The Technical Artists Balancing Polycounts and Visual Quality

I spoke to Jodie Azhar from Creative Assembly and Matt Dickinson from Frontier Developments about what it means to be a Technical Artist in the games industry, for GamesIndustry.biz!

The First Half of Fable III is Pretty Damn Communistic

If you ignore everything about Fable III that stops it being Communistic, it’s actually kinda Communistic.

Fable III was the final main installment in Lionhead Studio’s iconic franchise, and despite a hefty amount of discourse online regarding whether the game was good or not, I actually rather like it, despite it being disappointing compared to its predecessor, Fable II. And if you ignore the constant of monarchy throughout the experience, it’s pretty communistic so I’m going to ignore it and give you a list of reasons why I’m definitely right.

A People’s Revolution

The first two thirds of the game are all about you, the main protagonist, amassing a revolutionary army to overthrow your tyrant brother, who subjects the people of Albion to destitute conditions of poverty and corruption. You recruit the military, the city resistance, a group of mountain dwellers, and various other groups and factions throughout Albion to assist you. Sure, the primary basis in convincing them all to join is that you’re the true heir to the throne, but that invalidates any point that I might have, so let’s envision a reality where this isn’t the case.

The Age of Industry

At the time in which we experience the lands of Albion, it’s experiencing an industrial age. There are factories, mechanised transportation systems, and a new era of slave-wage labour. It’s all very much inspired by the 1800s, a hotbed for a people’s revolt. It’s during this time that the formulation and rise of Communist thought occurred as a direct response to industrialisation exploiting workers in a way never before seen. It is therefore difficult to argue that Lionhead Stuios weren’t aware of the parallels between the narrative of Fable III and the dawn of Communism

Benevolent Dictatorship

Time to throw you all a curve ball! I’ll be acknowledging the monarchy aspect of this game. Because, if you look at it with squinted eyes and sprinkle it with a heap of wishful thinking, then you could vaguely describe your monarchical status in Fable III as resembling a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship. Not my personal preferred flavour of Communism, but Communism nonetheless! This is further supported by all of the benevolent, for-the-people royal decrees, like abolishing child labour, free public libraries, and putting funding into looking after orphans.

At the end of the day, life is all about perspective.  And to many perspectives, Fable III isn’t at all indicative of a Communist revolutionary story. But my perspective, when looked at from the right angles, is that with a little optimism, maybe it is. Certainly makes the game a little less disappointing.

[THIS IS A DISCLAIMER THAT I’LL BE ADDING AS A FOOTNOTE TO ALL OF MY WORK FROM NOW ON: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

The Worker-Owned Studio Making a Game About the Revolution

This revolutionary development studio thinks worker ownership will change the games industry for the better.

We live in a Capitalist society. As a result of that, many companies share a similar business structure: workers, managers, executives, and a CEO. It’s hierarchical in nature, allocating tasks from the top to the bottom. The video games industry as a whole isn’t very different at all, with large development studios and publishers like Bethesda, Rockstar, and EA following what has become the standard for running a company. But this isn’t the only way to run a business.

“I felt like a team could be run better if everybody had a voice in making major decisions.” Ted Anderson is the founder and art steward of Pixel Pushers Union 512, a worker-owned independent games studio currently working on Tonight We Riot, a crowd brawler game about a people’s revolution. He’s worked in the industry for a long time for various companies, “but I’ve never seen one where a lot of people had a lot of voices, or there was any kind of real democracy in production.”

“So I figured that I might take some of the things I was kinda getting interested in, and one of those things was the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World, and their method of having shop democracy really appealed to me.” Shop democracy is a socialist principle wherein a workplace applies concepts like voting, equal pay, and flat hierarchy to the workplace, and Ted had been toying with the concept for a while. “I think the idea for the company is something I’d been chewing on probably ever since my first layoff. At least in some formative way I thought, ‘this could be better.’”

