Video Games

Tell Us: What's Libertarian About Your Favorite Video Games?


"Final Fantasy XII," where you had to buy licenses just to wear clothes, is completely disqualified from this debate.
Final Fantasy XII

June's issue of Reason magazine will be exploring the most popular recreational pastime in America (and several other countries as well) – video games! Many Gen-Xers have grown up with video games, and video games have grown up alongside of them to become a cultural and marketplace juggernaut. In "Video Game Nation" we'll be analyzing what it all means, looking at how self-described gamers describe their political leanings, tracking games' growth as a form of expression, documenting the moral panics surrounding games in the days of yore, exploring what we can learn about economics from games, and interviewing a game-loving congressman who rallied his community to fight some bad Internet-related legislation. We're planning several game-related videos as well.

We know there plenty of gamers among the Reason crowd, so we want to incorporate your experiences with games if we can. Are there games that you love that you find particularly libertarian? What makes them so libertarian? Sound off in the comments, and we'll pick some cogent or interesting choices to go along with our package. You can go back as far as you like in game history. If you want to make the case that Q-Bert argues for looser borders and freer immigration policies, more power to you. Think outside the box, or the pyramid of boxes, as the case may be.

If you need to refresh your memory, check out Peter Suderman's 2013 list of video games all libertarians should play. What would you add?

NEXT: Jim Epstein on the Government's Appalling Campaign Against Small Bus Companies

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Most of the games I play are on PC and have awesome mods.

    Libertarians should love KOTOR 2 mod TSLRCM.
    Makes a great game even better. And one of the main characters, Kreia, rips the fascism of the Jedi Order and the foolishness of being a bleeding heart liberal.

    1. I think it might have actually been Kreia that opened my eyes to the folly and disempowering nature (to the ostensible beneficiary) of altruism.

      1. Opened your eyes?

        I saw what you did there.

    2. I’m replaying KOTOR II. I love it and the original. Sucks they decided to go MMO with the third one.

      1. Did you get it from Steam? Does it need the same modifications as the first one to actually work?

        1. I bought it on primitive disks when it came out, but the version I’m playing now is on our Xbox 360.

  2. Watching supply and demand in action in World of Warcraft. They have an auction house that players can buy and sell items. If an item like a gem is going for a lot of money more people produce gems. The prices will start to fall. It is interesting to watch.

    1. I am also going with this – any game that features a player driven market or auction house.

      In the old Guild Wars (and I’m sure plenty of other MMOs), major towns would be full of players spamming WTB and WTS with items, prices, and demands. And market participants responded to it. Artificial demand would be created by changes in recipes, but supply and demand were handled by the players.

      So D3, GW2, WoW, Eve – whatever game – MMOs with in-game markets settled by players, where you can be a merchant pimp hustler.

      1. GW even spontaneously developed a hierarchy of commodity currencies to deal with the fact the player can only care 100 platinum (the game’s currency) at once. Trade for more valuable items is generally done in the form Ecto or Armbraces.

        1. Yup, ecto as stand in currency.

    2. I don’t play WoW, but I do play LOTRO, and it’s auction house demonstrates centralized monetary policy very well.

      Free to play (F2P) players have a limit on how much money they can have. A lot of stuff in the auction house costs MORE than this limit. This is crony capitalism for paying subscribers.

      They’ve also been pumping gold into the system like you wouldn’t believe. There’s nothing to spend it on except the auction house, so prices are ridiculous. This demonstrates inflation.

      A veteran player will start a new alt character, and instead of grinding out the resource nodes to improve his crafting, will send his level 95 character into the auction house to buy out the stock of level 5 crafting materials for his new alt. Newbies simply can’t afford newbie materials.

      In the real world your wealth depends on a large part on your abilities, your willingness to work hard, and perhaps a bit of luck. In LOTRO your wealth is determined largely by what year you started playing the game.

  3. Um… Bioshock 2? I prefer it to the original. That’s right. I can’t go back to wielding a weapon OR a splice. And the villain’s a creepy collectivist.

    Also, Borderlands and Borderlands 2, because what’s more libertarian than MOAR DAKKA?

    1. Somalia in space.

  4. In Total War, I can take over foreign governments and loot their natural resources and force their populations into corporate wage slavery to feed my expansionist armies.

    I can also exploit women and brown people. Its a downloadable patch.

    1. Not what I would call Libertarian.

  5. CounterStrike solved its weapons balance problems with a weekly adjustment for the price of guns.

  6. There’s almost nothing libertarian *in* videogames. The vast majority of them are power fantasies where you take on the role of an enforcer for the state (ala Halo, Modern Warfare, KOTOR).

    In many of these, stepping out of the role of hero means forsaking previous loyalties and obedience to the law – becoming a villain in other words. Heroes obey the state, villians oppose it.

    Tellingly though, the majority of RPG’s considered ‘classics’ have strong ‘take charge of your own destiny elements’ – Baldur’s Gate, Fallout 1, 2, & NV, Planescape for example.

    1. I’m mainly an RPG guy, and as you point out, those tend to be pretty libertarian in principle, as well as in the actual plotline.

      I mean, c’mon, popping off mini-nukes in the shell of the Capitol?

      Steering Las Vegas to an independent city-state? With a side order of butchering slavers?

      For that matter, just declining to get involved in the civil war in Skyrim?

      1. Hell yes.

        1. -1 stormcloak

          1. I play as racist nord in skyrim so…

            1. I loved playing my anarchist Khajiit skooma smuggler. Down with the racist Stormcloaks! Down with the meddling Imperials!

      2. This is why I love the Fallout games, especially New Vegas.

        1. New Vegas: Choose who gets to be the new Gub’mnet. Will it be the well meaning but heavy handed NCR? The unabashedly evil Legion? The crazy corporatist in his fallout bunker? Or the megalomaniac robot with a glitchy personality matrix?

      3. For that matter, just declining to get involved in the civil war in Skyrim?

        The only side to pick is the side of the Forsworn.

        Plus the women’s armor set is sexy.

