Gamers Against Games: How It Happens in Russia

By Pavel Elchenko on 0 0

Putting blame on games is quite a common rhetorical device for populist politicians and other tie-wearing guys worldwide. But what about a situation when gamers themselves place demand on government to ban a certain game? That is actually what recently happened in Russia with a game you can hardly call violent.

Usually my day starts with speed-reading through news headlines and in this regard yesterday morning was quite an ordinary one. Except for the fact that I got my cursorial glance caught by an article summarizing the market survey carried out by Nielsen research company. Particularly, it said that in terms of their buying habits Russian consumers are getting more and more similar to western ones but there are still some cultural features remaining.

In this world gone hopelessly global only these rebellious things we call cultural features allow you to discern one country from another. Thinking of this made me understand why Company of Heroes 2 in Russia was doomed from the very beginning… 

No more heroes

Since the 5th of this year's August Company of Heroes is no longer available in Russia. Local publisher was forced to bring sales to a halt and in so doing to comply with petitions formulated and signed by more than 45 thousands of indignant gamers on Change.org. This raging outburst from Russian gaming community was triggered by a video review which revealed the game's plot. According to Company of Heroes 2 developers, during the World War 2 Soviet soldiers were ruthless killers who enjoyed slaughtering civilian population and also cowards who pushed forward on the battlefield only because they had supervisors with guns aimed at their backs.

Needless to say it has nothing to do with historical facts. The crucial role of Soviet army in defeating the fascists is widely acknowledged. And not a single Russian family left untouched by this ordeal.

Now, taking this into consideration, try to place yourself in Russian gamer's shoes. Your grandfather or great-grandfather fought during the war and so you grew up knowing the awful price your people had paid to defend their homeland and the entire civilized world. And now you are seeing a game which describes your grandfathers as the lowest of the low and covers their heroic deeds in dirt. Of course you would feel insulted! I bet you would be eager to sign any damn petition! And the fact that this is just a game fiction would hardly make it less insulting to you.

"The way the game developers see the conflict is disgusting. Here in CIS we do believe that WWII was won by the Allies, who do represent the best of human qualities like bravery, cunning, self-sacrificial courage and honesty. The game developers see the best of the USSR as an instantly evil thing. It's not like that at all," says the Russian gamers' petition.

Asking for trouble 

But the most interesting thing about the gamers' behavior in this situation is that it's not enough for them just to ignore the game. Vote with your wallet is a fair approach but not quite satisfactory one when you feel really indignant. Let me give you one more quotation from the petition addressed to Steam: "Second reason is to protect the young people from that propaganda. Every person should think for itself, but it's difficult to do when you're a teenager. In the CIS countries you CAN buy a box game even if you DO NOT hit the necessary age. So the only way to solve a problem is through you."

That is actually the most dangerous part because such words as "to protect the young people" and "propaganda" have a hideous power to attract politicians and various hypocritical moralists. It actually has already happened in Ukraine where the local communist party members made an appeal to put a veto on Company of Heroes 2 sales.

Similar thing befell to Russian version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Three years ago Russian law-makers discussed the possibility of banning this game. Some politicians even began to speak of establishing a special governmental body to regulate game industry. For now they go no further than wishful speculations. But developers themselves are making this menace more real by pissing gamers off like Relic did with Company of Heroes 2. 

Why this scandalous incident with Company of Heroes 2 in Russia even occurred? Because Relic guys and their publishers ignored cultural features. Perhaps they relied on globalization too much. Well in this case they got what they absolutely deserved. The bad thing is that now we have one more significant stain on games and gaming reputation.

-- Thank our columnist Pavel Elchenko, Public Relations Manager of NIKITA ONLINE

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