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Good libertarian video games

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SirThinkALot Posted: Thu, Jul 8 2010 8:36 PM

I'm interested in compiling a list of video games with libertarian themes/elements

Here's a few to start with:

The Fallout series(particularly Fallout 3)

Half Life(particularly Half Life 2)

Metal Gear Solid series.

Final Fantasy VII

Valkeria Chronicles

 

I'm certain there are more.  So be sure to send in your own suggestions.

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Valkyria Chronicles is an awesome game, one of the few good SRPGs of this gen too.

Deus Ex of course remains the classic libertarian video game in my opinion, although it too often criticizes 'capitalism' for what is in effect corporatism.

As for the FF series, aren't pretty much all of them libertarian in some way because you're basically fighting against some kind of coercive state or other monopolistic force?

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Only ones out of that list I've played are FF VII and Fallout (though I've only played the first two, from what I've heard, the third's plot is quite similar to the second's). I see your point with FF VII (fighting an evil corporatist dictatorship like Shinra) but what about Fallout? The only thing that comes to mind is the fact 2 and 3's antagonists are the remnants of the US government (though the way they are styled, they seem to be more a sort of Illuminati remnant than purely governmental).

I'd say KOTOR II was a brilliant game in general (even better with the proper restoration patches), and in particular the characters of Kreia and Goto both provide excellent explanations of the nature of unintended consequences, and the weakness and ineffectualness of government bureaucracies.

Sadly, the simulator genre has been rather dry this millenium,so the days of Rollercoaster Tycoon as entrepeneurial simulator are past us. A couple of oldy-but-goodie action-stealth games that come to mind are Desperados and Robin Hood, the former of which has a ragtag group of bounty hunters defending a train line from bandits. Both games feature plot twists regarding the corruption of the government, and even the protagonistic government characters are periphery at best.

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I cant believe I forgot Deus Ex.  

 

As far as FF goes:  Thats true to a certain extent, although Tactics, for example was a pretty straight foreward war story.  Athough VII is by far the most explicitly libertarian imo.  

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but what about Fallout? The only thing that comes to mind is the fact 2 and 3's antagonists are the remnants of the US government (though the way they are styled, they seem to be more a sort of Illuminati remnant than purely governmental).

Well for starters all of the 'bad guys' of the series are those who would use force to coarse people, raiders are bad because they steal stuff from people, slavers are bad, the Enclave is bad because they force people to follow them, ect.  Even when you can choose to join a bad guy(ex, you can become a slaver in FO2) its clearly portrayed as a bad thing.  

Theres no visible government in most cities you go to.  There are exceptions, but in most places in the series, theres no government or military to speak of, and things are fairly peaceful.  There might be somebody responsible for law and order, but only because everybody recognizes them as such, not because they've forced them into accepting them.  

Theres a hint of the Austrian understanding of money.  Nuka-Cola bottle caps are used as currency, not because any wasteland government says so, but simply because thats what everybody accepts as payment.  

Some quests have libertarian themes to them.  For example in Fallout 2, theres a great example of the law of comparative advantage.  

Granted the Fallout series doesnt bash you over the head with their libertarian themes.   But they are definetly there, and its a great(fictional) example of how a truely free society might function.  

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You do have a point there. Fallout also seems to have anti racist (and thus anti-collectivist) themes within it as well. There are friendly Ghouls in all three games, starting with Harold and Necropolis (even the meaner ones have some fairly good reasons to be so, namely that others wish to exterminate them and that removing their water chip might result in them all dying of thirst), friendly mutants from 2 onwards (Marcus and the sadly-doomed (though in the happiest ending, due to resource depletion) multiracial settlement of Broken Hills, Uncle Leo and Fawkes in the third game), and the Deathclaws of Vault 13, one of which can even join the party!

