Gamer diplomacy

The video game industry has not remained indifferent to the war to Russia's war on Ukraine. Over the course of recent days, with a variety of playful actions, the industry has taken a much more proactive rather than passive path. However, this is not the first time gamers have taken a stand on political or social issues. Already in 2020, they had become involved over the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matters campaign.

19 April 2022

The brains behind the video game market, which according to Newzoo, a market consulting firm specializing in the industry, has some 3.1 billion players worldwide, have carried out an atypical diplomacy of empathy in the face of global events. Generally, these are in the form of concrete actions against war, racism or the education of the most vulnerable population, raising awareness or supporting philanthropic causes through online games.

The gestures to Ukraine. The outbreak of the Russian war in Ukraine has not led to troop deployment by the most powerful countries in the world, but there have been gestures from different industries condemning the situation. And so it is that every passing day we hear of the withdrawal from Russia of more companies that are not willing to support Putin’s war offensive. Stores are closing in Moscow and throughout the country; sanctions and sports bans of all kinds are falling into place, and there are a host of measures of solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people. And the gaming world is no exception. As soon as the war began, “a group of gamers designed a fundraising campaign to raise money by selling hundreds of video games at the symbolic price of US$ 10, and by March 14 they had already raised US$ 5 million,” according to The Conversation.

Considered by the UN. The 2020 death of African-American George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis, and the Black Lives Matters campaign to which it gave rise, also awakened the solidarity of the video game platforms. Specifically, itch.io promoted an initiative called “Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality,” which consisted of a US$ 5 fee for access to more than a thousand titles. “Through this action they wanted to denounce ‘racial injustice, inequality and police brutality against the black population.’ An impressive US$ 9 million was raised, which went to two human rights foundations,” explains Antonio César Moreno, Professor in the Department of International Relations and Global History at the Complutense University of Madrid and author of the article for The Conversation. The academic affirms that this is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that the video game world (from its creators to the gaming community) takes a stand in emblematic cases of abuse of power against minorities, by using its global reach and its influencing ability for rallying purposes. Moreno emphasizes that international organizations such as the UN and its agencies (UNICEF, UNAOC, UNESCO, and UNHCR) have for years been analyzing the promising features of this format and its potential benefits for promoting dialogue, building peace and activating empathy among young people.

Involving the industry. Clearly aware of the power of the video game industry, Mykhailo Fedorov, deputy prime minister of Ukraine, asked in a statement on social networks for the support of Xbox and Playstation against the invasion of his country, and the companies did not hesitate to deliver it. In addition, Fortnite players raised more than US$ 144 million for Ukraine in two weeks. And the Epic Games campaign closed on April 3 “after raising US$150 million to be given to various humanitarian organizations working in Ukraine,” according to the Tecno Game portal.

Political debate. The Conversation writes that, “From the moment Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border, hundreds of studios, designers and game companies have expressed their total rejection of the invasion, spreading their protests across all of the social networks.”  Along these same lines, 11 bit studios, creators of the award-winning This War of Mine inspired by the siege of Sarajevo, has strongly supported Ukrainian cause, “which has caused a heated debate on platforms such as Steam or Reddit, where Russian and Chinese gaming communities have attacked the “politicization” of the game,” says Antonio César Moreno.

Digital Protest. Experts maintain that video gaming is radically significant because it can reach millions of users very easily. And neither the war in Ukraine nor the Floyd case are the first in which gamers and creators have shown solidarity with a cause and carried out what is now becoming known around the world as “digital protest.” “Examples of this range from the demonstrations in Hong Kong to the yellow vest protests in France, as well as the effects of the Animal Crossing game on the pandemic,” details The Conversation.