Video Games Every Libertarian Should Play

Deus ExEidos Interactive Deus Ex: Deus Ex is a science-fiction role-playing game set against the backdrop of an ongoing debate about the safety and ethics of human augmentation. Players take the guise of Adam Jensen, a corporate security officer tracking anti-biotech militants. The game's cast will be familiar to anyone who has followed similar debates in real life: uncompromising anti-science radicals, moderates who favor regulation, self-interested political players, scheming corporate leaders, and apolitical scientists. The noirish story has no heroes, but it does subtly highlight the value of biological modifications. The key to winning: enhancing Jensen-and yourself.

Fable III: Fable II offered a vast open world in which nearly everything from homes to stores to weaponry was for sale, and violence and other actions impacted local prices, so virtual entrepreneurs could buy low and sell high. Fable III adds politics to the mix. Players are effectively required to campaign for the office of king by making promises to win over the game's citizens. But winning the people doesn't mean winning the game. After assuming the throne, players must either keep those promises-a task that usually turns out to be difficult, if not impossible—or take the game world in a whole new direction, risking the wrath of an unhappy citizenry.

Fallout 3: A post-apocalyptic role-playing game set in a bombed-out, futuristic Washington, D.C., known as the Capitol Wasteland. Warring tribes of wannabe authority figures fight for control, thugs and scammers try to take your guns and your money at every turn, super-intelligent robots try to reengineer society, and the whole place is overrun with mutants. In other words, it's a lot like the Washington, D.C., we all know and love today. Fallout 3 is also one of the most expansive, open, and darkly funny games ever made.

L.A. NoireRockstar GamesL.A. Noire: L.A. Noire offers a down-to-the-lapels re-creation of Hollywood shortly after World War II. Players take the role of an earnest police investigator moving up the ranks by solving cases. The game's most memorable innovation is the way it handles "interrogations" of suspects. Players must determine, based on the suspect's behavior, whether someone is lying. But unlike most video game challenges, there's no system, no trick, to mastering it. In the end, it's a mix of thorough prior detective work and subconscious intuition; even then, it's easy to be wrong. The subjective nature of the game play highlights the uncertainty of much police work. Sometimes even good players-or cops-make big mistakes.

Papers, Please: Indie game Papers, Please puts players in the role of a customs official in a fictional Eastern European country. Players must analyze the paperwork of each person attempting to pass through a border checkpoint. As the game progresses, the paperwork review process grows more complicated. At first passports are enough, but soon documents like work visas, entry permits, and immunization records also require examination. There are bribes, and special exemptions for diplomats, and wrenching personal stories from potential immigrants. It's all timed. Failure means fines. At the end of each day, players return home to ration the pittance earned on food, rent, heat, and sometimes medicine for the family. Bring home too little, and you'll watch them die off.

BioshockPlayers fight their way through the ruins of an Art Deco underwater city set up as a kind of sci-fi anarchist utopia—where biological modification is plentiful, looters are treated as scum, and the pursuit of individual desire and accomplishment is considered life’s most noble goal. The villain is clearly intended as a riff on Ayn Rand’s super-individualists, but in a mid-game twist, he shows he’s not simply a bad guy. The revelation elevates Bioshock from satirical, action-driven homage to Rand into a clever riff on the perception of individual freedom and the nature of choice.

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  • jcalton||

    It's weird that they leave out Eve Online, especially considering that they did a feature on it:
    A Video Game Economy the Size of a Small Country
    http://reason.com/archives/201.....y-the-size

  • Faceh||

    Probably because getting into Eve is a wee bit more of a time commitment than any of these other single-player games.

  • ||

    They didn't need to tell us about Eve online since it's spammed all over every page on the entire internet.

  • robc||

    There are ads on the internet? When did that start?

  • ||

    Eve is anti-libertarian designed to inhibit the rewards of voluntary exchange and reward theft, intimidation through threat of violence and tyranny.

    The existence of Dayz and Minecraft prove this.

  • ||

    I have every one of these except Fable III, but the only one I've completed is BioShock. I really need to procrastinate less on my video game backlog.

  • damikesc||

    Fable III is bad. The story is pretty good --- but, man, the game is horrible. The rest are quite worth it and are solid expressions of a government run amok.

  • VicRattlehead||

    Plus in 3 you can just manipulate the outcome of your reign as king by farming gold in the first part of the game and winning in both the end game and the social aspect.

  • ||

    Pretty sure that's intended. And it underscores an important libertarian point: capitalism is necessary for wealth and prosperity.

