one more Halo ad that backs up what I’ve been saying about the hero worship going on in Master Chief advertising
(thank you for buying hot pockets)
I also wanted to share two trailers whose politics exemplify the kind of fantasy held by law enforcement supporters. These aren’t strictly the military, but with the way America has militarized it’s police forces over the last few decades, it might as well be.
Protestors “claim to promote an egalitarian utopia to gain popular support; while behind the scenes UMBRA organizes deadly terrorist attacks to generate even more chaos and weaken governments,” the narrator says at one point, as a series of black raised fists appear on screen.
Last year Ubisoft released the above trailer for a Tom Clancy mobile game, the game’s antagonist faction is a internet fueled civilian uprising called “umbra” (which means “darkness”), and uses a raised black fist in its iconography. Ubisoft quickly apologized but there are other problems besides the use of imagery some took to be referencing Black Lives Matter, like the fact that this leaderless civilian threat is so dire it requires the government to work alongside elements of the criminal underworld in order to maintain control. Beyond just the use of troubling symbols, I think the extra-legal posse framing is so screwed up that I dont think there’s a simple solution that could “fix” it, what it would need is a whole rewrite.
This second trailer is from 2019, so it couldn’t have foreseen what a tumultuous year 2020 was going to be, but it still contains a kind of “thin blue line/sheepdog” view of the world. Its version of America is “downtrodden, cruel, and corrupt”, and you, as a member of a SWAT team, are there to “bring some semblance of order to a city divided by crime”. (“Ready or Not” recently made news [and lost a publisher] when it announced that it was going to include a school shooter level.)
I think it’s interesting to compare these visions of future America, as they have a lot in common. While Watch Dogs at least plays anemic lip-service to the fantasy of a civilian uprising, these two trailers see that same fantasy revolution as something that needs to be put down by “order”.
One of my favorite non-fiction books is “The Third Reich of Dreams” (you can read it in full on the internet archive if you are so inclined, it’s hella expensive on Amazon).
These are the records of a psychoanalyst who kept a diary of patient dreams in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. The book traces the ways in which the rising tide of Fascism infected the unconscious lives of ordinary Germans, skewing their dreams towards increasingly brutal and nightmarish reflections of the pathology of Nazism. A profound and disturbing book.
During the 1930’s, Nazi Germany’s rise to totalitarian power was well under way. Warning signs of the terror to come was being felt by increasing numbers of people. Among them was a young woman of great courage and insight : Charlotte Beradt recorded & collected people’s dreams about the Nazi government’s domination of their lives; dreams telling of the painful political realities of the emerging Nazi State. In his essay at the conclusion of the volume, published in 1966, Bruno Bettelheim remarked it was a shocking experience reading this book of dreams & seeing how effectively the Nazis murdered sleep, “forcing its enemies to dream dreams that showed that resistance was impossible & safety lay only in compliance.”
The dreams are organized into chapters, with each chapter being about a group of people that have a common relationship to the rising tide of Nazism. You see dreams from Jews, bystanders, collaborators, and even resistance fighters, and you begin to get an image of how their relationship to what was happening in their country colored their dreams. Due to the nature of the collection, what you DONT see in the book is any dreams from people who took part in the Reich directly. I think this is a neat blind spot to consider, and it makes me wonder: what does the fascist dream of?
Looking at these trailers feels like an answer to that question. Both depict an America that is tearing itself apart, and both suggest that extreme (even extra-legal, in Tom Clancy’s case) measures must be taken by government forces to reestablish “order”. You cant have the fantasy of guys with guns fixing everything with bullets without dreaming of a degenerated version of America that requires violence to fix it’s problems. Of course we’re familiar with how so often games revolve around violence, but the way these posit that American civil unrest is a looming menace that should be solved at the point of a gun is unsettling.
Edit: it used to be you could tell what nation we wanted to invade next by looking at where our military games were set. It does not bode well that were starting to see more games set on American soil.