“And then over the years as I drifted further and further left myself, I eventually decided, this structure that currently exists is really untenable. It’s not fair to the people working in those companies. I was watching benefits disappear. When I started in the game industry, there were actually still royalties: you’d make money off the game you worked on. That doesn’t [really] exist anymore.”

“You’re much more willing to do something that you’re self-motivated to do without getting tired of it”

Ted’s of the opinion that as it currently stands, much like many countless Capitalist business structures, the games industry is exploitative of workers in their worth and their disposability. “One of the biggest issues I’ve run into in games in the past has been the boom and bust cycle of game development, where you throw a bunch of warm bodies at a problem and then lay everybody off after the project is done.”

“One of the things I hope pans out with the way we’re doing stuff is with the cost-sharing, the flat hierarchy, the ability for everybody to be democratically-involved in the process of making the game and decisions regarding its sale and release date, that we all have an impetus to make sure that the company never grows larger than it needs to be, and that the projects that we take on aren’t bigger than what we can do with the team that we have.”

For Ted, the equal share of profit made by Pixel Pushers through both their own work and their contract work isn’t just beneficial for the wellbeing of his co-workers. “it’s a much cheaper way to operate a company. We have no executive staff…say the game makes a decent profit. That profit isn’t immediately soaked up by one branch of the company. Instead, it’s divvied up equally amongst everybody who actually had a hand in working on it. And I’d much rather have that happen, I hope it takes off.”

Not only has shop democracy and worker ownership been good for Pixel Pushers both financially and in terms of productivity, but it’s also improved Ted’s general happiness through being involved in the company. “if some boss was telling me, ‘hey, fix this thing.’ And it’s so ridiculously broken, and I’m having trouble with it… it’d get kinda miserable. But the fact that it’s us, that I’m not being told to do this by some boss on high, that I’m choosing to do this because as a team we’ve decided that it’s the best idea… you’re much more willing to do something that you’re self-motivated to do without getting tired of it.” It’s improved interpersonal relationships between the staff too. “If someone’s having a hard time, I have genuine concern for them as a friend and I want to make sure that they’re having a good time working on this game, and we try to make it better.

“It’s not, ‘Okay, well that sucks, but chop chop we’ve gotta get things done!’ It’s more, ‘Let’s see how we can triage some of these issues, or table them for now, come back to them maybe later, and find something fun to work on.’ People don’t get burned out, people don’t get resentful, so it’s never me or anybody saying ‘you have to do this now.’” It’s a rather positive perspective, and it’s not just limited to Ted.

“a sort of growing foxhole mentality, a sort of fellowship”

“I do think it’s something fundamental about the structure.” Stephen Meyer is one of Pixel Pushers’ programming stewards, and has had extensive experience in a number of different industries, not limited to insurance and construction companies. Working on Tonight We Riot is his first professional foray into the games industry, and his first time working under a shop democracy. “Even if I had a very considerate boss who was taking feelings into consideration and making sure I don’t get burned out, doing this amount of work in this sort of schedule… I think on some level I’d start to resent that boss.”

“But because of the structure as it is, rather than resentment I’ve been feeling a sort of growing foxhole mentality, a sort of fellowship. It’s something fundamental about not having one person be in charge, not having a command given on high for you to do this or that.”

Despite there being a heavy focus on the ‘democracy’ aspect of Pixel Pushers’ business structure, Stephen thinks this working environment helps to keep everybody on the same page. “It sorta breeds consensus. There are votes, but usually because we realise that we all have the same stake in everything and that we respect each other, there’s not often a contentiousness. We’ll put things to a vote, but it isn’t angry. Very positive compared to previous companies.”

Stephen thinks that indie games have been championing shop democracy in a sense, whether labelling it or not. “In a lot of ways I think we’re just putting something explicitly that people were starting to intuit among indie games anyway…It’s definitely the testing grounds with these smaller groups.” Working in a company with shop democracy can also give people a greater feeling of job security. “Not having that extra dead weight on the top saves money.”