    2. I think you might be reading to much into Halo and Modern warfare.

      And if the message of KOTOR is about being loyal to the state then they did a piss poor job at, because the Jedis after awhile didn’t seem much better then the Sith, at least to me anyway.

      1. Are you talking about KOTOR or KOTOR II?

        In KOTOR the whole ‘light side’ thing is doing ‘good’ – the vast majority of that is forcing people to obey the law even when the law is against their interests.

    3. In Halo you’re fighting against a genocidal alien polity which wishes to exterminate humankind. Although some of the tie-in fiction makes it clear that the Spartan super soldiers were originally created not to fight aliens, but to crush separatist movements. Because all human planets must of course be controlled by the UN.

      1. Sounds like the Envoys from the Takeshi Kovacs novels. Though supposedly, Halo was inspired by Christopher Rowley’s Starhammer novels. Which is about as awesome as action scifi gets, by the way. Ultra violent.

        1. Yeah in the games it’s pretty straightforward space opera stuff, but the tie in novels make it clear that before the Covenant (bad guys) showed up, the main purpose of the UN Space Command was keeping planets from leaving the UN controlled human race. Or as they call it, “fighting pirates, terrorists, and rebels.”

          I need to go back and try to read those books again though. I’ve heard they’re real good, I stopped halfway through the first one for some reason.

          1. Wait, did you stop reading Altered Carbon halfway through? Come on, man. Morgan is a retarded socialist but the dude can write. I’m in the middle of re-reading Broken Angels right now. I squat, I read, I squat, it’s good.

            1. I’m pretty sure I got swamped at work or something like that. Because I was enjoying it.

              I’ve been organizing my ebook collection for the last week. Thanks to the Internet, I have like 3500.

              1. I also have a few thousand books, but there is a hierarchy, taught to me by NutraSweet. Morgan, Stross, Asher, Reynolds, and Banks. They are the best.

                1. I’m a Baen guy. Love me some pulpy stuff. Ringo, Weber, Kratman, Williamson, Flint, Correia

                  1. I gave up the pulp years ago. It’s fun, but I’m much more hard scifi. There’s a joke there if you want it. Fuck, I even gave up Brin because he sucks monkey balls now. I’d love for a return to Startide Rising.

                    1. Now? Brin sucked monkey balls a long time ago.

                    2. Brin started sucking about when Earth came out. The first Uplift series is gold, but then it goes downhill from there. The Practice Effect is a damn fine first novel, though.

                    3. Stross wrote the short story “A Colder War” right? I think I have that in an anthology laying around somewhere.

                    4. but I’m much more hard scifi.

                      Asher is not hard scifi!!

                      Over population is not going to kill us all it is a scientific fact!!

                      Banks is not hard scifi!!

                      Socialism does not work even in space with super smart AI it is a scientific fact!!

                      By the way have you ever read any Greg Egan? Now that shit is Hard SciFi.

                2. Neil Asher? I read the first book in his Marty-Stu super-spy series. Wasn’t all that impressed.

                  The *writing* is decent, but he doesn’t present interesting ideas like Stross and Reynolds, doesn’t build as vivid a world as Banks, and certainly doesn’t write as well as *any* of the others.

                  1. Neil Asher? I read the first book in his Marty-Stu super-spy series. Wasn’t all that impressed.

                    If you ever fantasized about the mass killing of bureaucrats and politicians then you need to read “The Owner” series.

                    My god do those books scratch that itch.

                    Try to ignore the stupid green crap about over-population.

            2. Altered Carbon was awesome, then I ripped through the other T. Kovacs books in short order.

    4. There is a GTA, Prototype, and Resident Evil for every Halo/Modern Warfare where you pretty much fight the state, or cartel, or other controlling entity. Transhuman elements often help along the way. I have never found the seeming politics of a game to have any bearing on my enjoyment of it. Hell, I was always sad there wasn’t a storyline where I could play a German tanker in North Africa on Call of Duty. However, as I do agree games can be a fantasy outlet, I would enjoy seeing more on how libertarians play certain games versus liberals or conservatives. I once spent a slew of days just killing police in Saints Row and seeing how high I could get the body count. Would a conservative do this? I am also pretty hard on the civi’s in these type games…and private property.

      1. I wouldn’t read too much into it. I love the Battlefield series, because of the really cool stuff you can do working together with others in order to defeat the other team. But in real life I’m much more of a loner, and I really hate working with other people.

      2. Libertarianism is not about blind opposition to the state – its about individual empowerment, whatever the source. GTA is just about chaos -, Resident Evil is mostly about fighting ‘evil corporashuns’ and the evil stuff they do. The government is ‘controlled by the evil corporations’ – tried and true statist clich?.

        Prototype is the only one that I would consider even the slightest bit libertarian in that the protagonist is just a dude in a bad situation trying to survive, and most of the soldiers aren’t explicitly tools of the state, just guys trying to save the day being manipulated by powermongers withholding or falsifying crucial data.

        And I agree – the political leaning/implications of a game don’t affect my enjoyment (much) – I’ve enjoyed (the older) SimCities and Civilizations even though both those games are the very embodiment of ‘centralized planning is possible’ meme.

      3. You could play a German tanker in North Africa in Battlefield 1942.

    5. Agammamon, power fantasies confirm my worst suspicions about the corrupting influence of power and need to curb those that lust for it.

    6. Fallout 2 was actually about differing political philosophies, with each city a stand in for differing government forms. Broken Hills was the libertarianish one.

  7. I always considered that if we gave power-hungry assholes in government (the 4 million of them) a free subscription to online gaming for any of the God games out there, they would calm their sickening urges to find dogs for their leashes and leave us alone.

    However, I always found trading games like Elite and Pirates to be pretty libertarian and so damned addictive for the money hoarder in me. You find out that the real enemy is not pirates or space thieves but government.

    1. So the solution is SimCity? Quite frankly it’s how they look at us all anyway, why encourage them?

      What about the STALKER series? Does that pass the libertarian test?

