You have arrived at the third level: Crowd Control. To withstand your opponents controlling abilities, you have to know how these abilities are used. Crowd control in video games is often related to Role Playing Games (RPG). A popular crowd control tactic in RPGs is stunning your opponent's enemies, when an enemy is stunned they cannot see clearly and move slower, therefore you have control on their crowds.

In this chapter I will talk about what kind of problems are hidden in video games, such as gambling, racism, propaganda and miscommunication. What do we need to be aware of in video games?

A real life example of crowd control: Police in several US cities,


→ a gambling problem

In 2016 I traveled together with a good friend to Japan. Being both gamers we were amazed at how gaming is such a big part of Japanese culture. In the big cities arcade halls are located on almost every corner. It stands out how two big game companies originated from Japan dominate these arcade halls, all filled with Sega or Nintendo games. Me and my friend also got our fair share of gaming there. Almost every day we were in gaming halls for one or two hours. We could not resist the flashing lights and dazzling sounds which pulled us into the arcades. A lot of energy was present in these gaming halls, people were actively interacting with each other and seemed to be having a good time. While next door you could hear the Pachinko machines (Japanese mechanical gambling machines, the equivalent of Western slot machines) rumble, but not so much joy or energy came from them. People sitting there without emotions putting in coins, just staring at the machines. These Pachinko halls also are present everywhere throughout Japan.

Theo van Doesburg, De Kaartspelers (1917).

While arcade halls are a big part of Japanese culture, gambling is arguably as big as. Casinos would open at eight and around six in the morning there was already a waiting line of people wanting to go inside. When I looked at these people I could not see any joy on their faces, so I assume that a lot of them had a gambling addiction which they did not have under control. Later I read in a survey by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, 3.6% of Japanese adults—some 3.2 million people—are thought to suffer gambling addiction at some point in their life. This is startlingly high compared to rates in other industrialized nations like France and the Netherlands, where it is 1.2% and 1.9%, respectively. [17]

A Pachinko parlor in Tokyo.

Whilst there are a lot of similarities between arcade games and slot machines, both are designed to give you sprouts of joy and take money from you. Casinos are designed in such a way to let you lose track of time. By having no clocks or windows they completely shut off your perception of time.

Shinjuku-Kabuki-chō, an entertainment and red-light district in Tokyo, Japan.

“Two in the morning is the exact same thing as two in the afternoon.” – Sal Piacente, a former casino dealer and security staffer [18]

To my knowledge there are only a small number of games which show the time (simulation games). Most games design their interfaces to be able to let you lose track of time. Another tactic casinos use to keep their guests as long as possible or let them return are free drinks and snacks. Video games also make use of a similar technique, they give out daily free items or even loot boxes, all the player has to do is to log in every day to claim them. In video games a mechanic, similar to a slot machine from a casino has been introduced: The Loot Box. In 2020 Electronic Arts (EA) got in trouble because their game FIFA made use of the mechanics similar to gambling. [19]

A loot box from the game CrossFire.

Netherlands Gambling Authority (KSA) fined EA for their game packs, since they are an illegal game of chance, while also determining Overwatch and Counter-Strike are subject to gambling laws. Now Blizzard, Valve and 2K Games disabled the loot box mechanics in the Netherlands and Belgium, since you need to have a licence for offering games of chance. These licences are under strict regulations, which does not allow players younger than 18-years old to participate. While you can also go to the casino to play a game of chance, minors can not—but were able to enter the digital casino all these years.

Giulio Bonasone’s 16th century engraving of Epimetheus opening Pandora's box.