“It doesn’t completely break you free of the boom-bust cycle, but by saving that money, whatever money is to be made in games, there’s more to be spread out. And the individual employees can put away what they need to put away so that they can deal with it if there is still a cycle of profit and lack of profit.”

The resulting expansion of shared creativity that comes with giving everyone’s voice in a company equal weight can lead to some interesting things, and Stephen recalls one such example. “Our sound guy George recently had made a passing comment about how we could reuse these assets that we’d made for something else as an extra mini-boss that we could reskin as a crab as this silly little in-passing suggestion.”

“we’re just putting something explicitly that people were starting to intuit among indie games anyway”

“If it’d been some other company? He’s not the designer, he’s not the person in charge, it’s not his department… it might’ve just gotten lost in the shuffle, but because everyone has an equal voice, everybody took him seriously and said, ‘y’know what? Let’s think about it.’ And now it’s in the game. It’s really easy for anyone to have an idea about anything and they’re taken seriously.”

We hardly ever see worker-owned companies, let alone in the mainstream, and even rarer do we see unabashedly-leftist video games like Tonight We Riot. But more and more are coming out of the woodwork, and this is likely down to society’s shift in perception of left-wing theory. “Socialism isn’t a dirty word anymore. I think we’re kinda finally getting over McCarthyism fifty years later. Especially the younger now generation is realizing, whether they agree or not with the feasibility of this structure or that structure, they’re realizing that Leftists aren’t some boogeyman, they’re not the bad guys.”

“Part of it is probably the political climate in the last three or four years.” Michael Taylor is the AI programming steward for PPU, and joined the team a little over a year ago after finishing his associate’s degree. “It’s not been great for the last decade and a half, but the last three or four years specifically. And given that we are in a country that isn’t winning a lot of popularity polls right now, I think it’s kinda starting a punk-rock incentive in a lot of game developers to push back and tackle more and more political themes.”

Despite not having as much experience as the other members of Pixel Pushers, he can already feel the stark differences between working with them and working elsewhere. “I’ve taken a lot of personal contract work to make ends meet and I can say that the structure here is different from the rest of the contract work I do. Overall, I do enjoy the structure. It gives me a lot of leeway…we may not have a boss in the traditional sense, but we still have deadlines with enough space to feel like we have enough breathing room.”

Their upcoming game Tonight We Riot is rather thematically-suited to the ethos of PPU, as Ted explains. “You literally seize the means of production and have workers join your cause, and they in turn become your living health bar. So any time your main character dies, you’ll snap to being another person in your crowd until you run out of crowd. But your crowd also acts as a weapons modifier, so every time you attack they attack too, which generally means the larger the crowd you have, the better off you are.” The idea for the game developed alongside Ted’s growing desires for better working conditions. “About two and a half years ago I started tinkering with pixel art after making a Minecraft texture pack.”

“It kinda got me started on working with pixels, and I thought ‘Huh, this could be something. This could be a game.’ A sort of Marxist Mario Brothers, is what I liked to call it. I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be kinda funny if you were hopping and bopping on riot cop heads, and you’re this little 8-bit character. Maybe there could be something here.’”

What’s certain is that Tonight We Riot wears its political message on its sleeve, and it does so to fill the gap in the market of explicitly left-wing games, a gap resulting from a reluctancy that Ted has seen in the industry. “when I was playing Bioshock Infinite, I absolutely loved the first half of the game. One of the coolest experiences in a game I had ever was charging a factory with armed workers. I’d never experienced this before, it was so blatant and wonderful and over-the-top and amazing. I had such a good time, and then they kinda pulled the punch in a way, which left me a little bit disappointed.”

“I’ve never seen an unabashedly Leftist game, pretty much ever. One that didn’t make apologies for things like seizing the means of production, or make apologies for its content, or watering it down. So I said, ‘yeah, let’s do this, let’s try and make that happen.’”