      1. Re: SusanM,

        So the solution is SimCity? Quite frankly it’s how they look at us all anyway, why encourage them?

        Just tell them it is for real. They will likely always take the blue pill, anyway.

        What about the STALKER series? Does that pass the libertarian test?

        I have never been a fan of apocalyptic games or apocalyptic stories in general as they tend to be overly simplistic and preposterous. The most I can say of games like the STALKER series is that they are fun to play with but are not really designed as vehicles to test libertarian ideas. I would think that virtual worlds like Second Life do present those opportunities; or online games like Diablo III present examples of economic problems like hyperinflation, something that could be interesting for the student of economic systems and money creation.

        1. I dunno. A post-apocalyptic setting may be a good way to test spontaneous order.

          As for Second Life, what I find interesting is the actions of hackers and griefers. With EVE as well. There’s little enough structure that people who go in to it intending to cause trouble test the system better that those going in to follow the rules.

  8. If you want to make the case that Q-Bert argues for looser borders and freer immigration policies, more power to you.

    Don’t start giving ideas – someone is bound to come up with a dissertation on the similarities between Pac-Man and the daily struggle of man as he travels around the maze, avoiding conflict and searching for meaning in a meaningless world.

    1. Mr. Do!

      The fire breathing dragons are the Chinese and the pumping air into the monsters until they explode is quantitative easing by the fed, and the falling apples are… Falling apples.

      1. After reviewing the video, the officials ruled I was describing Dig Dug

  9. Borderlands 1 and 2: kill, and loot. That is all I require of a game. Killing and looting. Plus I still have 130 Golden Keys at this point.

  10. Well, none of my favorite videogames have ever won an election. So there’s that.

  11. Red Dead Redemption struck me as being pretty anti-state. The government agents are villains and it has a negative opinion of both the corrupt Mexican regime and the populist rebels that eventually overthrow it.

    1. RDR really boils down to whoever says they’re going to lead you to prosperity, liberation, whatever – those people will fuck over whoever they have to if it let’s them realize their own goals. So fuck the Pinkerton guys (can’t remember their names), the Mexican army, the Mexican liberators, and pretty much every authority figure that’s trying to use Marston to advance their cause.

  12. There are far better ways to waste my time.

  13. I first heard about Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged through the original Bioshock. I’d be interested to hear what others think about its take on the untenability of a truly Objectivist society.

    1. Never played it, but there’s this aspect of it:

      Scientific progress greatly expanded, including the discovery of the plasmid ADAM created by sea slugs on the ocean floor; ADAM allowed its users to alter their DNA to grant them super-human powers like telekinesis and pyrokinesis.

      So basically the discovery of magical slug jizz that gives humans superhuman powers would cause an Objectivist society to collapse. That’s not much of a critique.

      1. There’s a difference between a strong critique and a critique that makes the people who already agree with the conclusion feel good about themselves. Bioshock is fun, but it can definitely be read as a critique of Atlas Shrugged that gives proggies warm fuzzies.

        1. Rapture fell apart pretty much due to the same kind of villain Rand wrote about. It’s definitely a perspective that’s skewed against but it’s not too bad.

    2. I didn’t find it plausible. It’s a garbage-in, garbage-out argument: assume a tyrant who mouths Objectivist platitudes, populate the society with people who don’t even mouth the platitudes, then act surprised when it all falls apart. I suppose that if there is a real lesson in there, it’s that you can’t impose such a society; it has to grow from the bottom up.

      Still, it’s a sweet, sweet game.

    3. I suspect a lot of people who read it as a straight forward anti-Objectivist dystopia didn’t finish the game/pay much attention to the dialog; it’s actually much more nuanced than that.

      In the first half of the game, it’s set up that way, with Jack (the player character) fighting to help overthrow Andrew Ryan, the Ayn-Rand-protagonist-as-a-villian, but when the player encounters Andrew Ryan, it’s revealed that “Atlas”, who had supposedly been trying to help escape the city with his wife and kids, is actually Frank Fontaine, who was using Jack to seize control of the city from Ryan for his own purposes.

      Fointaine is every bit a Rand villain – he uses class anxiety to agitate against Ryan with the end goal of ruling the city with an iron fist (the “Atlas” propaganda), sets up “charitable” endeavors that are actually fronts for using orphans as biological factories (Fontaine’s Little Sister’s Orphanage), and uses the altruistic motives of others to manipulate them to (the player character’s desire to help “Atlas” and his family escape is used to get him to breach Ryan’s stronghold).

      1. Moreover, Fontaine’s power stems from his smuggling operations. Rapture’s one law is no contact with the surface, so Fointaine’s rise is itself a demonstration of the principle that it is the law that makes criminals. Some of the audio logs and such indicate that Ryan began his slide into despotism trying to enforce the ban on contact with the surface, so Ryan’s downfall itself may be attributed to insufficient ideologically purity, as the seeds of his own destruction were sown by the one law he couldn’t resist creating.

        There’s also a lot running counter to the libertarian themes (as well as a lot of ideas that aren’t explicitly political), but the game’s treatment of its themes is a lot more complex than even most of its fans give it credit for being, let alone its detractors.

        1. Word.

  14. – Fallout: New Vegas
    Suderman wrote FO3 was the game to play, but New Vegas seems to have a more decidedly libertarian streak. The “factions” are more morally ambiguous: the good-intentioned NCR are incompetent bureaucrats, while the well-organized and disciplined Caesar’s Legion are sexist slavers. Plus, one of the endings has you destroying the Legion, casting out the NCR, overthrowing the current “ruler” of New Vegas and liberating everyone!

    -Papers, Please
    The low-tech indie game puts you in the position of border agent in a fictional Soviet-style country and accurately represents the tedium of bureaucracy and the injustice of border control laws.

    -Pokemon X/Y
    The villain is a utopian Malthusian prone to saying things like “Even though resources, space, and energy on this planet are limited, the number of people and Pok?mon has increased to an unsustainable level… When there is only one of something, it can’t be shared. When something can’t be shared, it will be fought over. And when something is fought over, some must survive without it. The only way to create a world where people live in beauty, a world without conflict or theft, is to reduce the number of living things.”

