Outdated arguments concerning the relationship between first-person shooter video games and real-life violence continue to surface periodically, alleging virtual desensitisation while obscuring more insidious links between the two. It’s not simulated guns and pixelated gore that lead to extremism; violence and gaming cultures are deeply connected regarding growing far-right ideologies, misogyny and racism.
Players become ‘heroes’ from their bedrooms, often pit against a constructed ‘other’; an enemy reflective of the current affairs of the time. In the 2000s, American video games endorsed aggressive foreign policy and anti-Islamic sentiments; since Brexit, games in the UK have advocated ‘nostalgia for empire’ and frequently reproduced border control scenarios. Video game narratives overrepresent right-wing ideologies in the themes explored and presented within them, virtual actions become instinctual, blurring the line between the player and the characters.
Their experiences within these virtual worlds are made personal, compelling them to accept the character’s ideologies as their own. While simultaneously, technology and the digital increasingly integrate into everyday reality, the divide between real and virtual experience shifts to the divide between independent and conditioned thought.
Occupying the same intangible online space utilised by far-right groups to communicate, recruit and spread hate, we have explored the rapid pace with which a young person could be radicalised without even realising what is happening.