“Socialism isn’t a dirty word anymore”

Stephen looks forward to seeing people try out what they’ve been working on. “It’s been a while since I’ve played a game that had a real statement that it was trying to make, and was also fun. It’s tough to combine both of those things, and I think we’ve got the fun part down and we’re getting the statement part down. We’re getting that narrative down, we’re getting those themes out, and the fun is definitely flowing too. I’m excited.”

Ted, Stephen, Michael, and the rest of Pixel Pushers Union hope that Tonight We Riot will spread the message and make people think about Leftist politics in a way they may have not considered before, and they want to convey this through a really fun game. In essence, as Ted puts it, “a lot of fun, interesting, cool experiences in it that’ll hopefully carry the day if you’re not ready to let your red rose blossom.”

Four Capitalist Propaganda Video Games

The Triple-A games industry is a propaganda machine for the Capitalist ruling class. Here are a few examples of its worst offenders.

The world that we live in today is dominated by a Capitalist society. Money and discrimination are it’s primary tools, with big business corporations relying on the subjugation and slave labour of the lower classes. I believe that the Triple-A video games industry as it stands today is used in part as a propaganda device in order to brainwash the people into believing that any ideology outside of capitalism is evil, and here are some of the worst offenders (in no particular order, because as filthy and Capitalistic as they are, I will not reduce myself to implementing their methods of hierarchy.)

 

  • The Sims

The Sims is a simulation game in which you create a character, place them in a home, and attempt to make their life successful and satisfy their needs. It’s also a blatant and shameless advocate of Capitalism and Consumerism. You force your Sim(s) into jobs where they waste away their lives for measly pay checks, and what can their needs be almost entirely satisfied by? That’s right, buying things.

the-sims-capitalism

By becoming mindless consumers and contributing to the Capitalist regime, The Sims tells us that they will be truly happy. This is false consciousness! By teaching players of The Sims that their Sims will “fail” if they do not become upper-class bourgeoisie, they indoctrinate them into the mentality of submitting to their corporate overlords in order to attain true success and joy.

 

  • Any Tycoon Game

You know the culprits: RollerCoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, Airport Tycoon, Golf Tycoon, Moon Tycoon… an endless ocean of games in which the sole goal is to make as much money as possible. Of course, the aesthetic design of each Tycoon game will differ, a poor attempt to dress up it’s filthy Capitalist ways with log flumes and fluffy animals.

roller coaster tycoon world image.jpg

Take RollerCoaster Tycoon Worlds, for example. It’s evil, capitalistic indoctrination is even more insulting considering its objectively poor design and quality, a symptom of a Capitalist regime juggling the project between three different development studios to date.

 

  • AdVenture Capitalist

AdVenture Capitalist is fucking disgusting. It’s a Cookie Clicker style game in which you squeeze lemons, deliver newspapers, and run hockey teams, all to make as much money as possible. And you can even reach the stage of exploiting the working class to do your work for you! Abhorrent!

But the icing on the bourgeoisie cake is the illusion the game imposes of how easy it is to be successful in a Capitalist society; that all it takes is a few clicks and you’ll be rich, which is definitely not the case. It’s also got the word ‘Capitalist’ in it.

 

  • The Capitalism Series

And here’s the cream of the crop: Capitalism, a business simulation game series, whose first release came in 1995. The ultimate goal of the game is to become the most successful corporation in the world, while competing with other businesses in all kinds of different markets.

Two words: monopoly simulator. Y’know what monopolies are? Really, really bad for the consumer, and peak Capitalism, which deeply upsets me. And it doesn’t even try to dress up it’s name in a silly pun! It’s just Capitalism! Uninspired, and unashamed of it’s decadence.

 

So there you have it, comrades. But a handful of the filthiest, Capitalist-iest video games there are. Horrible, aren’t they? And what I consider to be excellent proof of the Triple-A’s attempts to indoctrinate the working class.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

Retrospective: Red Faction Guerrilla’s Positive Portrayal of Violent Revolution

Red Faction: Guerrilla is a mediocre game with above-average destructible environment physics and a surprisingly positive portrayal of the more morally-grey aspects of a violent revolution.

