As we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, it’s important to note that Ukraine is seeking to ban a video game that is sympathetic to Russian communism. The game, Atomic Heart, may have some ties to the Russian government, and Ukraine would like the rest of the world to boycott it as well. Ukraine’s Digital Ministry has said it will ask Steam, Microsoft, and Sony to remove Atomic Heart from their gaming platforms in Ukraine, and possibly elsewhere, pointing to its retro-Communist aesthetic and reported “Russian roots.”
However, there are several reasons why this is not a good idea. For starters, it is exceptionally unlikely that any significant portion of the world will comply with the request to boycott the game. Even the platforms in question are unlikely to comply, even as some of them have gotten involved in some of the industry action to support Ukraine. After all, the justification for all of this amounts to that the game is sympathetic to Russian communist history. A claim which, well, is not exactly the glowing review of the Russian communist system that Ukraine described.
The other reason for the boycott, according to the ministry, has at least some more legs: that the studio that released the game has some ownership that can be tied back to the Russian government. The developer, Mundfish, cites Cyprus as its international headquarters but has previously shown off its Russia-based offices in a video tour. Mundfish’s investors include Tencent, the Chinese gaming giant, and GEM Capital. GEM Capital’s founder, Anatoliy Paliy, formerly served as first deputy general director for a Gazprom division, and GEM is actively involved in the Russian energy market.
So, unless Ukraine wants to make some kind of sanctions-based argument, is it really suggesting that the rest of the world ought to be boycotting any video game produced by any publisher that has any ties back to any kind of Russian ownership? For a video game that doesn’t actually reference the current war with Ukraine? A game, mind you, that began development in 2018, long before the current conflict?
This is a small example of how you cede the moral high ground in a war of not only bullets but also of the minds of the world as well. Either Ukraine is for an open and free society, or it isn’t. This is not an example of the former.
Recently, Ukraine’s Minister of Culture, Volodymyr Borodyansky, called for a worldwide boycott of a video game called “Death to Spies 3” that depicts the Soviet Union in a positive light, arguing that it spreads disinformation about the horrors of communism. The minister’s call to action has sparked controversy among gamers and historians alike, prompting the question: should the world boycott this game?
First of all, it is important to note that “Death to Spies 3” is a fictional work of art, not a historical document. Just like movies, books, and other forms of media, video games often portray an alternate reality that may differ from the facts regarding a specific event or period. Therefore, it would be unfair to judge “Death to Spies 3” as an educational tool for teaching history. Instead, it should be viewed as a creative work of entertainment that allows players to immerse themselves in a dramatic and suspenseful spy story set in the Soviet Union during World War II.
Moreover, one of the primary goals of any video game is to allow players to suspend their disbelief and imagine themselves in a different world. By creating a realistic portrayal of communist Russia, “Death to Spies 3” offers a unique and engaging experience that allows players to explore an unfamiliar and intriguing setting. The game’s storyline emphasizes the complexity of politics and espionage during wartime, rather than promoting any particular ideology or regime.
In addition, it is worth noting that censorship and boycotts do little to advance the cause of truth and knowledge. Instead of trying to silence dissenting opinions or viewpoints, it is far better to encourage dialogue and debate. It is only through the free exchange of ideas that people can learn and grow, and any attempt to stifle this process is antithetical to the principles of democracy and free speech.
Furthermore, it is important to consider the context of the minister’s call to boycott. Ukraine has a complicated history with Russia, marked by decades of oppression under Soviet rule and, more recently, by a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine. It is understandable that some Ukrainians may feel a visceral reaction to any portrayal of communism that seems to gloss over the atrocities committed by the Soviet regime. However, it is crucial to separate a video game from the political situation of a given country, and not let emotions cloud our judgment.
In conclusion, the world should not boycott “Death to Spies 3” simply because it portrays communism in a positive light. The game is a work of fiction that offers a unique and intriguing setting for players to explore. Furthermore, censorship and boycotts are counterproductive to the pursuit of truth and knowledge. Finally, it is important to separate a creative work from the political context of a given country, and to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to engage in debate and discussion.