  • VicRattlehead||

    a few Missing games from your list;
    Rage
    Borderlands
    Left 4 Dead
    Mass Effect

  • Sevo||

    Pong!

  • ArbutusJoe||

    Conway's Game of Life

  • Agammamon||

    None of those are games 'every libertarian should play'.

    Rage has you, the silent protagonist, fighting the 'Authority' because . . . some people asked you to and the game would be over if you didn't. Why is the Authority worth fighting? Who the fuck knows, because they don't ever do anything in the game worth getting pissed over.

    Mass Effect - be super-secret spy who's been given ultimate authority and a license to kill by the super-government. While I *like* the game, its main character is able to do the things he does only because of the backing of a mega-state.

  • SirThinkALot||

    Fallout: New Vegas is not only a somewhat better game than Fallout 3(at least imo), but its also a bit heavier on the libertarian undertones. The game revolves around a 3-way war over which new government will control Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam, but ultimately none of them really care about the people there. Your character can support any of the three sides, or say 'to hell with all of you' and help bring real freedom to Vegas.

    Also Dragon Age. A major subplot of the first game revolves around a nobelman who kills the king and tries to usurp the throne, theres much implication about how kings ought to behave and not misuse their power. The second game(and a minor plot point in the first) revolves around the treatment of mages with nice parallels to real-world problems like race relations and gun control. To put it briefly: In the world of Dragon Age, mages(who are born with their magic, they cant choose not to have it) are oppressed by the government, forced to undergo their 'training' and to live and work for the government. All out of fear they might misuse their powers to hurt people. There is even a special branch of the government dedicated to hunting down 'apostate' mages. In the second game the mages spark a rebellion against the status quo and you can choose who you support.

  • newshutz||

    I have run through New Vegas twice. Both times I thought I would try to support a faction, and each time I just couldn't do it.

    Thank goodness for Yes Man.

    Dead Money add on is just frustrating, though.

  • Pathogen||

    Spot on, Yes Man is the least shitty option in my mind. I can't stomach the thought of handing over N.V to - Stalin(Caesar)/*ex*-mayor Bloomberg(Mr. House)/Faceless statist-progressive bureaucrats(NCR) prize to covet like it's their own little conquest oyster, regardless of the fact that.. that no one from N.V offered it to them...

  • Jensen||

    Fallout 3, but no Fallout New Vegas? You'd think the prostitution quest would probably put New Vegas a little further ahead in terms of libertarianism.

  • newshutz||

    Love the sex bot

  • AndrewZ||

    BioShock 2 is also pretty good. The enemy is a collectivist cult led by psychiatrist Sofia Lamb. Like Andrew Ryan, the creator of the underwater city that is the setting for both games, she starts out as an idealist with a vision of utopia and ends up as a brutal tyrant. They both believe that a perfect society can only be created by promoting one aspect of human nature at the expense of all others - for Ryan it's self-interest and for Lamb it's altruism.

    Both schemes fail because most people are not purely selfish or purely selfless. Most people are much more complex than that and they can only be made to conform to such a narrow ideological template by brute force. Unlike Ryan, Lamb comes to realise that they are both at war with human nature and that a perfect society can only be made by perfect people - as she puts it, "Utopia cannot precede the Utopian". As a result she ends up trying to manufacture her utopians through unethical genetic experiments.

    Therefore BioShock 2 puts a completely different spin on the politics of BioShock. It turns a story about an individualist society gone horribly wrong into an argument that objectivism and communism both share the same fundamental flaw and are both doomed to fail in the same way.

  • SusanM||

    How about the Hslf-Life series? Or is that kind of a stretch?

  • ||

    Suderman is still bitter that HL3 is never going to be released.

  • ||

    6 games mentioned / 2 times this has been posted = 3

    Half Life 3 confirmed!

  • Hyperion||

    I sure hope it doesn't make me sick like HL2 does. That's the only game that does that to me. I can't even play it for 5 minutes.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Really? Like nauseas? How?

  • Hyperion||

    Yes, extreme nausea. I'm not the only one either. Google 'Half Life 2 makes me sick'.

    Some people are saying it's because the game has a narrow field of view, like 70 degrees or something, where as most first person games are 90 - 110.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Weird. Does Halo 3 make you sick too? Because that game has a 60 degree FOV, I think.

  • newshutz||

    I have that problem with almost all 1st person games. World of Tanks is about the only one that doesn't make me sick.