There's also a more conventional example of racism, with the ability to make friends with the Shi and the Chinese inhabitants of San Francisco, many of which are descended from a Chinese submarine's crew. And the jabs at cults (the Children of the Cathedral in 1 and the Sci..Hubologists  in 2) provided a nice touch.

And how could I have forgotten Gordon of Gecko? The heroic Ghoul who echoes the words of Oliver Stone's character and is ultimately the key to both Vault City and Gecko's salvation, with his economic data disk on how Gecko could end up in a mutually beneficial relationship via power production. And the hypocrisy of the Vault City people, who condemn the Raiders and the Slavers Guild for their actions, yet keep their own system of servitude (though, it seemes to be a mix of voluntary, involuntary and incapacitated servitude) through the Servants?

Only unfortunate thing that comes to mind is the veneration of Abraham Lincoln in a particular quest, but from what I've read, that's based on the perception of the escaped slaves and the slavers of Lincoln, and given the Enclave-run education system prewar, it's hardly surprising their information on the United States wouldn't be accurate.

Interestingly, a cut ending from 1 originally had the Junktown situation either resulting in Killian and his posse turning it into a police state or Gizmo's lot making it prosperous. Would be a darkly amusing plot twist, but it's hard to say no to Sheriff MacGyver.

The banana republic simulator Tropico (which has recently had a very rare worthy 3D sequel) also provides an interesting illustration of Hoppean political incentive. The player is more inclined to take care of his people under a long term reign (the maximum length of rule is selectable pregame) when he knows that he cannot simply run the country into the ground for a few years and take off with massive amounts of Swiss-stored pesos, especially with how shorter games increase the scores.

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@Praetyre

I'd be careful about calling 'anti-racism', 'anti-collectivism'.

Racial agglomeration in most cases is voluntary, and statist methods are employed to 'overcome' this (section 8, forced bussing etc).

In any event, Fallout 1, 2 and 3 are all very good games, if a little unsubtle with their political analogies at times.

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... Bioshock... Kind of, ryan presents some interesting dialouge and its easy to see how statism corrupts and its somewhat thought provoking if you really look into it.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Very anti-corporatist in my view, its vigilante individuals who eventually save the world

FF VIII: Mercenaries fighting against evil which takes control of the state

FFX: Kind of similar in that individuals choose to go against the verdict of the state which has corrupted itself and defiled the teachings which it enforces upon the rest of society. Individuals have the choice to save the lives of thousands by sacrificing themselves and they choose to do so voluntarily and without coercion and are adored by society for doing so. Eventually go beyond established institution to solve the problem and save thousands of lives.

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KOTOR, Half Life and Fallout are not libertarian.  They are just games... although you can act libertarian in an RPG if you want.

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I dont know about KOTOR, although Pratyre had a good point about Kreia and Goto showing the laws of untintended consequences.  

I'v already explained my thoughts on Fallout.  

As far as Half-Life:  Your lead character is working with a resistence group to stop a totaltalerian state(that even  goes so far to make it impossible for people to reproduce).  It's not particularly deep, but its all about freedom, which is the core of libertarian thought.  

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GoTo was just a big shot criminal worried about disruption of profits.

Half Life is not necessarily about resisting a totalitarian state.  It's about resisting the particular state in being.  I did canvassing for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario when I was a revolutionary communist.  I wanted lower taxes because I didn't approve of the particular state in being.

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nandnor replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 6:55 AM

Final fantasy 4. Perhaps the best game in the series, and an interesting story about struggle against the state

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Edward replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 7:09 AM

I like drugwars. Although it might not qualify as a true video game, it is actually pretty cool.

You disobey the government by selling and buying various types of recreational drugs, helping to alleviate shotages in certain areas, and profiting from abundances of certaintain types of drugs in other areas. You can also invest in capital (by buying a car with a bigger trunk) to increase your profitability.

http://www.gamercrossing.com/free-fun-games/40/dealer-drug-wars.html

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Half Life is not REALLY a libertarian game. True, you fight a Totalitarian State, but you do that in plenty of games that clearly are not libertarian (EG. Red Faction).