I have a complicated relationship with Volition’s 2009 third-person shooter, Red Faction: Guerrilla. It’s a definitively mediocre game about a people’s revolution on a colonized Mars that’s disappointing in its execution, in a setting with so much potential that wasn’t explored. The destructible environment system made possible with Geomod 2.0 is quite spectacular, and despite its limited scope compared to the first iteration of the engine, it goes a long way to drag its score slightly above a 5 out of 10.

Something that really interested me when recently replaying the game is Red Faction‘s portrayal of the more morally-grey aspects of violent revolutions.

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There are countless horrific acts committed in periods of revolt, and whether they can be justified as necessary is subjective and dependent on context. But it’s not until recent years that we’ve really seen a mainstream acknowledgement of these acts that recognizes their necessity. Go back a decade, and even films like the 2005 adaptation of V for Vendetta trimmed out a lot of the ethical ambiguity present in the original graphic novel. These portrayals were glorified, and often if they weren’t, then they were condemned.

This makes Red Faction: Guerrilla’s depictions of these darker revolutionary elements quite significant: the game was released eight years ago now, when video games as a medium didn’t explore this concept to any great length. Red Faction by no means contains missions that are outright horrific, but a lot of what you carry out in the shoes of Alec Mason would often be considered acts of terrorism if translated into the real world.

Demolishing bridges, bombing town halls, aiding in the torture of enemy generals; these are all duties you must perform to further the cause of the Red Faction, and are all commonly-accepted acts of terror by major world powers, an aspect also reflected in anti-Red Faction news broadcasts heard throughout the game. But Red Faction: Guerrilla depicts these acts as ultimately necessary in the quest for liberation.

And quite rightly: countless times in world history, we’ve seen violent and disruptive actions carried out by revolutionary groups as a means of furthering their goals, and regardless of the public perceptions of these groups at the times of their operation, it’s generally accepted in an historical context that, often, they were ultimately successful in their intent: militant groups like Umkhonto we Sizwe, a militant anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela, who bombed South African infrastructure as a means of targeting the government, and the Cuban Revolutionaries, who engaged in guerrilla warfare to bring down the brutal regime of dictator Fulgenico Batista.

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In an age where many non-peaceful, disruptive movements are met with cries and insistences that violence should never be an option and that nothing will be achieved by employing such techniques, it’s important for people to be reminded that sometimes, even as a last resort, acts of violence have brought about massive social change. And a great way to remind us all of that is through such portrayals in the media we consume.

Red Faction: Guerrilla presenting this perspective at the time that it did was a surprisingly bold move for such an otherwise average game. And it’s part of why I have such a fond appreciation for it: that and its soviet propaganda-inspired UI design and the fact that I can destroy an entire tower block with nothing but a bloody hammer.

Violence can be devastating, and I’m not voicing apologism for all brutally violent organisations, nor am I condoning or encouraging crimes like murder. I do feel, however, that it’s important to recognise that in certain contexts, and in specific situations, many acts of violence have formed the basis of a lot of society’s progressions, and will go on to do so, and it’s important to know that sometimes, it might be the only effective option.

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

The Quarians from Mass Effect are Council Communists

In my latest straw-grasping feature, I highlight and explain my discovery that the Quarians from the Mass Effect series are actually big ol’ commies.

I’ve started replaying the first Mass Effect recently in a bid to indulge my nostalgic cravings, and while the first hour or two are a bit of a slog to play, you eventually reach a point where you can really start to sink your teeth into it. I thankfully reached that point of the game and decided to catch up with my newly-acquired crew, which led me to the engine room where I had a chat with Tali’Zorah, the Quarian you pick up after she helps you in finding evidence to condemn Saren, the antagonist of the game. And I found out something rather fascinating after asking her about Quarian society.

