One of the goals of the new elite is to harness the power of games to educate people—or most honestly, to indoctrinate them. They believe that games have the power to impart values and that these values should be socially responsible. This isn’t a terrible position on the face of it, until you see that they are not simply talking about protecting the malleable minds of growing children. In their world not even grown men are capable of standing up to heretical materials. What ideas are currently the most dangerous is constantly changing, but never changes is that there are always people demanding that art become propaganda.
Games do have a potential to educate adults and children alike, and as such I do believe that they have a responsibility to portray the world in a reasonably accurate way. Which is just to say that I prefer my art to be as truthful as possible. Unfortunately for ideologues both right and left, truth isn’t a political concept. So when an ideologue tells you that a game should be socially responsible, what he is saying is that it should be propaganda to suit his ends.
When a game purposefully bends the truth or even simply lies about a real world concept to suit the political ends of the developers or third parties the developers are attempting to please, it’s worth pointing out.
Cities: Skylines arrived in 2015 like a bolt of lightning, bringing the corpse of city building games back to life. The Sim City series was near and dear to my heart when growing up, and the level of affection and nostalgia I have for it is similar to what I imagine a lifelong console gamer must feel towards Mario. It is a brilliant game on the whole, and a fine rebuke to Maxis for their ill-conceived attempts to reboot the Sim City franchise by gutting it and packing the husk full of garbage that no one asked for.
Despite my high opinion of the game, I have a small issue with Skylines in that, unlike the Sim City series, the developers have chosen to make wind turbines completely reliable and to have high wind zones situated basically everywhere. The result is that, rather than portraying wind power as it is used in real life, it is a staple power source from the start of the game. It is in fact the best way to power a fledgling city.
A child playing Skylines or a low-information adult might come away from the game with a false impression about wind power and how it is useful. Gone also is the sense of accomplishment from advancing from cheap and dirty power sources to expensive and clean ones. There’s almost no reason to use dirty energy sources at all—how does that even make sense from a gameplay perspective? How are we supposed to feel good about banishing pollution from our city and overcoming complex green power logistics if it was never an issue from the start?
Since the game is so detailed and well designed in many other ways, I can only assume this decision was made for political reasons. It’s a mark against an otherwise fantastic title. Someone who played Sim City, which portrayed wind power technology in a relatively realistic fashion, knows at least some of the pitfalls of attempting to power a city that way. He comes away from the game with a better impression of how the world works than he had previously. The player of Skylines, however, is worse off on that particular point than someone who knows nothing.
This is what happens when people decide that games must advance a particular agenda—they become less truthful and the gameplay suffers. What’s socially responsible for an artist is to tell people the truth as you understand it, not to manipulate them.