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Alfie Bown’s Guardian comment piece makes some interesting connections, but games are so much more than alt-right fantasies

So you’ve probably already read this morning’s contentious Guardian comment piece on the connection between video games and rightwing politics, and the ‘alt-right’ in particular – as no one I’ve ever met describes themselves, though it’s still a useful shorthand.

It’s a straightforward argument dressed in more complex philosophical language. In short the writer believes that video games are by their core nature right wing. That the acts of violence, state aggression, xenophobia and intolerance in games are all inherently problems of the right, and attractive to those who adhere to them.

For starters, as anyone who lived behind the iron curtain, or continues to suffer under the yoke of religious fundamentalism knows, such abhorrent traits are not sole preserve of those who align themselves on the right, alt or otherwise. These are all traits of almost any authoritarian government, extremist or populist movement, so purportedly hard-left dictatorships are all as guilty of such acts as the alt-right – and in many cases far more so.

Just as an example, in many cases, it’s the conservative right wing that is most opposed to much of the unpleasantness in video games – and to video games as a whole really, as it still believes they are only played by children, who should be running around outside.

One thing we can agree on is that the ‘alt-right’ has become heavily linked with video games. But it’s not because of the violence or xenophobia – it’s because video games offer two things that are hard to come by in the real world and even harder to possess in combination: freedom and purpose.


Though it’s hard to define precisely, the alt-right is universally a libertarian movement. It’s main beef with contemporary centrist politics is a belief that they aren’t being allowed to think, say and do exactly what they choose.

Of course, most of us accept that our freedoms come with responsibilities, mainly that we don’t through our actions impinge upon other people’s freedoms, the details of which I won’t get into here.

The key is that video games provide you with a world in which you are completely free to act – and that’s something of an alt-right dream. That’s either entirely free, in an open world adventure such as GTA, or in a purely ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario in PVP games. Either way suits most of those with a libertarian outlook.

In addition, games provide a sense or purpose and agency for those who feel that society has abandoned them, or ignored their opinions, another characteristic often connected to the rise of the alt-right. Games are escapist entertainment and so will have a greater pull on those who are disenfrancised with their lives – though they don’t solely appeal to them of course.

Are games intrinsically rightwing then? Well it’s a rare game that allows players total freedom to act as they please without consequence – though they do exist. But it’s a huge generalisation to simply say that games are alt-right pleasure givers. It’s like saying all films support authoritarian regimes because some propaganda movies are made.

There’s a huge range of games out there, something for every political outlook, And even those that look on the surface to support such an attitude are often deeply ironic and satirical, say GTA for instance.

Games can encourage us to build relationships (be they virtual or real) and cooperate with others, or even sacrifice, for the greater good. 

So while freedom and agency are much prized by the alt-right, they aren’t aspects that those on other parts of the political spectrum should want to surpress – in much the same way we support the alt-right’s freedom of speech, however much we may disagree with their opinions.

And in other aspects of games, such as their community-building and their potential to level the playing field for all players, no matter their abilities, appearance or background – they are also a rallying call for progressive liberals. They can be so inclusive, and at their very best they fight against tyranny in its most pervasive forms.

Right, said my bit, now I’m off to play Papers, Please.

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