The Quarians operate under a sort of Council Communist society. They don’t call it that, but that’s what their system of government is. Really, it is. Allow me to explain.

Quarians find their home in the Flotilla, also known as the Migrant Fleet. It’s a massive collection of ships and cruisers that move in unison to form a sort of spaceborne Venice. While the Flotilla is technically under martial law and the captains of each ship have their final say over ship matters, in practice Quarian society is much more democratic.

The government of the Migrant Fleet is referred to as the Conclave, and is made up of representatives from every ship in the Flotilla, who collectively decide on day-to-day matters like the course of the fleet, resource collection, and law enforcement, the martial law element taking the form of the Admiralty Board, a group of five Quarian Admirals that oversee Conclave decisions and have the power to override decisions, though it has to be unanimous and it comes at the cost of immediate resignation from this post to keep the power in check.

Individual ships, as well as putting forward their Conclave representatives, form their own democratic councils to decide on individual ship decisions and what issues they want their Conclave representatives to bring to meetings, and crew resources are pooled to upgrade, replace, and stock their respective ships.

If we act under the hypothetical that the Migrant Fleet were not under martial law and subsequently the Admiralty Board did not have a final say over the Conclave, then almost all of these aspects of Quarian society and government follow suit with the political theories of Council Communist ideologies, like De Leonism and Luxemburgism. For the purposes of a strong argument, I’ll approach this from a Luxemburgist perspective.

Luxemburgists generally support the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, though their support ends at Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat under his vanguard party, as this position of authority would be susceptible to corruption of power (we saw this when Stalin exiled Trotsky and took the reigns of the Soviet Union). Therefore, Luxemburgist theory instead calls a collection of worker councils, each council deciding on the policy best suited to its respective industry and community, and sending representatives to one greater council to decide nationwide policy, these representatives being regularly replaced by new representatives to keep power in check.

We can see this in Quarian society: with individual ships serving as equivalent worker councils, democratically deciding on what would be best for their own inner communities, and sending off representatives to the Conclave for fleet-wide concerns. We can even see certain elements of this theory in the Admiralty Board, with members forced to resign and be replaced by new representatives in the event of policy vetoes. This isn’t quite the same, but there is a resemblance.

There are other elements of the Flotilla that resemble general Communist theory too: Part of Quarian culture is to send newly-matured Quarians on Pilgrimages to find something useful in the galaxy, and bringing it back to the Flotilla as an offering, giving it to the ship they wish to join the crew of. This act for the betterment of the community could be considered quite Communist in ideal, and its intrinsic attachment to Quarian tradition only goes to further that thought.

These Pilgrimage items are almost always accepted by the ship captain that they are offered to, as the expansion of a ship’s crew improves its standing in Quarian society. This is an excellent means of incentivising the housing of Quarians, and despite overpopulation issues in Quarian society, it’s at least an assurance that no Quarian will go without a figurative roof over their head.

The Quarians also find within their fleet three Liveships, enormous vessels that house agricultural technology that serves to feed much of the Flotilla, and Quarians living in the Flotilla partake in voluntary rotational working positions on the Liveships to maintain and harvest their produce . This equal distribution of food is a significant aspect of most, if not all, Communist ideologies, and the voluntary rotations that Quarians in the fleet serve is an embodiment of the Karl Marx quote, “From each according to [their] ability, to each according to [their] needs.”

Sometimes I feel like I’m really pulling at straws. I have no problem with that: I think desperate, conspiracy theorist ramblings make for some rather comical content. But sometimes I’ll stumble across something that genuinely makes me say, “holy shit, it’s actually Communism.” And I think the Quarians are a pretty damned good example.

[Disclaimer: any nonsensical connections made between video games and Communist themes, zealous and self-righteous dictator-esque behaviors, and perceived support and/or apologism of oppressive regimes like the Soviet Union are purely instances of self-satire as a means of comical introspection, and in some cases have no basis in truth or personal belief.]