When I was 13 years old, loot boxes were introduced to me in a video game called Crossfire, an online tactical first-person shooter game developed by Smilegate Entertainment for Microsoft Windows, released in 2007. The loot boxes contained a ton of new cosmetics for my character. With these new cosmetics you were able to stand out from the rest of the players. New skins, new guns, alternate knives and a vibrant spray got introduced to the game. The loot boxes had everything I wanted, but how could I get them? I did not have a bank account…

However, once I found out that you could pay by sending a text message, that problem was quickly solved. I very sneakily used my parents telephone and bought some loot boxes worth 20 euros. After opening all of them, I was left with feelings of disappointment, there was not one special item in there. After gazing for a few seconds at these newly acquired worthless items, my disappointment turned into motivation— I came here to get these items, so one more loot box should do the job. Therefore I bought some more, after repeatedly getting double or no special items I finally got everything I desired. A big dopamine rush hit me from winning them and I celebrated my victory on the newly acquired items, by playing a few games, to show off my special items to my online friends—but at what cost? When I stopped playing, the phone lit up next to me and showed me all the sent text messages, my heart stopped when I realised over 100 euros was spent on the loot boxes. In the moment of being shocked and feeling guilty, I realised how this game mechanic emptied my pockets in less than 10 minutes and it was not even my own money. The loot boxes are designed to let you have a nice experience, while taking money from you. This is done by making spectacular graphics when you open a loot box: there is a build up, the box moves, squeaks and shortly after explodes or bursts open, while the prizes roll out of them with sounds like you just won the jackpot from a slot machine in the casino. That EA can get fined gives me great relief, I do not want other kids to go through the same experience as I did.

Ocean Albin, Contained Biomass (2020).

Unlike the loot box mechanic, there are also moral ways of generating income for a game developer. Most games have an in-game store, in which you can buy cosmetics or game content for their in-game currency. For a better understanding of how you spent your digital money in in-game stores, I think the in-game currency should be forbidden as well, since it does not represent well how much actual money you are spending. The store on itself is a proper concept to gain passive income, since you can add new items every day or week. While in my opinion the game industry finally found the perfect balance between gaining income and giving content. With seasonal passes you pay a monthly fee to the game developers, they gain a passive income, while also passively adding new content to the game. This way the game stays fun to play with new content being added all the time and the community can give feedback on stuff they like or don't like. By doing so a stronger bond between the players and developers is being formed. Gaming now has become a service, similar to Spotify or Netflix subscriptions.

Ocean Albin, Contained Biomass (2020).


→ a propaganda problem

Unmanned MQ-1 Predator Drone by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

In the Angry Planet Podcast George Weidman talks about how the wildly popular game America’s Army, released by the U.S. army in 2002. [20] This video game is being financed by the government and is free to download. The game is basically a recruitment tool for the army, this adds on to the list of tools for which a video game can be used for. It also shows the power and impact of what a simple video game can have, since the army recruited people through this method. After the 911 terrorist attack there were American game developers who made a game called Quest for Saddam, a video game in which you hunt down Saddam Hussein, in the game Iraqi soldiers are made fun of and Osama bin Laden is portrayed in a home-erotic picture. As a response The Global Islamic Media Front, which has ties with al Qaeda made the videogame: Quest for Bush, in which the player had to locate and kill the president.

PTI holds anti drone protest in front of the United Nations in New York (2013).

Violence takes on a big part in video games, but how much of that is real? Where do we draw the line between a video game in which one slaughters a lot of people and controls a MQ-1 Predator Drone while killing a village full of innocent people within a minute? Both are played with pushing buttons, in both cases you see people die on the screen, but the moment you walk away from it you can just brush it off as if it was a game.

US Air Force drone pilot controlling a UAV.

Apparently not: A former soldier, named Essam Attia organised a protest in front of the headquarters of the United Nations, in New York. Attia served from 2003 to 2006 creating location reports, which were used among other things, for drone strikes. The protest was for a ban on autonomous weapons. Approximately between 769 and 1725 innocent people have been killed by American drones. [21] Attia is afraid since the predator drones are semi automatic—a soldier still has to push the red button to fire the missile, more automation will take place, resulting in even more civilian casualties. The use of autonomous weapons should be banned in my opinion, we do not want a rogue drone killing innocent people. If this happens, who will be held accountable for the death of these people? The software maker? The organisation using the drone? A lot of implications will follow from full on automating killer weapons. It is inhumane to kill another human being, but a drone does not think with morality, it thinks in code, when it sees a target it kills it—without thinking twice about it.