    1. “Plus, one of the endings has you destroying the Legion, casting out the NCR, overthrowing the current “ruler” of New Vegas and liberating everyone!”

      Hmm I never thought I was liberating everyone, I thought I was just becoming dictator of my own independent New Vegas, with an army of murderous robots to enforce my will.

      1. Well, there’s at least one free person in that scenario, I guess.

      2. Third time I played it I think I killed everyone.

    2. Overthrowing the current rule of New Vegas means putting Yes Man in charge. And the ending cut scene implies that it might be the worst possible outcome in the long run.

      Never trust someone who is always smiling.

  15. There is nothing libertarian about SimCity.

    1. Progressive do-gooder laws have unintended consequences, and raising taxes can hurt businesses and encourage people to move away. So they’ve put more thought into it than your average congressman — low bar and all that.

  16. I have not played it, but Spec Ops: The Line is reputed to be a first-person shooter that doubles of a scathing critique of militaristic jingoism and American interventionism.

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution explores themes of human scientific progress and the fear that sudden technological advancement instills in society as well as the collective urge to regulate it.

    The Dragon Age games are set in a fantasy world where wizards, due to the potential damage they can cause through their magic, are basically indentured servants to the Chantry, the dominant religion of the game. Wizards are divided on what their place in the world should be, and there is a faction called the Libertarians that feel that they should be allowed to live their lives free of oppressive Chantry oversight.…..Enchanters

    The Back to the Future adventure game from Telltale Games features a plot line where Doc Brown has his past altered and ends up marrying meddling moralist type, setting up a future where he turns his town into an iron-fisted nanny state. Marty must undo this.

    1. I was remarkably disappointed that there was no actual representative of the Libertarian faction in Dragon Age, though they certainly had plenty of loose mages around.

      1. Yes, I’ve wondered why they brought them up then never really did anything with them.

        1. they brought them up then never really did anything with them.

          They wanted to realistically portray how libertarians are treated in the corridors of media and political power.

          1. Best explanation I’ve heard.

      2. I’m not so sure about the Dragon Age example–the whole realm reminds me a lot more of medieval Europe where the church (Chantry) is really the ultimate authority and kings are in power only if the local dukes (banns) are willing to suffer him as such.

        The one libertarian character in Origins of note is Uldred, who becomes an abomination.

      3. Technically Uldred (who becomes the pride demon you fight in the mages tower) was a member of the libertarian faction…destroyed by his own freedums.

    2. Spec Ops really surprised the hell out of me. It starts off as just your average set-piece shooter and then starts doing really interesting things with the story. There’s definitely some Heart of Darkness in there, as well as just general critiques of interventionism. Absolutely fantastic single-player game.

    3. Spec Ops: The Line is more specifically a critique of militaristicly jingoist video games. While some of the reasons why tangentally applies to real military jingoism in general, it’s more focused on the relationship between the gamer and the type of games they choose to play.

      It’s basic concept is to make you feel like a horrible person for playing it, and then ask what the fact that you continue to keep playing it anyways says about you as a person.

      1. So it’s the video game version of Funny Games?

        1. Similar yes. Kinda Funny Games meets Heart of Darkness. The main characters in the story deviate from their orders to conduct a brief recon mission with the intent of heroically rescuing everyone. They end up committing a series of successively worse and worse atrocities in the name of completing “the mission”, constantly blaming circumstances for their increasingly savage acts, when in reality they could at any point have turned around and headed back to base.

          If you read a lot of reviews, the reviewers complain about the game railroading them into committing these atrocities by making them the only way to advance the story, with varying levels of awareness of the fact that they’re basically repeating the main characters rationalizations at the meta-level, blaming the game for their actions when they could always just refused to continue and “return to base” by not playing any more.

          Both the characters and the player ultimately continue out of a need to “find out the end of the story”, even though this ultimately proves to be pointless.

          1. You forgot to mention the sand.

            It has a state of the art innovative, one of a kind, extra ordinary sand game mechanic.

            Or at least that is what the developers talked about before it came out.

            I don’t even know as I never played the game because the developers told me how great the sand mechanic was and I was instantly turned off by it.

            specifically a critique of militaristicly jingoist video games

            This makes me want to play it even less.

  17. I’ll second The Laconic Marc F Cheney’s call for Bioshock II. It has everything that was great about the original, with even better gameplay. And unlike the original, the villain is a radical collectivist.

    I’m honestly surprised the original game isn’t more controversial with libertarians. As innovative and fun as it was, the storyline was one long jab at “free minds and free markets”. The creator of Rapture, Andrew Ryan, was portrayed as the kind of strawman caricature of a capitalist that you usually only see in a Paul Krugman column. In one speech he talks about burning down an entire forest just to prevent the government from nationalizing it.

    Yes, I know the story is a riff on Atlas Shrugged and “Going Galt”, but it bashes libertarians generally. Throughout the game there are jabs at free markets, deregulation and individualism. If you view Adam as a metaphor for drugs — and why not? You inject the Eve like it was heroin — it directly links the legal trade in it to Rapture’s downfall. “This wouldn’t have happened if somebody sensible like Michael Bloomberg was in charge,” the developers seem to be saying.

    1. But Bioshock sucked.

  18. I thought Red Dead Redemption had an interesting storyline in which the main character was caught between his desire for independence from the government as well as his past.

    But I may be reading in to it too much. Either way, fucking great game.

    1. Old West games are great fun.

  19. Rogue Legacy. It accurately reflects the Libertarian experience by turning the player into an anti-social, murder-rage filled Aspie.

  20. How come no one has mentioned all the trading, and business simulation games like Capitalism, and Patrician?

  21. 1. Assassin’s Creed, the series, but especially from Brotherhood on. The Templars want to use alien technology to control humanity and guide it to peaceful perfection under their supervision, sort of like Platonic progressives from hell. The Assassin’s want to keep the technology out of everyone’s hands, believing both that individual liberty is a sacred right and the concentration of power in one group is too dangerous.

