An interesting discussion is going on at Gameology.org. The subject is the Iranian game depicting Iran x America military tensions that would be in production. I have just posted a lengthy comment on it, and i am reproducing it below:
I am not sure how my comment fits within the scope of the discussion being proposed here, but here it goes:
This kind of episode, I believe, makes a point on the democratization of new media and digital entertainment technologies. 'America x Whoever' conflicts have been also a recurrent theme in Hollywood action and war movies. Significantly more accessible / affordable than movie production, game development is a field where 'Whoever' has a better chance to reach the audience (American or otherwise) and present them a different point of view. Please, keep in mind that this comment is not an attack on American culture at all – and not an instant endorsement to any opposite sides.
"while those of us who study games can quickly say that we don't necessarily really want to do the things we play at doing in video game worlds, I'm not so sure I can be as quick to say that there isn't actually some ideological work at play within Us vs. Them games"
I cannot tell how products from the American cultural industry approaching such themes are perceived by the American audience. What I can tell is that it's often said that those same products work as American propaganda upon the rest of the world. Of course, there might be a certain dose of anti-americanism depending on the particular criticism being made - but it can't be denied that quite often a pro-US view regarding bellicose conflict is promoted, usually unanswered (using the same medium) by the other side. Then again, it is natural that the makers of these products, as American citizens, have indeed a positive view on their ideologies. I certainly would not claim that everything is plain propaganda - that would be just as simplistic. But at the same time, it's almost certain that they have an impact that goes beyond entertainment and into ideology.
How much of a nation's legitimacy and image, nowadays, is built upon mediatic constructions? I am not sure how much of the world (international affairs in that case) is learned from mass entertainment channels. That should be taken in consideration before dismissed as inoffensive to countries being portrayed. Do you remember the SOCOM 3 x Bangladesh incident? The occidental developed world has been the centre of mass media production since such thing began to exist - a production that is not free from ideological contents and messages. Bollywood aside, the volume of cultural products coming from that group of nations has no parallel. On that level, the appropriation of the medium by other groups is positive. Also, it is a chance to evaluate, with greater distance, the real impact and effects of media - more specifically video games - on those matters.
Moreover, as in “research shows that games don't cause violence”, there is often a denial of the ideological power of video games, a subject that, as you suggest, should be further investigated. Incidents like that – and maybe that’s the best thing about them – give us the chance to interrogate. We should learn more about the power of our particular field of study and practice.
As you, Zach, I am for diplomatic approaches. Let’s hope this democratization of tools actually opens a channel for a better dialogue - not just an exchange of accusations - between individuals, countries and cultures.