Johnny Triplett, Captain of United States Air Force wrote in 2008 his thesis that since Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV) are upcoming, the air force will run out of people to employ on these UAVs. It takes a lot of time to train a person who is able to control an aircraft, but since the UAVs are unmanned and purely software driven, Johnny researched if people who play a lot of video games could also be able to replace these pilots. To me this is a great transition from actual warfare to online warfare, multiple parties already showed they are capable of having online warfare, so why not switch it all? What if from now on nations would fight their warfare through the medium of video games, to see who has the best team and leave it there. Every nation has their own professional team of gamers, pitted against each other—instead of taking the lives of innocent people. Just like the Olympic games, but then for warfare ruling the world. Of Course a terrorist organisation would not be reasoned with to play a video game instead of blowing up or shooting up a public space, maybe when VR gets developed to its full potential, making the simulation as real as our world, but that would only bring more implications, such as hacking or actually training for a terrorist attack.


→ a racism problem

A problem which sometimes has direct ties to propaganda is racism. Like Jamil Jan Kochai, he tells how all of his life he is forced by big shooter games to see his own nation as terrorists. In the game the Metal Gear Solid which is set in Afghanistan he goes in game to the place he used to live and finds his father and brother portrayed as terrorists. [22]

Shooter games are often set in Eastern countries in which the American hero has to stop the terrorists. Since there are so many shooters which have this setting, people are very accustomed to see these stereotypes.

“I was just playing an online shooter, when two other guys started talking about "n-word this, n-word that." I finally told them no one else was interested and to just shut the hell up.” – Stormzilla on Reddit [23]

In gaming lobbies, I have encountered countless forms of racism in the past, people making racist and sexist comments. Countless discussions can be found online regarding people feeling discriminated against. It is noticeable how easy people make racist remarks without getting banned. As mentioned in the first chapter RDR2 is a game which gives you a sense of power and responsibility, while this can be a positive experience—others find the narrative and setting where negative experiences occur. Since the game is set in 1899 in the wild west, racial segregation is legal by law, thereby bringing era-specific racism into the game, Rockstar does have full control on that and portrays racists as bad persons in the single player campaign—karma always gets back to the racist, making them pay or get killed for the actions they commited. Multiplayer on the other hand, is a place in which Rockstar has very little control on the scenes created by players, it has become the new wild west. Players can customize their character to have any skin color they prefer, which is an exciting option. Until you have created a character with a darker skin, according to many players online RDR2 is a hostile environment for these characters. Resulting in getting called the n-word or being targeted because of the color of their character’s skin.

"If there’s any way they can do it wrong, they will" – Edward A. Murphy [24]

While Rockstar did not initiate these racist actions and made sure to deal with their offline part of the game to portray racist characters as losers. I think they should reconsider releasing an online part of the video game in which racist beliefs can get developed or actively encouraged; some tools should not be given to the internet or the public. All the events leading up to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the death of George Floyd, finally pushed the video game industry to make steps forward. Just like many other big brands some major video game developers acted to show how it was their mission to fight against structural oppression and other forms of racism. Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, the market leaders in video game consoles spoke out through social media to show their support. With the Playstation 5 (PS5) on the horizon, Sony even delayed their presentation of the new console. The delay resulted in a huge social media outbreak, with both positive and negative reactions and firing up the debate “What do video games have to do with race”. Even Call of Duty (CoD) delayed their new Modern Warfare season, to shine light on the matter. Although there is still a lot of racism in CoD lobbies and other games I think this is a step into the right direction.

Ocean Albin, Imploding Fantasy, 2020


→ a power problem

As mentioned in the first chapter, there is also a side of power and control which manifests in the real world, video game experts speculate that the industry in 2021 will probably surpass the 200 billion dollar annual. Just like every other big market, a monopoly is starting to form in the gaming industry the three biggest companies Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are leading. Making it almost impossible for new gaming platforms to start up. While Nintendo stays a bit out of this clash of titans, Nintendo focuses more on games which are also playable for children. Microsoft and Sony are busy trying to buy as many independent game studios or gaming titles, so that those games can become exclusive to their platform.