    Half Life was the worst, though. I spent more time installing it than playing.

  • Agammamon||

    You should be able to edit the config files to increase FOV - that's what I do with most of my games. Its usually only console ports that go out of their way to prevent that by hiding those options inside the .exe.

  • Hyperion||

    Fallout 3 and NV

    Skyrim

    All of the Gothic games and Risen.

    Farcry 3

  • Hyperion||

    New Vegas is more than somewhat better than Fallout 3, it's one of the best games I've ever played.

  • Hyperion||

    Freaking squirrel attack! That reply was to SirThinkALot. Damnit!

    Also, wanted to add that the Gothic series is very libertarian. You can join the rebels (I always do) and they are always drinking, smoking swamp weed, and have a very strong anarcho-libertarian attitude.

  • Hyperion||

    OT, but I just wanted to confirm that the rumor I posted about a couple days ago, was actually true, in case no one has posted this yet. The slimeball company that threatened to sue the guy over a negative Amazon review, got banned from Amazon.

    Good job, Amazon

  • Christophe||

    And of course now they're bitching: "We weren't going to sue, we were just using the lawyers to tell him to stop."

    Next time, ask nicely first.

  • Hyperion||

    Umm, next time, how about something like 'We're sorry to hear about your problem, and we want to resolve the issue for you'.

    Dumbasses.

  • Hyperion||

    Some of the Assassins Creed games look pretty libertarian like. I haven't played any of them. I own 2, just have never played it.

  • SPG_900||

    Do play. AC4 has you be a pirate in the west indies, the naval warfare is fantastic. And in 3 you play in boston and new york during the revolution, both have plenty of real life characters you interact with.

  • SirThinkALot||

    They have some libertarian themes. Much the plot revolves around a 'shadow government' that the characters you play as are fighting. The framing story also brings in the Fed a bit. Although its all more inspired by conspiracy theories than libertarianism(although there is some overlap between the two groups)

  • Almanian!||

    You kids and your computer games.

    GET OFF MY LAWN!

    *returns to watching Golden Girls reruns*

  • Hyperion||

    This is why you should love video games, it keeps the kids off your lawn.

  • Pathogen||

    MATLOCK!

  • ||

    The villain is clearly intended as a riff on Ayn Rand’s super-individualists, but in a mid-game twist, he shows he’s not simply a bad guy. The revelation elevates Bioshock from satirical, action-driven homage to Rand into a clever riff on the perception of individual freedom and the nature of choice.

    Spoilers please.

    Never played this game (ok i played 2 hours of it) and I will never play it.

    Adam Sesler obviously missed this part of the game as he uses mentioning of the game to beat strawman tea pirates, randians and libertarians at every chance. Even though he is left wing nut job he is also a fairly astute critic of fiction. I would like to know if Sessler is being a hack or if Suderman is being way to kind to the anti-libertarian themes of bioshock.

    Also where the fuck is Minecraft? Even if you ignore the multi-player market oriented aspects of the game that spontaneously generate on nearly every server with more then 5 players the sand box open world of single player mode is all about individual choice far beyond anything that can be found in the narrative heavy games listed above. Hell compared to Minecraft fallout 3 is on rails.

  • Hyperion||

    I played the demo for Bioshock 1, and that was enough for me. I didn't like it.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Same. Every one of the listed games is or looks good but Bioshlock sucked. I'm actually sickened it's even listed. Graphically it aged like a cheap whore and the enemy AI is terrible. Most of the plasmids are bad and a lot of the levels were totally disjointed.

  • ||

    yes yes the game sucks...but does anyone know what the mid-game twist is?

  • MJGreen||

    Oh, so you were asking for spoilers?

    SPOILERZ GOOD GOD!!

    Best as I can recall: It's revealed that Rapture was brought down by a swindler that incited a war. This swindler is the one that has been guiding you and coloring your view of Andrew Ryan as the cause of the city's demise.

    You, the player, are Ryan's son who has been programmed to obey any order accompanied by, "Would you kindly?" Rather than going after the bad guy who has destroyed the city, you realize you're the pawn of the real villain. Ryan tests your programming by ordering you to kill him while repeating, "A man chooses, a slave obeys." It's a cool moment, which is pretty much all the two Bioshock games are worth: some cool cinematic moments.

  • Peter||

    Loved the Fallout 3 and 4 games, it takes quite a while to get into the spirit of exploring and not just finishing the game but, once you have the ah-ha moment, you start to really enjoy the game for it's wide open nature. I have spent weeks on one play through only to replay with different characteristics and still enjoy it.