 

Bioshock is actually Libertarian if you look past the whole business of "Crazy Objectivist Destroys City" and look at the reasons why (the Objectivist lost his principles, nationalized businesses, and had security squads execute dissenters).

 

Deus Ex  blames Corporatism on Capitalism, but then again it isn't blaming Capitalism itself, it blames "Modern Capitalism". At the end of the day, it is about as libertarian as a game gets. The endings are all extreme, but I think the most libertarian ending would be the New Dark Age (blow up Area 51) ending. The second Deus Ex was stupid to the extreme in terms of its story and possible endings.

 

Fallout varies. On one hand, there are plenty of ironic libertarian/anarchist twists (Helping Gizmo in the 2nd results in a prosperous town compared to helping the Sheriff). On the other, the "main" good guys (as in, the ones who fight the Enclave/Super Mutants/etc etc) are generally basically either governments of some kind (the NCR, though it has anti-statist tendencies in some ways, Rivet City, etc) or a military order (the Regulators, Talon Company, the BOS, etc). However, the closest thing I can find to Anarcho-Capitalists in FO3 was Canterbury Commons.

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fakename replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 11:33 AM

Let me just poke in here and second FF8 for three reasons -1. It demonstrates the law of association as the main plot device (rinoa and squall fall in love), 2. most of society seems rather anarcho-capitalist (except for galbadia but they're one of the villains), 3. there really aren't any anti-libertarian themes in the game except for the one battle against norg in my opinion.

FF7 though was a bit weaker in libertarian sentiment in my opinion. I never thought the game wanted you to see the Shinra Corp. as anything but a corporation. That is they didn't make any conscious distinction between the essence of the state and that of business. Plus several other suspicious themes like 1. the fact that you're fighting as part of an eco-terrorist group, 2. Correl and Kalm were both put out of business by the more efficient shinra and that's considered a bad thing, 3. the shinra power co. is known for depleting the energy of the earth.

did I make a mistake characterising the game? If so correct me, tbh I haven't really played console games since the 90s.

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FFVII yes, it's a good example of a "corporation" (read: government by another name) destroying the environment and oppressing innocent citizens; on an Austrian view though such a firm would've collapsed due to calculational chaos long ago - I guess you can take it like a fascist state, so horrible at fulfilling its vassals' needs that they're reduced to destitution and thus must rely on black markets. Equally though, FFXII has a libertarian strand to it too (and here it is more overt.) All FFs have a love of freedom inherent in the main characters, a sort of spirit of pioneering. Sort of why I look forward to FFXIV. Another game is Majesty I/II, given how you as the Sovereign need to entice heroes to defend your territories with pecuniary incentives. Yes, it derives from taxes etc. but it's one of the more laissez-faire games I've seen. Rather than -you- as the Sovereign defending the land, you hire out heroes to do so, and not only that, but you can only indirectly influence their behaviour.


As for SW, I've never seen it as a very libertarian setting. It is a very interesting and diverse sci fi world, but it always seems to be like the struggle of two statisms. It's been long since I played it, but I liked the tentacle-haired race most. I forget the name. And Kreia in KOTOR II was awesome. If you look deep enough you will probably find libertarian strands of thought in the game.

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Sieben replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 11:52 AM

MMOs? Free trade, free association... No one is clamoring for there to be a supergovernment to redistribute wealth from wealthy players to new players.

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ricarpe replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 12:24 PM

For an MMO, I would have to go with World of Warcraft.  Yes, I do play WoW.  It is libertarian-like, especially if played on a player versus environment server where player versus player combat is a choice.  The market economy is pretty much player driven, also, through the use of the auction house and private sales between players.  And the player is pretty much free to play the game as they chose.

