July 17, 2012

‘Leader of the 99%’ stars in video game


Raul Menendez

You might have missed this: Occupy is now video-game fodder. Software developer Treyarch has announced that the villain of its forthcoming game, Black Ops 2, is Raul Menendez, the imagined “idolized Messiah of the 99%”.

This Game Ranx article describes the figure as “a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hellbent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo.” That means that players are cast in the role of the 1%, protectors of the status quo. If that seems an uncomfortable fit to you, check out the reader comments on the Game Ranx article. Plenty of incensed gamers — and a few voices of dissent amidst their chorus. Here’s my favourite exchange:

ORWELL: What a pro-capitalist steaming pile of bullshit. Now its not only a bad game, its an offensive game.

MR PRESIDENT: no way dude this looks hilarious as hell and this is coming from someone who’s read several of david graeber’s books

Thanks for the plug, Mr President. Is his ‘hilarious as hell’ assessment adequate? Or should we be taking this more seriously? Black Ops 1 seems to have been a pretty unpleasant affair too, playing fast and loose with Cold War events, so it’s problematic to write this off as just opportunism or satire. I’m no expert on gaming, but it seems instead to be a sinister appropriation of an important movement for financial — even ideological? — gain.

Here’s hoping that the bile spilt by Game Ranx commentators is reflected in sales figures for the game.


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.