Computer Games as „Soft Power“ in World Politics

by Ortikov, K., Bakhtiarova, S.

Ortikov K, Bakhtiarova S (2015). Computer Games as „Soft Power“ in World Politics. In Young Scientist USA, Vol. 2 (p. 95). Auburn, WA: Lulu Press.

Abstract. The paper consists of information on the appearance and historiography of computer games and their influence on modern society, especially among young people. The paper also includes structural analysis of ideological expansion during game play. In addition, the authors show clearly that computer games are connected with the idea of “soft power.”

 

The 21st century came to human civilization as the information century. In the 20th and 21st centuries, world scientists created a great jump in the field of information and computer technologies, including communication systems. Almost all difficult or problematic issues have become easy to solve in a short time through these technologies, and they are deeply rooted in our lives.

At present, most youths in the world cannot imagine their lives without modern and computer technologies. Modern computers can do many different functions, from typing texts to creating new and advanced software. However, it is necessary to underline that a large part of the world population uses computers for entertainment — listening to music, watching movies and video clips, and playing games. So, the present paper is devoted to the issue of computer games.

Virtual reality (VR) is highly advanced computer modeling that helps to absorb users into artificial worlds, where it is possible to move with the help of special sensory devices and equipment, accompanied by audiovisual effects and moves.

So, computer games are one type of virtual reality. Almost all computer games are created on the basis of the multimedia capabilities of computers. As we know, all computer games are defined with algorithmic stages which describe all processes of passage. The majority of computer games today can be divided into two types — role-playing games (RPG) and non-RPG.

In role-playing games, gamers are playing the part of imaginary characters. So, gamers can feel that they are heroes in imaginary game worlds. In non-RPG, gamers don’t play the part of characters, so the psychological activities are weaker than in RPG.

So, in the present paper we desire to show how computer games can influence lives and roles in social life. In computer games, the main aspect is directed to the emotional point, because only emotion is tightly interconnected with human consciousness. In the present day, science has shown that 80 % of events that are impressed in our memory are colored by emotion, 16 % are indifferent, and 4 % are undefined attributes. If that is the case, we can assume that by influencing the emotional and psychological aspects of humans or society, it is possible to organize psychological war [1].

So, in this case, computer games, through storylines, soundtracks and graphics, have the ability to convey additional information that is not connected with games. This means that  computer games can serve to transmit ideological views. This includes two aspects:

·         Computer games can absorb gamers, making it possible to transmit information on the subconscious level;

·         Age-specific description. Present day computer games are played by youths whose ideological and political views are not fully constructed [2].

The first computer games were invented in the mid-20th century. The computer game industry was led by several men. Ralph Baer introduced to the public the idea of interactive television (the concept today known as game consoles). This concept was further developed by A. S. Douglas in 1952; he created the first interactive game, called OXO. The next-generation computer game was Tennis for Two (known in the former Soviet Union Tennis), which was created by William Higinbotham.

Today, computer games have significant potential for carrying out psychological and ideological wars, because they are one of the most effective tools for spreading state ideology and formation an image wholly state at once. For example, after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the U.S. entertainment industry developed anti-terrorism ideology. The game industry subsequently created several games with themes of fighting against world terrorism, such as Apache: Air Assault, Counter-strike and Quest for Saddam. Most present-day gamers around the world know that very interesting games are produced in West, especially in the U.S., a country that produces huge amounts of entertainment products, which means ideological production.

Interestingly, it is possible to psychologically transmit an image of enemies to gamers through computer games, and gain their approval for large political operations. Oriental wisdom says, “If you desire to get something from others, first give them an insignificant thing.” In this case, we mean the spread of ideological computer games. Good computer games unnoticeably spread ideological information to the subconscious of gamers.