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They need to make a libertarian strategy game like Sim City, except that the best possible way to build the city would be to do absolutely nothing and allow the market to operate.  But the destruction wrought by different types of intervention you can perform should have realistic effects (eg, easing credit ignites boom-bust cycles, wage controls create unemployment, price controls create shortages, etc.)

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FF7 though was a bit weaker in libertarian sentiment in my opinion. I never thought the game wanted you to see the Shinra Corp. as anything but a corporation. That is they didn't make any conscious distinction between the essence of the state and that of business. Plus several other suspicious themes like 1. the fact that you're fighting as part of an eco-terrorist group, 2. Correl and Kalm were both put out of business by the more efficient shinra and that's considered a bad thing, 3. the shinra power co. is known for depleting the energy of the earth.


Really in FFVII, Shinra may have technicly been a corporation, but they effectively acted as a state: they had their own military, they imposed their laws in the places they 'ruled' by force, Correl was FORCED into putting up the reactor by Shinra, even calling in their army to put down protesters.  As far as the enviormentilist themes, its worth nothing that the worst enviormental disasters in history occured under socalist governments.  There are places in the former Soviet Union that are still unhabitable because of Stalin's policies.  

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James replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 1:29 PM

I think the Half-Life series is actually quite anarchic if you consider the plot, which isn't shoved in your face in much detail like most other games, but rather lingers around in the background for you to flesh out yourself.

You learn at the end of the first game that the whole resonance cascade disaster was more or less intentionally instigated by the real powers-that-be (represented iconically in the bizarre "g-man" character) to further their own agenda.  You learn that the US military had been conducting an invasion of the Xen borderworld long before the incident at Black Mesa, and that the Black Mesa incident may have been intended as a kind of false-flag attack to expand the conflict to Earth itself.

The conduct of the government troops in the first game is revealing.  Hours after the disaster, they come in not to rescue anyone or anything, but to make sure that there are no human survivors.  No witnesses.  Clearly the story they intend to tell the world about Black Mesa is not what really happened there.  In the second game, it becomes clear that they've somehow managed to blame the disaster entirely on Dr Freeman and his associates.  I suspect that they painted Freeman and Co as a bunch of utterly mad Benedict Arnolds who were collaborating with the Xen invaders to bring about the domination of Earth by that giant floating fat thing at the end of the first game, and thereby ensure their own position as viceroys.  Exactly what Breen did with the Combine, in effect.  Of course the Combine were painted as liberators and protectors against the alien lifeforms rampaging across the countryside during the portal storms.  This is what the state does, yes?  They pretend to be protecting us from exactly the same things they are perpetrating against us in a different rhetorical guise.  The unimaginable genocide committed by the Combine is painted as entirely in humanity's best interests, and all in the aid of protection against a much greater threat personified by Gordan Freeman and the Resistance.  "Anarchy".

You have to consider that Freeman's reinsertion into City 17 happens about twenty years after the Black Mesa incident.  Everyone who was likely to join the Combine voluntarily has already done so.  The soldiers you fight in HL2 are not automatons...  Many of them probably have cibernetic modifications, but they are all willing human allies of the Combine, and they greatly outnumber the few civilians and resistance fighters left.  If they were complete automatons, you wouldn't need Dr Breen chastising them periodically for their failures, as you hear him doing throughout the second game.  Freeman's insertion into City 17 by the g-man is probably another attempt by his secret interdimensional cabal to instigate conflict for their own benefit.  They insert him precisely when the Combine puppet-state on Earth can no longer use ideology, lies and rhetoric to keep down the masses, because there is basically no one left sitting on the fence...  Everyone is either a Combine agent, a resistance fighter or dead.

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Sieben replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 1:32 PM

Half life is a story about LACK of government intervention. FF7 is an example of how corporations can rule the world if GOVERNMENT doesn't get involved.

