Could a game about the seemingly limitless power of law enforcement be apolitical? I don’t believe anything can be apolitical but most definitely something based on this theme, especially given everything that has happened globally over the last 12 months. The United States is in the middle of a large debate regarding institutionalized racism disguised as law enforcement but there are countries all over the world whose citizens don’t feel safe due to large volumes of corrupt cops. Any game, or creative work for that matter, that chooses to engage this subject is a political piece regardless of whether the creators thinks so or not.

So when Ilya Yanovich posted an update for This is the Police, a police game described as “A strategy/adventure game about power and corruption, duty and choice,” stating that the game was not political at all I couldn’t help but get a little flummoxed. The player is given the choice to be a corrupt cop — to push blame, take bribes, and abuse taxpayer’s money — and the consequences of these actions definitely influence social perceptions. If players are rewarded for being corrupt, either with short term bonuses or with a good ending, then people could see corruption in a positive light, transforming the popular opinion of it into being morally grey instead of the horrendous act it is.

There will always be people who are stuck in their thinking and refuse to be swayed regardless of the message but there will be people who play your game who will have a change of heart based on the messages of a media. Trust me, every game has a message. Unfortunately, for Ilya to think theirs doesn’t is not a good sign for the message that it will send.

The kickstarter captioned this “Over the next 180 days, Jack will put a lot of people behind bars. Some might even deserve it” which makes light of how often this actually happens in real life.

This is the Police directly engages with the increasing power of law enforcement and to believe it won’t make a statement is naive. Everyday, people are on the receiving end of police abuse. While people feel it the most when personally engaged with corrupt or racist police, people also feel it when money swindled out of the budget, as that is money straight out of taxpayers’ wallets.

Abuse of power in law enforcement affects everyone in the community, in the country, and in the world. I don’t care if you make a game about being a corrupt cop; after all, games are the best media for personal engagement of a topic, but don’t think for a second that you aren’t making a statement about it.

Bryan Rumsey

Bryan Rumsey

Musician by day, game dev by night, author by dusk, video game player by...well, sometimes.
Bryan Rumsey
  • Andrew

    Games need to be free of propaganda not politics.

  • Nin

    I don’t really think they are intentionally making a political statement on it since you don’t have to be corrupt. Unless you think “Corrupt cops exist and they can benefit from corruption” is a political statement rather than an obvious truth. If he was explicitly saying that it’s moral then you might have a point, but let’s not overanalyze politics in things that aren’t intended to have politics (like say, Tomogachi).

    • To be fair though, things such as the abuse of taxpayer money as well as some of the other topics the game features (e.g it mentions feminists protests and gives players the option to employ force to shut the protest down) are overtly political.

      Even if the developer wasn’t looking to put forward any ideas of its own, it’s certainly naive at best to create a game like this and without considering that these political discussions would be had.

  • An interesting points, the mechanics of a game do influence the way we think about the situation. An example I can think of is Prison Architect. The game doesn’t explicitly talk about corruption, but as you progress you have to make more and more morally questionable decisions in order to turn a profit. It makes a political statement without saying anything at all. It’s a very interesting point, good job.