Nikita Stulikov

Nikita Stulikov holds Bachelor’s (2020) and Master’s (2022) degrees in Philosophy from the Lomonosov Moscow State University. He wrote his Master’s thesis on computer game ontological models. After graduation, he took a gap year to prepare for a Ph. D. research in game studies.

Is there a rise of totalitarian propaganda in Russian game culture?

FROG 2022 – Talk

The presentation highlights a totalitarian twist in Russian politics with examples from the game industry and culture. While it is common for an authoritarian state to depoliticize its citizens, a totalitarian one actively involves them in its political life through ideology. Thus, a brief description of some notable cases in the Russian game industry seems appropriate to approach the issue. It may be remarkable to describe the totalitarian shift in order to be aware of its symptoms, which is particularly important due to the recent reinforcement of right-wing radicals in liberal democracies.
The contribution demonstrates some examples of Putin’s government instrumentalizing computer games to be one more militaristic and oppressive propaganda media. First, a Russian game engine project, a part of the “import substitution” trend, which has emerged with the economic sanctions against Russia. Although the project has been rejected, it indicated the state’s interest in game-specific advantages. Second, a controversial game project called “Smuta” was developed with the government’s financial support. The game has a historical setting in the XVI-XVII centuries, during Western European governors’ intervention in Russia. Third, the promotion of military recruitment Wagner group, which uses synthwave aesthetics (admittedly associated with computer game culture) to convince the community of fans to take part in the war in Ukraine.

All things considered, it could be a totalitarian trend in Russian culture. The government seems to be interested in the potential of games and play for oppression (the national game engine project); it can use computer games as a media for anti-Western propaganda (“Smuta”); and it already uses some game cultural content as an oppressive mechanism to gain ideological power over the community of players in Russia (the promotion of Wagner group).


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