  • Hyperion||

    NV also has a bunch of DLCs, which I haven't played yet, but I spent more than 150 hours on the original game.

  • Cytotoxic||

    When I get a serious gaming rig I intend to play through FO3 again on the hardest difficulty. What mods should I download for it?

  • Hyperion||

    The HD texture mods are pretty good. Not as good as the ones for NV, but still make the game look a lot better, IMO. There are a couple of different ones, but I can't remember the names. Just check out the MOD DB site.

  • Agammamon||

    Get FONV and 'A Tale of Two Wastelands' - you can travel back and forth between the games.

  • Ken Shultz||

    There was something libertarian about Q3A.

    People playing in an unscripted way with each other could have a lot more fun than they could with a centrally planned plot inflicted on them by the game developers.

  • Hyperion||

    If you like total sandbox, no plot, open world, crafting, and all of that, you will probably like 7 Days to Die.

  • ||

    I remember playing Enemy territory with a small number of players.

    Basically we stopped fighting and started sandboxing the map. Running around exploring the cracks and little hidden niches of the map using each other as ladders to get to places one could not otherwise get to.

    I think Suderman missed a couple things with this list. The main one was the advent of the sandbox video game that is either plot less or has a paper thin one.

    In terms of libertarianism sandbox games break away the controls that game developers put into a game and give the players more control and more choice. It may not be pure libertarianism but the fact that one can quit the game at any time it does feed into the proto-libertarian impulse of voluntary interaction and voluntary exchange. Any systems or customs or culture put into the game by the players can be ignored or followed by individual players. And they are held up or fail on merit rather then the story some d-bag video game story writer wants to tell you.

    The other thing Suderman missed is how arena multi-player shooters (like Q3A or enemy territory) helped spawn the open world sandbox gaming world we live in today.
    There will probably always be story based games...but for Suderman with his list of all story games to completely ignore this change in video games coming out just seems like a huge blind spot.

  • TK421||

    No Borderlands 1 or 2? Fighting a egomaniacal maniac hell bent in destroying everything and everyone who wants to rule with an iron fist. How did those games not make the list?

  • SirThinkALot||

    I think a large part of that nobody plays Borderlands for the story.

    Although, in the same sort of general vein is Bulletstorm. I think it should have been on the list. But I can see why it didnt seeing as its rather obscure.

  • ||

    Papers Please is strangely addicting.

  • ||

    I always though Red Dead Redemption had some libertarian themes. Some of the characters complain about the expanding power of the federal government in the west, and I think the main bad guy is a corrupt federal agent or something. Plus cowboys and gunz.

  • Agammamon||

    I loved that game, up until the first 'story' mission - to get the big gun in the mine.

    I killed 50 plus people to get it, turned the game off and never when back.

  • cbast||

    Fable 3? Seriously? Fable 3 is a terrible game, *especially* from a libertarian standpoint. The "political campaigning" and "difficult promises" are so easily exploited by gold farming it's not even funny. Far from teaching the virtues of capitalism and the free market, Fable 3 suggests that rich people have infinite amounts of money at their fingertips. There are no trade-offs or difficult choices to make. You can literally break the economy by doing nothing. Just buy up a bunch of property and let the game sit and run for a few hours while the gold falls into your pockets.

    Furthermore the "choices" themselves are insultingly simplistic. Every single one is a choice between listening to the noble, kind-hearted freedom fighter or the evil rich capitalist, who is portrayed as the slimiest, evilest, most disgustingly stereotypical "evil rich guy" you'll ever see in a work of fiction.

  • Muzzle of Bees||

    You can't leave out Red Dead Redemption, it's the most libertarian game I've ever played.

  • lap83||

    Sushi Cat http://armorgames.com/play/5379/sushi-cat

    Help the capitalist fat cat gorge on the fruits of the poor proletariat sushi chef's labor, and look cute while doing it.

  • HalJordan||

    Skyrim is clearly the most libertarian game ever. Maybe it wasn't included because Fallout 3 is on there and every Bethesda game has libertarian undertones, but Skyrim's plot with the Nords vs the empire is definitely number one.

  • Agammamon||

    All right - I'm outta here.

  • cavalier973||

    So...no "Rollercoaster Tycoon", or "Capitalism", or "Railroad Tycoon"?

