one subversive video game i played

11 Jun

A couple of years ago, there was a huge splash in the headlines about the negative influence that video games had on the youth. The one leading the charge was Jack Thompson, an outspoken activist known for making bold, sweeping claims.

Kind of like a 1950’s throwback of Fredric Wertham, who claimed that comics were harmful as noted in his book Seduction of the Innocent. He was able to persuade the public the dangers of this medium enough for him to appear before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Juvenile Delinquency. This generated unfavorable public opinion on comics and comic book publishers responded by printing the Comic Code Authority stamp on almost every comic book cover.¹ This assured that the work is approved because it follows a bunch of rules like depicting authority figures in a good light and not showing excessive violence.

Thompson, on the other hand, only prompted some hysteria but eventually it led to his downfall.

So if you were to probe for any subversive influence video games may had on me, there is one I recall. No, I didn’t follow the urge to have unprotected sex due to the hot coffee mod found in GTA: San Andreas, but rather it’s more peculiar.

I thought Joseph Stalin was a pretty cool guy.


When I was in elementary school, my brother purchased a strategy video game called Command & Conquer: Red Alert. It opens with Albert Einstein using a time machine to erase Adolf Hitler from existence, which then leads to the Allies facing against the Soviets during this alternate World War II. The player can choose to start a campaign as either side.

The Soviets have cooler-looking units to command such as a Grenadier and the Flamethrower while the Allies had the Medic and Thief instead…boring. The defensive structure you can build are memorable such as the Flame Tower that shoots a huge ball of fire and the Tesla Coil that zaps; both of them able to render the enemy infantry into pixelated crisp. And most of all, the units speak with a Russian accent. (In hindsight, why would the Soviet soldiers address in English when you’re commanding them? Okay, the targeted gamer is likely one who speaks English but humor me.)

It began with me imitating their accents while I was playing the missions. I enjoyed seeing Joseph Stalin’s mustache during those cheesy, overdramatic videos shown between missions. But then, the influence expanded from the private to the public sphere.

When my teacher assigned me to write a short biography, I chose to write about Stalin. So I wrote about his early life including him on the path to becoming a priest. I was also required to draw a portrait of him as well. I recall depicting him as a could-have-been holy man, and no, I didn’t draw any tanks in the background.

I wish I knew what my teacher thought of my choice while normal kids did theirs on Neil Armstrong and Babe Ruth, but I know for sure that I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office for being suspected of being a fourth grader with any Communist sympathy in the late 90s when he really just enjoyed the fancy units, the Russian accent and Stalin’s stache.


Thanks to my high school and college history classes, I now know how cruel Joseph Stalin was and some scholars even argue that in the long run Stalin had killed many more people than Hitler did. (Many of the people the Soviet dictator killed was his own people.) I wouldn’t have made friends if I told them about how cool Stalin was.

I do remember this one quote by Stalin that was shown in the game.

“One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.”

For a ruthless dictator, he made a somewhat poignant statement. Probably learned it the hard way.

¹The underground comix was an exception because the artists rebelled by producing their own homemade works with a lot more provocative yet thought-provoking content.


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