/scarcasm

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"1. It demonstrates the law of association as the main plot device (rinoa and squall fall in love)"

... I'm sorry but I really don't consider that love is really an example of the law of association unless I misunderstand you here... And there's thousands of non libertarian stuff which has love anyway. But I agree with the rest of your reasons

"For an MMO, I would have to go with World of Warcraft."

World of warcraft is inherently nationalistic because of the different sides. You cannot effectivly be on alliance and cooperate with the horde and vice versa... If it weren't for that though you'd be correct, but a game where in the end everyone wants to go to a foreign country and slaughter enemy civilians doesn't seem very libertarian to me... More like some odd sort of free market hyper nationalism

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James replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 1:52 PM

WoW is actually quite funny.  Fans of the game do have a sort of tribal bias along alliance/horde lines, but it's not as though anyone takes the conflict very seriously in the actual gameplay.

It's typical for a noob to run around screaming, "ZOMG!  TEH HORDE IS ATTACKING THE CITY!"  Everyone just shrugs, and someone tells him that they do it every Thursday morning, it's nothing to worry about, and that the alliance XP-run is on a Friday. :p

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FF7 is an example of how corporations can rule the world if GOVERNMENT doesn't get involved.

Sadly some statists probably will see it that way.  But really when it comes down to it, Shinra doesnt act like any real corporation, but like a Facist state.  

I also forgot to add:  Theres also an interesting(if extremely subdle) example of the law of unintentended consequences:  Shinra's attempt to create a super soldier resulted in their 'creation' going on a rampage, killing their president and attempting to destroy the world...talk about blowback...

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I think Mario Bros. is like Hans Hermann-Hoppe:  The Game.

Strong emphasis on gold, non-egalitarianism and natural elitism (lots of stomping on little goombas and turtles), individual accomplishment, heterosexual relationships, and monarchs.  No diversity; except among the hapless baddies.  Plus low time preferences:  none of that gold is ever spent on anything.  There is no police in the game:  just mario entering the market to destroy Bowser's evil monopoly over women-stealing.

I would like to see more argumentation ethics in a future game, though.  Maybe you could argue that by stealing the princess, Bowser seals his fate by putting forward a theory about how one acquires ownership of the princess.  Namely that might makes right. Yeah.

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ricarpe replied on Fri, Jul 9 2010 2:18 PM

@The Late Andre Ryan:

I'll agree that there is a nationalist tone to the game, which is especially present when playing on a player versus player server.  It would be more interesting if there were a means of declaring oneself neutral in the game, having no affliliation with either faction (Alliance or Horde). 

@James:

Very true.

@ All:

How about Eve Online?  There's still the nationalism, but it's not mandatory as one can earn a positive reputation with whichever in-game empire they choose to do so with. 

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hugolp replied on Sat, Jul 10 2010 1:34 AM

- "Assassin's Creed" and even more "Assassin's Creed 2".

 

Check in "Assassin's Creed 2" the glyph part.

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Super Mario Brothers. Mario/Luigi are libertarians. Bowser and his paratroopas are the state. The Princess represents freedom.

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I think Mario Bros. is like Hans Hermann-Hoppe:  The Game.

Strong emphasis on gold, non-egalitarianism and natural elitism (lots of stomping on little goombas and turtles), individual accomplishment, heterosexual relationships, and monarchs.  No diversity; except among the hapless baddies.  Plus low time preferences:  none of that gold is ever spent on anything.  There is no police in the game:  just mario entering the market to destroy Bowser's evil monopoly over women-stealing.

I would like to see more argumentation ethics in a future game, though.  Maybe you could argue that by stealing the princess, Bowser seals his fate by putting forward a theory about how one acquires ownership of the princess.  Namely that might makes right. Yeah.

Hahahaha.  You, sir, have won the thread.

Mario Bros. is also an illustration of the tensions that flare due to forced integration of koopas with plumbers.

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I think any video game  that gives you free  choice to do as you desire is  basically Libertarian in a way... yet not in a way  too.... depending on where you're looking at the theme from.

