Non-political or not non-political: are videogames videogames?

Zsolt David
Jul 21, 2020 · 6 min read
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To utter videogames and politics in relation to one another is to fall into a pernicious trap of negations and double negations insistent on saying that videogames are indeed videogames. Why would someone say that “videogames are not political?” To rid videogames of their political nature: to negate in order to make an affirmation that says videogames are non-political. One could — or dare I say, should — let this desire run to its conclusion. What this conclusion might be is hard to say as the insistence to keep one subject separate from another can only be sustained until they emerge again. To get away from political subjects, one should cover their eyes and ears, but to appreciate videogames, they need to be uncovered and open. This subject can surface at any moment, so one can only be alert to cover their eyes and ears, but then it’s already too late. One doesn’t even need to see or hear as two subjects can meet by association. To keep them separate, one needs to reject and repress these subjects coming together whenever they do. It’s a Sisyphean task, except there’s no hill to be climbed, just a boulder ready to reign down on us.

Yet, some are insistent to counter this desire for escape with a negation: “videogames are not only not non-political; everything is political.” Is it to free those wound up in a Sisyphean task of rejection? Not really, because it rejects their rejection and thus shatters the desire for escape. It is rather to say that videogames are videogames but political. What does it mean to say that something is political?

Let’s look at the claim of “everything is political.” Is it to say that every thing is of some nature? If every thing consists of some nature, then this some nature is of every nature. This means that the reverse is also true, because this something is true to everything. Are we to say that everything is something? Clearly not, since some refers to a part of a whole, that is, of everything.

So what does it mean to say that “videogames are political?” Are we to say that videogames are of political nature? But if every videogame is of political nature, then every political thing is of videogame thing. Can we say that videogame things or political things are larger, like everything is to something? Even if a metric were to exist according to which we can quantify these things, it wouldn’t help us in this comparison. We compare distinct categories of videogame things to political things. But how do we carry out this comparison exactly? We say that videogame things are like political things by claiming that videogames are political. But we can’t look at every videogame thing, nor can we look at every political thing. Are we to claim that some videogame things are like some political things? These videogame and political things imply a wholistic nature of each thing, but these things cannot be compared as wholes. We mean that parts of some videogame things are like parts of some political things. Take an example that this videogame character is like the public image of that politician. The reverse is also true, because one is like the other: characters are like images and images are like characters. Some videogames have some characters and some politics have some images that are like another. We specify by using the word some and don’t by using it in every instance. If we drop them to say that videogame characters and political images are alike, do we refer to some or every part of them?

What do we say then by claiming that videogames are political? That videogames are politics-like and politics are videogame-like where it’s free to move between some and every, parts and wholes, to any combination. But we probably mean something more specific by it. Consider that uttering the word videogames first implies that we’d like to make a statement about videogames. We use parts of political things in comparison with parts of videogame things to do so, but don’t use the exact position of each part within each whole, because then we wouldn’t be able to make a comparison. So we think about parts of wholes within wholes, then omit some of them to say that this thing is like that.

Does it mean that we thought of videogames first? Not necessarily, since we can find resemblance from either direction. We wonder from one thing to another, going back and forth between their parts and come to a realization of resemblance. Then at some point we think that one is like the other, but instead of saying that videogame thing parts are like political thing parts, we utter that videogames are political. It’s almost as if we are so eager to pronounce this resemblance that we omit how we’ve come to it and what it entails to end up saying that it is. It comes forward as they that denotes the plurality of parts and connections as videogame thing parts are political, and thrusts itself as the singularity of resemblance as videogames are alike politics. This they implies plural and singular compositions and relationships at once. Some parts of a whole make for a plural composition and relationships exist between what is compared with what and in-between compared parts as their comparability ties them together. Every part exists in a singular composition of totalized plurality tied together with a singular link of resemblance. The in-between relationships emerge as comparability and dissolve since every part shares resemblance with one another. This makes every part plural in relationships as well. As we wonder from one thing to another, we find similarities and differences between them and make claims according to these. This plurality in relationships then serves as a connective tissue to start wondering between the particular and general as we think of comparisons. They itself is no different in its connective quality.

This they consists of some parts of some wholes of political and videogame things. Yet, the word describing every videogame rushes ahead to pronounce what every part of it is, that is to say that they are. What is this refers to? We can’t account to every part, nor to every whole, so we wonder between parts and wholes, something and everything, plural and singular, particular and general, and so on to say that they are. Do we say what we think? Do we know how we think? Does knowing our thinking can lead us say what we think? Omissions occur in these comparisons and in expressing them with words. We omit because we think with words and these words make us think with omissions. Categories describe group of things and hide their composition to raise bounds to parts and wholes. This helps and hinders us at once in conversing and thinking about what lies within them and how they connect. We tacitly come to a mutual understanding of the loose nature of categories and omissions to play what Wittgenstein calls language-games.

The play around videogames with negations and double negations is a game about categories. Videogames are political and not non-political. Are they the same? We think of a resemblance in the former and a negation of a non-resemblance in the latter. Does negation of non-resemblance affirms the same resemblance as the former? Not non-political says that videogames are videogames but different than what it negates; political says that videogames are videogames but different from each time we utter it. Difference is always the subject of play. It renders affirmations to be the same impossible. When one goes further to say that everything is political, negation takes the driver’s seat to speed beyond the initial category and crash what it perceives as non-resemblance. Negation of a negation thinks like it’s running out of road, so it changes lanes and negates itself. Is self-negation waiting to shatter its chains? It’s rather a question of who are we trying to play this game of difference with.

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Zsolt David

Written by

Writer and critic from Hungary.

Science and Philosophy

Medium’s center for scientifically-informed content.

Zsolt David

Written by

Writer and critic from Hungary.

Science and Philosophy

Medium’s center for scientifically-informed content.

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