Monopoly Plus developed and published by Ubisoft.

2020 is a big year for the gaming industry, sales went through the roof since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Not only that: One of the largest privately held game developers and publishers in the world, ZeniMax media is going to be taken over and bought by Microsoft, the deal is sealed with a shy 7.5 billion dollar. What does this mean for the gaming world? Zenimax is the mother studio of Bethesda, creator of some of the largest Role Playing Games (RPG) titles, like Fallout, Elder Scrolls (Skyrim), Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored. The Microsoft-Zenimax deal makes me both excited and worried for the future. Excited, since Zenimax gets an injection of money, therefore getting more resources to build fantastic games. Worried, since there is a chance I am not able to play these titles, since it would be a smart move for Microsoft to make these titles exclusive to their platform, leaving the Playstation owners with no choice, other than to buy an Xbox.


→ a communication problem and a potential solution

The concept of banning a player itself is not a problem, it helps keep ugly behaviour out of video games. Getting banned means that you are not allowed to access the game on your account or device. When you are playing a video game, you have to agree with a code of conduct. These rules are for instance: no cheating, no hate speech, no bullying. When a player is not following these terms they can get banned, similar to Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat who banned President Trump for making false acquisitions about voter fraud. A good way of moderating this is letting players be able to report others, this will result in the developer looking into the matter of why the person was reported and if it is for a legitimate reason your account will be put in a ban.

Most gaming companies try to stay out of political conflicts, Blizzard got a substantial backlash from the gaming community when they gave a one year ban and withheld the prize money from a player from the game Hearthstone. This happened to a well known competitive player, by the name of Blitzhung, while streaming a competitive match he expressed his support for the Hong Kong Protests. Blizzard banned Blitzhung, therefore taking away his freedom of speech. Since Blizzard is a gaming company from the United States it’s quite strange, to mingle with political affairs in a foreign country. However, China has a huge player base playing titles from Blizzard, so the company is struggling with Western-world freedom of speech and business interest in China. [25] Just like many fellow gamers I think Blizzard should accept Blitzhung for speaking out, since Blizzard is located in America and should respect the freedom of speech. In level 2 you learned how China actively put restrictions on the playtime of minors and even goes on to the extent of banning them if they surpass their play time limit, through their national ID.

“For American companies, it really comes down to deciding whether or not you are willing to participate in this type of surveillance. If they do choose to take part, it makes these companies not unwitting but full-blown accomplices in the Chinese police state.” – Matt Erickson, executive director of the Digital Privacy Alliance [26]

While I think China showed a proper idea and a good example for the rest of the industry, there are a few problems that arise. For myself I would not like to have my national ID linked to the amount of time I am playing video games, this information is private. Now that American video game developers have to make China-friendly versions of their games it is time to come up with their own solution, instead of neglecting it. Otherwise the American companies are indirectly supporting the Chinese views on privacy. For now, I see banning is a temporary tactic, which can be used in a good way to limit the playtime of minors, but unfortunately also in bad ways in limiting a player's freedom of speech. Slowly the industry is forced to wake up and take responsibility for the problems which they created both intentionally and unintentionally in their medium.

Ocean Albin, Micro Infused Intelligence (2020).

In this chapter you gained knowledge on problems which are present in video games, such as hidden game gambling mechanics, disguised in a nice package to earn money. Recruitment tools and propaganda disguised as innocent video games. A monopoly is prominently present, but since there are a handful of market leaders, it has become easier to address these companies, since they are across the whole world, every country has different rules and therefore new rules are constantly applied to the medium. While players get banned for their political statements, others get racist remarks fired at them, the online video game medium is nowhere near perfect, but there is hope. The act of banning can also play an important role to defend the gaming community, against problems like addiction.

Do not get scared to be influenced by these mechanics, now that you know of them it is easier to recognise these faults which linger in the medium. When recognised you should apply your crowd control tactics on them, to not let those evil enemies try to take control of you.