 

Skyrim's Stormcloaks  stood up for Libertarian ideas one you get past all the bullshit  about  religion that  drove most of them... yet even that bullshit about religion  actually is quite  Libertarian too.. they were  oppressed by people who  said they couldn't worship Talos.

Also, the  Nordic desire for   Self determination  with their rulers can be considered   Libertarian... especially from a Minarchist perspective, but not from an Anarcho-Capitalism perspective... as   they wnated a small goverment ran by Jarls and the High King in a way  that is similar to a  republic....yet not really quite a republic yet.

 

This is just my thinking on it though..don't want to  speak for Bethseda, but that is what I see....

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Malachi replied on Mon, Aug 6 2012 7:02 PM
John Ess:

I think Mario Bros. is like Hans Hermann-Hoppe:  The Game.

Strong emphasis on gold, non-egalitarianism and natural elitism (lots of stomping on little goombas and turtles), individual accomplishment, heterosexual relationships, and monarchs.  No diversity; except among the hapless baddies.  Plus low time preferences:  none of that gold is ever spent on anything.  There is no police in the game:  just mario entering the market to destroy Bowser's evil monopoly over women-stealing.

I would like to see more argumentation ethics in a future game, though.  Maybe you could argue that by stealing the princess, Bowser seals his fate by putting forward a theory about how one acquires ownership of the princess.  Namely that might makes right. Yeah.

Haha lol
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I want to reanimate this thread being that I hold video games to be the new emerging "film." First-person shooters, regardless of what Roger Ebert thinks, are indeed art, and I think it would be a mistake to disregard them by referring to them as anything else other than that.

Unfortunately there are indeed a lot of statist games - Call of Duty for example. Very fun (Call of Duty 4 especially) yet one could easily interpret it has having statist undertones. You could also interpret it the other way due to it's allowance for the examination of government corruption, but I really don't think they had "libertarianism" in mind when making it.

Sadly enough, my favorite game series out there, Halo, is pretty statist. You're fighting for the "United Nations Space Command," the pretty-much totalitarian "representative democracy" state, spanning across various Solar Systems. Luckily enough, Bungie (and now 343 Industries) makes you feel, for the most part, like you're fighting for "humanity" more than anything else, although they do include many elements of military pride and what not. The whole main character, Master Chief, who is the hero, was abducted as a small child by the UNSC in order to fight the over-taxed "Insurrectionists." He's the guy who ends up saving humanity.

So like any other kind of media category, I think it's important that some libertarian opposition to the left is included.

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Feb 14 2013 9:31 PM

"Call of Duty for example. Very fun (Call of Duty 4 especially) yet one could easily interpret it has having statist undertones."

Lol you kidding me? MW2 & 3 were neo-con wetdreams/nightmares.It was practically screaming at the player to support military buildup and foreign intervention.

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I don't know about that. Remember General Shepherd? Remember how it portrayed the mess that occurs as blowback to events caused by government?

Like I said, you can interpret it either way, it's all in how you look at it.

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Neodoxy replied on Thu, Feb 14 2013 10:00 PM

That's a very libertarain/non-interventionist view of events, and I don't think there was really much emphasis on blowback. It's easy to argue that if the government had a greater military buildup and greater presence in other countries to begin with it would have been able to defend America/prevent the rise of ultra-nationalism in Russia more thoroughly.

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Generally made irrelevant when Imran Zakhaev's main reasons for the "Ultranationalist" movement (or whatever the hell it was) was Western imperialism. When looked upon from this standpoint, aswell as citing the atrocities caused by the Ultranationalists, all of the conflict in Call of Duty can be linked to the standard aggressive nature of the state. Like I said though, by saying this I am just utilizing my privelage to construe the storyline in a way that I find acceptable - I really don't think the producers had libertarianism (or even anti-statism to the lowest degree) in mind when they were forging the game.

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