    2. X3: Terran Conflict: massive sandbox space sim with a plot so inconspicuous that you sometimes have a hard time finding it. The player starts in a universe with numerous factions, filled with AI pirates, military ships, police ships, traders, civilians, etc. There isn’t really a goal. Instead, you can make money through trade, manufacturing, mercenary contracts, or any combination thereof. You start with a relatively modest ship (depending on your character) and go from there. The various factions react based on your previous deeds and reputation, there’s a fairly robust economic model, and it’s not unusual for entire systems to be taken over by an AI faction at war with another. As a for instance, in my most recent game I piled up some cash running trading routes, then built a manufacturing station near a contested sector making munitions for sale to the Terrans, then used that money to purchase and outfit a carrier ship, hired several pilots, and took my carrier group off to take over a remote system.

    3. Papers, Please: Google it.

    1. 3. Papers, Please: Google it.

      Good call!

    2. then built a manufacturing station near a contested sector making munitions for sale to the Terrans

      Shit. *rushes off to load X3*

  22. Do your own damn homework.

  23. My favorite game is the totally unlibertarian Civilization.

    1. It is actually really libertarian. At least the workings of economic and political systems model pretty close to libertarian thought.

      It stops being libertarian during the game right about when pollution becomes an insurmountable problem.

      1. Communism is economically tenable in the versions of Civ that I have played, so…

        1. To me playing communism always seemed harder in the versions I have played.

          Also i think the soviet union was “tenable” just against capitalism it could not keep up.

          Also North Korea seems “tenable”.

          Of course if i was playing South Korea I would have invaded North Korea long ago. Damn the the people if they riot from the massive casualties. I will just build them a movie theater or something.

          1. Well, we must have played different versions, because those I enjoyed as a youth actually allowed communist nations to compete economically and militarily with capitalist ones over long periods of time with no indication whatsoever that they were communistic in name only.

            And if North Korea is economically “tenable” to you, meet my friend, Inigo Montoya…

            1. And if North Korea is economically “tenable” to you, meet my friend, Inigo Montoya..

              It exists does it not? Starvation of the masses use to be a pretty normal thing for nearly every tenable civilization on the planet.

              Well, we must have played different versions

              I think i have played them all but either the first or second one. looking up the years they came out i am thinking I played the first one but not the second one.

    2. actually the role of the nation in civilization is very unlibertarian.

      As the “ruler” you really play a god who gets to set every aspect of your civilization from where people live what resources get used to even the religion and political systems they have. And the political systems are kind of a joke considering you can change them just about anytime you want, though with some penalty.

  24. Left 4 Dead 2

    Voluntary association, guns, no government, NAP doesn’t apply to the dead

    1. Plus, zombies are a pretty realist representation of Obama voters.

      1. It’s like a Somali utopia.

        And why hasn’t anyone mentioned Far Cry 2 for its portrayal of African government and imperialism?

  25. You realize that most video game developers are extremely anti-libertarian? (and very much socialist/anti-gun).And as a result, most fans are as well.

    If you read NeoGaf, a popular video game message board, virtually every thread is bound to eventually have a bizarre rant about libertarians.

    Famed designer Greg Costigan (spelled wrong) had one in a his talk at GDC just a few days ago.

    Capitalism and smaller government is losing the culture war very badly, and one of the big reasons is video games.

    1. Costikyan went to Brown. Nuff said.

      1. He apparently said:

        “Contrary to libertarian theory, a business does not exist to maximize profits. A business exists to do something. Profit is the condition of survival, but it is not the goal”

        Scruffy is right. Dude went to Brown. Nuff said.

      2. A friend of mine is a political science professor at Brown. He’s also a social conservative and religious as fuck. I’ve always wondered how he got that position.

    2. Capitalism and smaller government is losing the culture war very badly, and one of the big reasons is video games.

      That strikes me as going a bit too far. I don’t have any better knowledge of the political leanings of game developers in general than you do (though I do know a couple), but they’re almost certainly no more leftist than, say, those working in Hollywood, and video games are far less of a cultural influence than movies are.

      And that’s not even discussing the content of the games themselves. With the very notable exception of Bioshock, I’m hard-pressed to think of many popular games expressing leftist/anti-capitalist themes (and I’ll note in passing that I think Bioshock is a fantastic game despite whatever disagreements Ken Levine and I would have about politics).

      I suppose you could point to games that glorify war, such as Call of Duty, as being “anti-libertarian”, but that’s nothing unique to video games–glorifying war is a human tradition as old as human traditions can be.

    3. You realize that most video game developers are extremely anti-libertarian? (and very much socialist/anti-gun).And as a result, most fans are as well.

      My anecdotal experience doesn’t support this. I see fans around here that don’t share those views. That would be like saying because movie producers and directors are overwhelmingly anti-conservative, the fans of their movies are as well. Apply to all artistic expression…music, poetry, writing, etc. I would argue that MOST fans of anything have very little idea of what the subtle politics that may be involved in that art actually are. Hell, most people who are indeed looking for the subtle politics and symbolism (which is a relative minority vs. just the fans) are just projecting their own bias onto the art. Fans on a forum are unrepresentative of those who actually buy the games. Just go to the game rack at Wal-Mart. These folks aren’t thinking anything about libertarians. If the culture war is lost, it’s because they’re allowed to pay for GTA V with their govt issued and funded debit card.

      1. Most of the gamers I’ve met tended to be anti-authoritarian in the sense that “if only Smart People Like Me were in charge, things wouldn’t be so fucked up” sense. They may not like the government, per se, but only because they aren’t the ones running things.

        These are the types that tended to vote for Obama because he tapped into that part of them that made them feel that voting for him showed How Smart They Are.

  26. Frogger. It’s very symbolic.

  27. Not sure what’s libertarian about Euchre.

    Wait – “video” games.

    Never mind.