An example is a series of anti-Russian games known as Command & Conquer: Red Alert. The prologue of the game is based on alternate history. In the game, in 1946 Albert Einstein created the Chronosphere, a time machine in which he went to 1924 and change history such that Adolf Hitler did not come to power in Germany in 1932. Germany did not begin the Second World War. Instead, the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, began military expansion on Europe. The main aspect of this game is directed toward creating a negative feeling about Russian aggression in gamers’ minds.

Another example is the game known as General, which is part of the series Command & Conquer: Red Alert. This game emerged in the gaming world in February 2003, a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The story takes place in the near future, and players are given a choice of three factions. The United States and China are the world's two superpowers, and are the targets of the Global Liberation Army (GLA), an omnipresent borderless terrorist organization, fighting as a fanatical irregular force. The United States and China are depicted as allies who occasionally cooperate against the GLA, whose goals are the elimination of the military forces of the two countries.

The game begins with a devastating GLA nuclear attack on Beijing and a subsequent GLA attack on the Three Gorges Dam. The player assumes the role of a Chinese general who rallies the remaining Chinese forces and counterattacks. The general eventually destroys the GLA cell that is masterminding all Pacific Rim operations.

The player then assumes the role of another GLA general, who regroups GLA forces in Central Asia and gathers funds and biological weapons. In doing so, he has to face both U.S. and Chinese armies and a GLA splinter cell. His campaign eventually culminates in taking over the Baikonur Cosmodrome and firing a Soyuz rocket bearing a biological MIRV at an unnamed city.

At this point, the U.S. campaign begins; the U.S. engages the GLA across the Middle East and Central Asia. A joint U.S.-Chinese operation eventually destroys the main GLA command base in Astana, Kazakhstan [3].

Present day computer games are a new way of transmitting information and a tool for influencing people’s mind in a way that is convenient for those producing ideological points. In the antiterrorism genre of modern computer games, lists of states where military operations are carried out are included.

Emulation of terrorist enemies helps military personnel know their foes much better and accept correct action in real military time. So, after September 11, 2001, the University of Southern California and the USC Institute for Creative Technologies in Los Angeles developed a special computer game to help CIA personnel better understand the mentality of terrorists. In this game, the personnel represent two sides: agents represented as ordinary agents, and others — different official persons who observe compliance of the law. In this game, all participants can play the roles of terrorist leaders, terrorist suicide attackers or financers of terrorist groups. During play, gamers try to cause as much damage as possible to each other. Those playing the CIA roles should maximize their efforts to halt criminal actions of the opposite (terrorist) side [4].

In the end, it is necessary to underline soft power,  which is the ability to attain desired results through voluntary participation of allies and without compulsion. The success of soft power depends heavily on actors’ reputation within the international community, as well as the flow of information between actors. Thus, soft power is often associated with the rise of globalization and neoliberal international relations theory. Popular culture and mass media are regularly identified as sources of soft power, as is the spread of a national language or a particular set of normative structures; a nation with a large amount of soft power and the good will that it engenders inspires others to acculturate, avoiding the need for high hard power expenditures [5].

History yields three outstanding examples of policies that used elements of soft power:

1.      The Four Freedoms Speech by Franklin Roosevelt during WWII [6];

2.       Youths in the Soviet Union listening to American songs and news transmitted by Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America during the Cold War;

3.      Youths in the Islamic Republic of Iran watching banned sex videos transmitted via satellite in spite of theocratic government.

Examination of these examples leads us to conclude that computer games also can also serve as soft power in world policy.

 

References

1.                  Video-games as mean of the information and psychological struggle - http://psyfactor.org/lib/psywar39.htm

2.                  A.E. Balyantsev, I.Z. Herstein – Image of the country through the glasses of a computer game:  historical and political dimension

3.                  Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command_%26_Conquer:_Generals

4.                  V. Makarenkova, Major -  http://ambition.ucoz.com/publ/psikhologicheskaja_vojna/videoigry_v_psikhologicheskoj_vojne/2-1-0-18

5.                  Soft Power – Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_power Franklin Roosevelt's Annual Address to Congress - The "Four Freedoms" - http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od4frees.html