Comparing the Imperium of Man and the Soviet Union

Humanity’s creations often bear resemblances as a result of inspiration, be it conscious or subconscious. This can also be explained by coincidence. But sometimes, coincidence can seem awfully strong. Much like the number of coincidences to be found between the Soviet Union and the Imperium of Man from the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And, as the 8th edition of the game has recently been released, what better a time to explore them!

 

They Were Both Inspired by an Idealist Man

Ten thousand years before the 41st millennium, the Emperor of Mankind ruled over the Imperium. When many wished to worship him as a God Emperor, he said, “I am not a god; rather than enslaving humanity I want to free it from ignorance and superstition.” After his ‘death’ at the hands of Horus and his installation into the Golden Throne, 10,000 years  passed, and throughout this time, the citizens of the Imperium and its custodians all revered him as the God Emperor that he wished not to be.

Much like the Emperor, Karl Marx was simply a scholar with a strong mind and a pure vision for humanity who believed religion to be “the opiate of the masses,” and throughout the duration of the Soviet Union after his death, was considered almost god-like by its citizens and rulers.

They Both Had Commissars

Within the structure of the Imperium are Commissars. Often assigned to Imperial Navy ships or to regiments of the Astra Militarum, the Commissars act independently of the entities that they are assigned to, their primary roles being the enforcement of discipline and devotion to the Emperor of Mankind.

The Soviet Union also employed Political Commissars, who also existed outside of the official bulk of the Red Army. Their primary roles were also discipline and devotion to the Soviet Union, and they performed this role through the production of propaganda that they formulated based on their experiences with their assigned regiments and entities.

 

They Both Had Go-Getters to Realise Their Ideals

By the Emperor’s side sat Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines. He was considered by many a Paragon of the Imperium, and before his brutal brush with death led the Ultramarines and all the other Space Marine chapters not fallen to chaos on a glorious crusade to unite the galaxy under the Imperium of Man. On the brink of death after his battle with Fulgrim, Guilliman was placed into stasis, until his resurrection in the 41st Millennium, wherein he condemned what the Imperium had become, saying: “Look what they’ve made of our dream. This bloated, rotting carcass of an empire is driven not by reason and hope but by fear, hate and ignorance. Better that we had all burned in the fires of Horus’ ambition than live to see this.”

Similarly, Vladimir Lenin was a significant figure in the forming of the Soviet Union, himself leading the revolution that resulted in its formation. He championed Marx’s ideals in the same way that Guilliman did the Emperor’s, and upon his demise his body was preserved and kept in a tomb, still to be seen this day behind glass in Moscow. This is very weird, but is also almost a kind of stasis if you think about it. And I have no doubt that, were Lenin to be resurrected like that bit in The Simpsons, then he’d also be rather upset about the legacy of the Soviet Union.

 

They Both Have Winter Soldiers that Wear Ushankas

The Astra Militarum are the primary fighting force of the Imperium of Man. One of its regiments, The Valhallan Ice Warriors, are “famous for their tenaciousness in holding their ground against even the most hopeless odds, and their ability to suffer the most appalling casualties without breaking.” They adorn long, grey coats and ushankas that keep them warm on their homeworld of Valhalla.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army is awfully similar to the Valhallan Ice Warriors, which is definitely a massive coincidence and not because they were based off of them, honest. They had long, grey coats and ushankas as Russia is a very cold place, and they were famous for their ability to stand ground and defend positions, as well as to suffer heavy casualties, like at the Siege of Stalingrad in 1942.

 

Well, there you go. I’d say the evidence is pretty compelling: Warhammer 40,000 is actually secretly Communist Propaganda, and I bet it doesn’t even know that it is. Say what you will, I merely spread the hard facts. What do you think? Let me know!

[Disclaimer: any nonsensical connections made between video games and Communist themes, zealous and self-righteous dictator-esque behaviors, and perceived support and/or apologism of oppressive regimes like the Soviet Union are purely instances of self-satire as a means of comical introspection, and in some cases have no basis in truth or personal belief.]