  28. How about all the television and radio content in Grand Theft Auto IV and V? Its one massive parody of the worst tendencies of lefties and So-Cons.

    1. Its one massive parody of the worst tendencies of lefties and So-Cons.

      As written by leftists.

      All the parodies of leftists go along the lines that the left does not go far enough or the left are a bunch of pussies who can’t turn the world into a Marxist paradise cuz they don’t rule with an iron fist.

      The parodies of the left never actually point out the left as ever being wrong…only ineffectual.

      The GTA series does get credit for making fun of the cultural left though. In making fun of hippies and hipsters GTA is unrelenting…though it is probably self parody if you know anything about the two brothers who write the series.

      1. “As written by leftists.
        All the parodies of leftists go along the lines that the left does not go far enough or the left are a bunch of pussies who can’t turn the world into a Marxist paradise cuz they don’t rule with an iron fist.”

        I’ve played every GTA game since the first one came out for the PC and I’ve never encountered anything like that.

        Did you not play GTAV? If so, did you somehow miss Sue Murray and Impotent Rage? For that matter, Dan Houser didn’t put that giant “Fuck You” to Empress Hillary in the middle of IV’s Liberty City because he’s a Leftist.

        1. I’ve never encountered anything like that.

          Impotent Rage

          What are you even talking about?

  29. Right now i am playing Bitcoin daytrader. You can play it on your browser and can spend any amount of money you want to play it.

    It is libertarian cuz reason magazine tells me bitcoin is libertarian.

    1. And why would a decentralized currency not be libertarian?

  30. Pacman and Ms. Pacman get married without a state marriage license.

  31. I just want to say EvE Online is not libertarian and anyone claiming it is on this thread is wrong.

    1. How do you come to such a conclusion? In my experience, I would be hard pressed to think of a game with a more libertarian philosophy than Eve Online.

  32. It is not out yet but Elite: Dangerous might be pretty damn libertarian.

    It seems like you can do pretty much anything you want and unlike most other open world (open galaxy) worlds you are not tied down to some arbitrary leveling/skill system. There is also no narrative built into the game you have to follow and nothing telling you what is good or evil or right or wrong. You are just a dude flying a ship in near infinite space. you can trade, join a government, be a police be a bounty hunter be a pirate be everything and anything depending on your mood.

    The market for trade and goods seems pretty open…or at least easy to get around barriers put up by AI governments.

    Unlike say EvE where the actual game mechanics are designed to prevent cooperation and gives huge advantages to older established players Elites method is just give tools that can be used to kill or help and leaves how it plays out among the players.

    I played the original elite on an apple IIe. It really was at the time a one of kind game that allowed you to do anything. Games like GTA have more recently allowed more open worlds but even those seem to push you into a role.

    In my youth I think maybe in a small way Elite did inform me about liberation and freedom. If only showing me how much I like vs the lack of choice other games allowed me.

  33. I play video games for entertainment, not to get a political fix. Just as I might enjoy a film about “a cop who plays by his own rules”, I don’t want or enjoy the idea of that happening in real life.

    1. Just as I might enjoy a film about “a cop who plays by his own rules”, I don’t want or enjoy the idea of that happening in real life.

      Bingo. Justified as a TV show is awesome, but Raylan is not someone we’d want in real life.

  34. No one has brought up the Tropico series yet?

    I am disappoint.

    1. I was going to!

      I choose Tropico as the most libertarian video game I’ve played because it’s basically one long satire of government and all of the interest groups beholden to it.

      It’s also one of my favorites. Humor and strategy, what more do you need?

  35. Mass effect…who the fuck are YOU to judge my polygamous relationships with alien species?

    1. If I recall correctly, the Asari had a society that was quite explicitly libertarian, portrayed fairly positively.


    It has it all: trains, top hats, obscene CEO salaries, AND monocles!

    1. I effin loved railroad tycoon, and I love monocles!! They’re so monocleee looking on me I don’t know what to do…..I even want a monocle for my shoe!

      1. I am a Rail Baron fan. I started playing the game in the 1970’s in the old Avalon Hill board style. The computer version is free for the first 29 days of use and can play 1-6 humans against the machine. (google the site) You can modify the game and your job is to make a rail empire and make more $$ than the competition. Top hats, monocles and if you want to be James Hill (alleged inspiration for Nat Taggart) you can be. I still enjoy playing the board version with friends and beer and watching the pain in their eyes when you rebate their chief rival.

        1. I think rail games are pretty hardcore economics-wise.

  37. Deus EX GOTY is built on an open premise driven by decisions. One memorable example of this is when Gilbert Renton the manager of the ‘Ton Hotel in Hell’s Kitchen asks JC Denton to borrow a weapon to protect himself and his daughter from a drug dealer. You are given two choices- either of which can reflect your actual position on gun ownership. Other aspects of the game I found somewhat Libertarian is that the entire game can be played without killing anyone using a variety of non-lethal methods. It is quite a bit more difficult this way but somewhat refreshing.

    Using the New Vision mod allows one to enjoy this older masterful game.

    1. Ha !! Glad to see another fan.

    2. And you can really judge the ideology of the player by the choice made at the end:

      1) Destroy “the interwebz” so that society crumbles into a new Dark Age (libertarian)

      2) Hand all control to the Majestic 12 and consolidate global power (neo-con)

      3) Merge with Icarus to become an all-powerful Deus in Machina who knows what’s best and controls the world from behind the scenes (proggy)

    3. This would be my choice. Still consider it the best video game I’ve ever played, and I don’t doubt it’s subconciously helped form a lot of my voluntaryist and anti-state attitudes.

  38. Sim city would have been great if it were a free market oriented game. Government roads, government power plants, government schools, and taxes galore. Hey kids, only government can do this shit. What they didn’t show were the horrors of central planning. That bridge isn’t free, and that fu(ker isn’t all shiny. Herman Cain even modeled his tax plan after sim city’s.

    9-9-9 folks. 9- 9mother effin-9!! If you don’t support it ill rip out your spine, drink your blood like wine, slow cook the rest of you in some brine, and make what’s your’s mine.


