action experience.
“We track several units through the process and you get to know what it was like from day to day,” Victura’s CEO told the Wall Street Journal. He said that the game would “avoid the politics” of the Iraq war and the perspectives of civilians who claim to have experienced brutality at the hands of US forces, since that was a divisive subject. Instead, the game would “engender empathy” for the US Marines who fought in the battle.
But war, as we all know, is inherently political.
The controversy over Six Days in Fallujah, a Brookings paper points out, is representative of the world of online video games, militarism in the media, and the expanding boundaries of politics. Video games are an increasingly contested political space in which governments, corporations, journalists, activists, and players of every ideological hue are competing to tell stories and shape perceptions about the world.
Like it or not, given the gaming demographic is growing exponentially across the globe, this multibillion-dollar industry will play a crucial role in shaping the worldview of its participants and the politics of their societies. It is a very persuasive medium.
Traditional thinkers may dismiss the notion that a game about the Iraq War poses important questions about the politics of war. But experts say that as a hugely popular form of mass media, video games can influence people’s emotional states, thought patterns, and perceptions.
If nothing else, the success of politicians and political parties the world over using social media and other digital platforms which till a decade ago were scoffed at by experts as serious tools for communication and perception-management ought to ring alarm bells among the policy community that the gaming industry needs to be approached with a rigour equal to its influence. It is the new frontier.