Today is a day thousands of sites have gone dark across the internet in protest against SOPA and PIPA, the proposed acts that intend to close down websites for infringing on copyright. We all know that Wikipedia’s down, Reddit’s down and Boing Boing too. And now, joining these digital protests is the medium of video games. Yeah, that’s right: video games. You may think that video games have about as much to do with protest as a toasted sandwich, but it’s not the shallow, violent medium the Daily Mail makes it out to be.
Ludum Dare, the indie game-making competition site, is hosting a Stop SOPA Game Jam today, so you can make games instead of picket signs. There are no rules or prizes (except the gift of sticking it to the man) so the quality is probably going to be all over the place, but that’s not really the point now, is it? Follow the #sopajam Twitter hashtag for the latest updates and check out all the releases here—here’s a couple of web-based ones to get you started: Super SOPA Bros. and A Good Grope.
It’s certainly a novel way for people to express their dislike and disapproval of the proposed acts, but gaming taking on activism isn’t completely unheard of. Our very own Feng Mengbo and his Long March: Restart politicized the medium with its gamification of Communist China and Western Capitalism. Meanwhile, the folks from Molleindustria create games that have provocative, political leanings like Faith Fighter and the McDonald’s VideoGame (they have Free Culture Game up today, but have otherwise gone dark in protest over SOPA).
Video games, as a narrative medium rooted in fantasy and play is particularly useful for this type of entertainment-cloaked political subversion, some of which is more blatant than others. Back in 2006 for instance, MTV released the subtly-titled Darfur Is Dying, a browser-based game where you play a refugee trying to get water, and Creator Peter Lee collaborated on Ayiti: The Cost of Life which demonstrates how poverty affects human rights.
But could Ludum Dare’s game jam be the first time gaming’s been used as a form of protest?