  39. I always considered the Deus Ex games to be Libertarian. The story lines deal with statism, anarchy, and the effects of technology on society.

    1. The first Deus Ex is terrifyingly prophetic when you realize it was written and released pre-9/11.

      For context, one of the central features of the plot is the technologically-advanced system of repression the government sets up as a response to a major terrorist attack on New York City.

  40. Daggerfall: Do whatever the fuck you want — but beware, for everyone has an agenda!

  41. Infamous: Second Son

  42. I can’t say the games I like have a very libertarian premise. That said, I like Call of Duty and Battlefield as much as the next person. My favorite has to be Empire: Total War with the ACW and Darthmod mods because I like to play the proverbial “armchair general”. The premise of ETW is world domination, but you can just as easily play it from a trade/exploration/defense stand point. It kinda provides the best of both worlds of strategy games (battlefield military/military engagements in the battle maps and strategic development in the world map). Though, come to think of it, I also used to play a lot of 1607 and 1701 A.D. and they are more about building up resources in a peaceful, Sim City-esque way.

  43. Playing minecraft online is interesting.

    The issue of property rights is always a huge thing with the players and mods and admins who run the server.

    They also usually contain mechanics to trade the goods people produce. Many of them are ad hoc and arise organically.

    The servers that seem to have the least hands on trade mechanics also seem to be the most popular.

    Spontaneous voluntary production is also a big thing. Whole towns arise over night on larger servers and they often set up their own rules. Also large building projects incorporate voluntary groups. This happens on general purpose servers and also people sometimes set up their own servers to make something…a scale model of the star ship enterprise for example.

    1. Spent many a wonderful week in Minecraft in the early days. Not so much anymore but it’s an experience every serious gamer should try at least once.

  44. OK wow I never thought about it liek that before dude.

  45. Planet Explorers (which I am playing right now) is a good game that is fairly libertarian.

    You (crash) land on an alien planet and must do whatever the fuck you want. That’s it – no externally imposed goals.

  46. Depending on your state of mind, Civilization V could be considered small-l libertarian, since you can choose governing options like “liberty”. Now, if you view yourself as a dictator micro-managing cities, it could come across as statist, but I viewed the game choices I made as being a proxy for how a society might make choices based on the aggregation of individual desires across a culture.

  47. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series.

  48. Dark Souls is the epitome of the libertarian experience.

    No matter how good you are, now matter how much you prepare you are going to fail miserably in a bleak and unforgiving world full of traps and bullies and hopelessness.

    1. Demon’s Souls did that for me. It was a bit like voting.

  49. In the last 10 years I’ve plaed the alphabet soup of MMORPGs (EQ, EQ2, WOW, LOTRO, SWTOR, STO) and only one was remotely libertarian.

    Star Wars: Galaxies came out in 2003 with a great deal of anticipation. It broke the mold of MMORPGs by being a “sandbox” game. The idea was that the devs created the world, but the content would be driven by players.

    As opposed to most games before (and since), the best stuff was created by players rather than looted. Crafters competed on an open market and could set up their shops wherever they wanted. Players could build cities, set up shopping and entertainment districts or set up military outposts. It was really a one of a kind experience.

    I could bore you with the details, but it always amazed me the breadth of the game. Regardless if you were an explorer, an entrepreneur or a hard core PvPer, there was something for just about everyone.

    WOW came out a year later and dwarfed the number of players SWG had. Eventually Lucas Arts started putting pressure on the devs because they couldn’t understand why a Star Wars brand game couldn’t attract millions also. The game struggled on for several years before finally being sunset by Sony.

    The thing I learned from it is that just like real life, people aren’t really ready for unfettered freedom. The farther you get away from what is perceived as normal, the fewer people that are willing to play along.

  50. Half Life 2. Total surveillance/police state, and your former work partners teaming up with your oppressors to save their own skin. Scientists creating cool shit hiding in their underground labs.

    Even Half Life 1 for that matter- no camera drones flying around tracking you, or “Civil Protection” patrols, but government coverups and secret military programs…

    1. Easily in the top 10 most brilliant video games ever created (behind Deus Ex GOTY and System Shock 2, imo).

      The only aspect of HL1 and 2 that I found irritating is that the games are extremely linear. Other than this, evading state oppression alongside an outstanding story and graphical ambiance makes the experience definitely worth pursuing.

  51. I got to enjoy the Golden Age of Video Games of the late 70s and early 80s. I loved the vibe of an arcade (combined with the hand-wringing of authorities, parents, and tha church).

    I always used to read of a video game called Death Race, where you ran over pedestrians with your car, creating tombstones that blocked your vehicle’s movement and slowly creating a maze of crosses. The victims screamed when hit and the steering wheel physically jarred!

    Imagine my great joy when the game showed up at the carny arcade at the traveling county fair — yippee!

    1. Battlezone, Pac Man, Space Invaders, Crazy Climber — all addictions.

      1. Now, it’s strictly serious, reality-based wargames and hard sci-fi.

        No fat-boy games.

        1. Games have also become way too easy in spite of their seriousness. Some of your old school ‘fat-boy’ games are damn hard to actually beat. I dare any CoD or Counter-Strike fan to win the original Mega-Man. I’d wager the rage quits would populate local landfills with dashed pc’s and consoles.

          1. Call of Duty is what I was actually thinking about: my (fat) friends would only play with unlimited ammo.

            No different than watering the lawn.

  52. Just slightly OT, I always thought the government – or better yet – private companies should create images, vids, and sims of hardcore child porn (get as nasty as possible) to make available to pedophiles so those fuckers don’t have to resort to the real thing.

  53. I would have to say Robotron: 2024, released by Williams in 1982 is a great Libertarian game.

    It’s just you vs. the robots (a perfect metaphor for politicians, liberals, socialists) who are trying to murder you family.

    You are always 2.1 seconds away from dying, and only by being alert & responsible for yourself, can you survive.