  • Edwin||

    How about Half-Life 2 (and the "episodes")? No game gives you the feeling of oppression and the exciting, engaging feeling like you're fighting oppression than Half Life 2. The scene where you hear the fighting far off and then "Strider!Get the hell out of here!" Is really like this. In general the design of the combine perfectly instills an air of technology and oppression, with the futuristic, robotic designs ad sounds: The combine chatter on the radios, the sleek look of the hunters (is that what the small tripod robots were called?) combined with their one eye and their scary sound. Oh and the terror of the vivisected humans, the, was it stalkers? Oh, and the huge towering combine tower slowly advancing and eating up the city

    Though, of course the story has so far been too vague to actually be that libertarian or anti-authoritarian, or really anything for that matter. But the visuals and sounds are compelling

  • Medical Physics Guy||

    In case anyone is still checking the thread: are these for game consoles only? Any recommendations for a hapless Linux user without a game console of any kind? (android phone, if it matters)

  • Agammamon||

    Every one of those games is available for the PC, so there's probably a way to get them to work on Linux.

  • ||

    Papers, please is on Mac, Linux and PC.

    Might be on console now.

    I have not played it.

  • Agammamon||

    Key-rist Suderman - Fallout 3 as some sort of libertarian game? Are you serious, are you serious?

    Check out a little known game called Fallout: New Vegas if you want some serious libertarian themed gaming.

    In FONV you have three factions vying for power within the Mojave - the NCR (basically 'Manifest Destiny' America redux), Caesar's Legion (very much a brutal 'the ends justify the means' organization that has committed atrocities to bring a form of peace to Arizona) and Mr House (a technocratic 'Top Man' who believes only he has the knowledge and ability to pull off his plan for saving the future of humanity).

    You're caught in the middle as a pawn between these three power players.

    Oh, and if you choose to, you can play the Game of Thrones yourself - sieze power and rule your own city-state.

  • Agammamon||

    And its Deus Ex: Human Revolution that you're talking about in the article, not Deus Ex.

    Not that Deus Ex isn't pretty anti-authoritarian on its own.

  • Agammamon||

    And go play Fable 3 if you like utter shite.

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=8883

  • Cytotoxic||

    So...the game is about a chicken...DAFUQ?

    Actually that would probably make a better game than what Fable 3 actually was based on what I've heard.

  • Cytotoxic||

    FO3 is still pretty libertarian just for its portrayal of The Enclave, which is basically the post-apocalyptic USG and the enemy you fight.

  • newshutz||

    Pay more attention to what Yes Man says in the ending of the fourth option. I don't think you really end up ruling.

  • Remnant Psyche||

    In a similar thematic vein as Bioshock, the much-maligned Deus Ex: Invisible War is worth playing. As a sequel to the original Deus Ex (the game mentioned in this article is actually the third game, DX: Human Revolution), it's both daring and foolhardy: it's a sequel to a game all about choice that instead highlights your choices as meaningless and your freedom as illusory. Hated by critics and fans for being a dumbed-down, "consolized" and inferior version of the original (which it is, mechanically, though it's still a solid game), it was totally overlooked for its merits. Every possible ending is chilling.

  • Jayrod||

    I know it isn't actually released yet, but I feel Watch Dogs touches on way more libertarian issues than any of these. Also interesting how we went from an Ubisoft flagship featuring an NSA agent post-9/11 to a vigilante raging against an omniscient electronic state apparatus post-Snowden.

  • Tony||

    Fallout 3: Warring tribes of wannabe authority figures fight for control, thugs and scammers try to take your guns and your money at every turn, super-intelligent robots try to reengineer society, and the whole place is overrun with mutants. In other words, it's a lot like the Washington, D.C., we all know and love today

    Funny, I was sure you were going to say it resembles Libertopia. Not in a tongue-in-cheek way. Like that's what it would really be like, plus or minus the robots.

  • Brian||

    I like this game, where the rulers of a powerful nation state threaten the young, poor men to jail time unless they fight and die in a far away, jungle hell hole, in a violent conflict that has nothing to do with their own lives, or anyone they are about.

    Unfortunately, it's based on a true story.

    And, it's not a libertarian game. If it was libertarian, they would have had to pay people a lot of money to go fight and die like that. But, hey: why pay money for the vital interests of the state, when you can just threaten to throw people in jail for not cooperating? Because...democracy.

  • crux||

    Spec Ops: The Line: A third person shooter set in Dubai, it critiques the notion of a humanitarian war (and how!) while destroying the notion that good intentions necessarily lead to good consequences. It's not very subtle, but it's powerful as Hell.

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