Games and Politics

This War of Mine © This War of Mine | 11 bit studios

Exhibition and Play Period: 29 March – 27 April 2019
Monday-Friday: 10:30 am-6 pm, Saturday: 2 pm-6 pm (except 20.04.2019)
Location: Department of Culture and Education of the German Consulate General Shanghai, 101 Cross Tower, 318 Fu Zhou Lu, 200001 Shanghai
Languages: Chinese/German/English
Admission is free.

A game is always more than just a game. Without considering the influence of the society that plays it, it remains just as impossible to understand as without considering its influence on that society.

«Games and Politics» is an interactive exhibition of the Goethe-Institute, in cooperation with the ZKM (Centre for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe. The exhibition is based on the ZKM's «Global Games» exhibition, which has focused on explicitly political games since 2004.

The curators Stephan Schwingeler of the ZKM and Dr. Jeannette Neustadt-Grusche, as well as co-curator Sophie Rau, both of the Goethe-Institute in Munich, realized this project together. Dr. Jeannette Neustadt-Grusche had the initial idea of the exhibition «Games and Politics» in 2016, which has been toured in more than fifteen countries ever since.

The exhibition focuses on computer games as a politically and socially relevant medium in a globalized world. The question to be answered is to what extent games are always political and whether at present a tendency towards a "compulsion to politicization" can be observed. In contrast to representational media such as painting and photography, computer games conceive of themselves not merely as a (re-) presentation of social conditions and conflicts, but attempt to simulate the processes and rules that give rise to these conflicts. All of the games in this exhibition share this political approach, which is intended by the games’ designers to set them clearly apart from both the conventional market as well as from computer games as an entertainment medium. Nearly all the games presented in the exhibition are players in a market outside the big entertainment game industry.

They explore a wide range of topics. Aside from the contingencies of political decision-making (Game: Democracy 3), they grapple with problematic aspects of gender (Game: Perfect Woman), of the surveillance state (Game: Touch Tone and Orwell), of drone warfare (Game: Killbox), of the treatment of refugees (Game: Escape from Woomera), of the power of the media (Game: The Westport Independent) or of historical and current political events (Game: The Cat and the Coup and Madrid). By taking on what are usually mostly marginalized points of view, such as a border official’s (Game: Papers, Please), a housekeeper’s (Game: Sunset) or of a civilian in a war zone (Game: This War of Mine). The players operate within an extremely limited scope of action, which they traverse with a feeling of powerlessness brought on by the constant threat of negative sanctions. Any empowerment of the game figures or the articulation of realistic alternatives therefore remains a rarity. Instead, the games that are being presented here reflect the superiority of the power of others. They doubly subjugate the players— on the level of game-playing and also on the level of the game.

This exhibition invites visitors to reconsider the thought-provoking potential of the video game: what would you do if you had to control a border crossing? Survive in the ruins of a civil war? Govern a country? Follow hormonal treatment for a sex change?

«Games and Politics»: "An Exhibition of Goethe-Institut in Cooperation with ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien in Karlsruhe".