  54. The entire Metal Gear series! Topics include nations without states, military industrial complex, even internet surveillance. I actually was introduced to libertarianism by some of the articles on a Metal Gear fansite called The Snake Soup.

    Deus Ex also has libertarian themes.

    1. I’m glad someone mentioned Metal Gear, especially after registering just to mention it! Expanding on what you said, the overarching storyline involves characters (mostly villains you’re manipulated into killing) attempting to be free of the Patriots, who are basically in control of everything.

      Deus Ex, indeed, especially the ‘destroy” ending in Human Revolution. “Do I have the right to make this decision for humanity? No, but neither do Darrow, Sarif, or Taggart.” Bittersweet, but satisfying nonetheless.

      1. I also think Legacy of Kain deserves an honorable mention. Kain’s initial decision to control Nosgoth (rather than offing himself to “save” it) was based on pure selfishness. Over time, he learned that the world was screwed no matter what he decided. As Raziel, you learn that Kain used you in hopes of changing Nosgoth’s fate, thus freeing it from the forces who would take it over.

  55. I will pick out a very old game that has some libertarian flavor: 1986’s Starflight. It’s very similar to Star Trek in the overall concept, but instead of being a member of a Federation of Planets, in pursuit of some nonsensical noble ideal, you work for a private corporation, for profit. You have to mine your own resources, capture non-sentiest lifeforms, and find habitable worlds for colonization, in order to make money and upgrade your ship. It’s a future with money, and no government to speak of! And the game has a very cool story.

    1. I just bought it on GOG. Thanks, dear.

  56. I’d like to make the argument that all quest style games are inherently libertarian. The only two I’ve really played are Skyrim and World of Warcraft.

    To be successful in Skyrim, you either have to do several small tasks and make enough money to buy good gear, or you need to gather the raw materials and make them for yourself. You can chose to increase skills that make you a better at creating items (skills like enchanting and blacksmithing), or you can increase skills that make you better at winning quests and, therefore, money. The main point is, you are unhampered by a central authority as you complete these quests. If you make a suit of armor that is awesome, it is yours, no questions asked. It can’t be taken away from you by anybody.

    World of Warcraft is kind of the same way. You can’t really have to chose between being a creator or quest completer though. The beauty of World of Warcraft is that several economic principles pop up. There are several specializations that you can take on and then sale your creations to other players. There are banks and even a public auction square. But the one thing missing: somebody constantly judging how much you have and comparing it against all of the things they’d like to do with it.

    My main point is that you can be excessively successful in quest style games and there’s nothing to hamper you from having it all, except yourself.

  57. In somewhat of a reflection of real life libertarianism, there is always a small minority of people willing to sacrifice their lives to uphold the idea of liberty. Take DayZ or Rust for example. Two games that revolve around the idea of survival, games that intrinsically have absolutely no set of rulings or moral guidelines as to how any task should be completed. But in the communities that play these games, there are always a select few who aspire to not just stomp around the map shooting anyone they see. I was once approached by a group of bandits in Rust expecting to get my head blown off, instead they asked if I wanted to help them taken down some other bandits and in return they would give me a few materials and weapons of my own. It was the perfect free market transaction minus the institutions to stop me from taking advantage of them by killing my employer after they gave me my reward for helping them.

  58. I’d have to go with Dungeons and Dragons Online.
    Alignments: You live by your own values and moral codes, not because some government forces it on you.
    No Large Gov but Small Communities: In Stormreach there are different houses, each exemplify a set of ideals and races within. They don’t need a major overarching government to tell their people how to behave.
    Commerce System: We have auctions, sell your wares or free trade among players. You can also pick and choose where to sell and buy your goods from a plethora of small businesses that choose what to sell and yes, many will pay for your goods at different levels.
    You are your own boss: You choose where to quest and how to run that quest, no one forces you to run anything. Also you can pick your payment for doing the quest, the quest givers give you an option of how you’d like to receive payment, there isn’t a one size fits all option.
    Drug Trade: Potions galore and no one regulates what you can or cannot take into your body. Some you have to work for and some you just run down to your local store and buy.
    That’s the game mechanics overall but the best part is the community. Many of the players themselves are in their 30’s and you can usually chat about anything you like…you’ll find a lot of free thinking libertarians form all over the world to talk to.

  59. I think The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is easily the most libertarian themed game of all time. All of Bethesda’s games are, and I see you already included Fallout 3 on that list, but Skyrim is an even better choice.

    One of the main conflicts in the game is the war between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks. The Imperials from the capital want to solidify Skyrim under the federal control of the empire, while the Stormcloaks want to bring independence to the region of Skyrim and be free from imperial control. The player is free to choose either side of this conflict, and the choice you make I think is a great indicator of your philosophy. It’s not obvious which side to pick, both sides have positives and negatives presented evenly, but I’ve found many statists pick the imperials, while I, as a libertarian, immediately sided with the Stormcloak rebellion and won them their freedom.

    Amazing game and definitely the most libertarian of all time!

  60. Some of the Bethesda and Obsidian (with many former Black Isle denizens) have libertarian tendencies; if nothing else, the player’s perceived ability to influence the world through decisions allows for apparent choice in what happens. What may be the most libertarian aspect of all is their support for modding. Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, etc., all have creaky but useful mod engines that come for free with the game and allow just about anything to change.

    So many RPGs that give lip service to player options (the “choice and consequences” that has become a hackneyed claim for many games) allow choice only within the stupid good or stupid evil range, with stupid good essentially forming whatever is the current nice-nice behavior. In most Bioware games, there might as well be a big halo around the good choices, which all involve social-good type of options (taking no money is always good; asking for a reward is always evil, and you might as well kick puppy while you’re at it). Perhaps their most libertarian set of options are the “closed fist” choices in Jade Empire, which heavily involve personal responsibility and consequence for choices — funny that it’s the evil option.

    1. Oh — and, yes, I know modding started with shooters, but there are few game companies that have such unfettered support for modding these days. I guess publishers see modding as cutting into DLC and microtransations, plus not being possible for the core console market. Sad.

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