War Games and the Possibility of Gamic Subjectivity

Table of Contents

War and games have long been interrelated. Today, this relation has grown even closer through the development of high-tech weapons and digital games. In the US military, robotic weapons are remotely controlled as is done in a game. A variety of serious games are being produced by military forces around the world to encourage patriotism or recruit enlistees.

Are all war games, then, propagandistic? The answer is “no.” Players of war games become the leaders of various countries. In each individual game, the player is a patriot who leads his or her country to victory, but over the course of all games, he/she must become a traitor who moves from country to country (the duality of patriot/traitor). In other words, war games, which are oriented around multiple subjects and narratives, are fundamentally incompatible with the nation-state, which is oriented around a singular subject and narrative. This article explains this argument through the celebrated classic strategy simulation game Civilization.

The experience of war games brings three possibilities: patriotic counter games, cyber mercenaries, and gamic subjectivity. Among these, gamic subjectivity contains the most potential. The mode of cognition in gamic subjectivity immerses the player in a particular community or ideology, but at the same time, it requires him/her to imagine alternative possibilities. This can serve as a cue to pursue a balanced way of living that resists both cynicism and blind faith when navigating our contemporary internet society inundated with political symbols.