Use of Politics in RPGs

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by watermark, Jul 31, 2017.

  1. watermark

    watermark Veteran Veteran

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    With the exception of politics specific sim-games such as Democracy, I don't think Politics is used as a theme that much in games, especially RPGs. I mean it's always a minor thing, perhaps as a convenient excuse to give your heroes a boon, but it's never a major mechanic in the game. So just some random wonderings:

    1. What if instead of being a sideshow, politics is the main theme of the RPG? For example, a RPG where the hero is a fictional presidential candidate, with battles done "Last Word" (the RM game) style? And maybe players can learn about real life issues by playing this game. Would this be something you want to play? Or would this bore you to tears?

    2. What are some interesting uses of politics in an RPG game that maybe you've seen or thought about? How could politics make a RPG richer as a mechanic?

    Alright guys, also let's NOT discuss actual political opinions here or this thread will be shut down and we'll be like banned faster than (suitable political analogy). :kaoswt2: I'm sure you can express political opinions to your heart's content in more suitable forums.

    The issue here is the CONCEPT of politics used in RPGs. In fact, we shouldn't be limited to present day politics. It could be the Greco-Roman kind, or Shogun-samurai feudal style.
     
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  2. CriticalGames

    CriticalGames Veteran Veteran

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    While I can't think of any games where politics is used as a mechanic (aside from dialogue choices - for example, games like Witcher 2/3 and Dragon Age Origins have you playing politics in several player-directed conversations), I think it definitely has a large (although usually subtle) presence in *many* RPG narratives.

    The city of Midgar is a fantastic example of this in Final Fantasy VII - it presents a dystopian class system (and all the struggles that entails), and examines what happens when a business (the Shinra Electric Power Company) becomes a military power with its own head of state (President Shinra). It also presents minor characters like the Mayor of Midgar, a once idealistic politician who is now nothing more than a mouth piece for the company. And through the backstory of player character Barrett, the game shows the effect that poor political decisions made miles away by people who seek power and profit impacts the lives of the people who live under that political system. Not to mention it also deals with the consequences of ignoring the environment, terrorist vs. freedom fighter, etc. Even now it's quite a thought-provoking and relevant backdrop.

    Beyond the narrative, I think it would be interesting to see politics used as a game mechanic in an RPG, but I'm not sure off the top of my head how it would be used - at least, beyond dialogue choices and choose-your-own-adventure style outcomes.
     
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  3. The Mighty Palm

    The Mighty Palm Resident Palm Tree Restaff

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    I'd love to see a strategy game with politics involved.
    Something like if you don't play your cards right in the political world, you'll lose allies and maybe even gain enemies for the
    upcoming battles. Or if you can't keep your own people happy they'll begin to doubt their leadership and revolt.
    Maybe even you could play as someone working for a leader and you can use political plots to put ya boi into power or remove
    a tyrant.
    Idk though, it'd be a tough thing to pull off.

    I definitely don't think a game BASED around politics would be good, but a game with politics as a gimmick or feature would be
    something that might turn my head at least.
     
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  4. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

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    While I think many RPGs us allegory & metaphor to explore many political issues, which usually though not always doesn't cause problems; I think you would run into a problem if you were to strip away that layer of allegory & metaphor.

    Fundamentally politics is very divisive in nature, regardless of what political issues you choose to address, & or from which side you explore it from, inevitably you will be accused of simply creating propaganda from opposing interests. Not to mention that many people see the character they play as a reflection of themselves, & the closer the game runs to real life political issues, the more likely they are to see their political adversaries in your protagonist, & reject the protagonist in response to those perceived similarities.

    Understand I am not saying you shouldn't do it because you would offend people, or you should stick to making games that people find nonthreatening. As personally I have no concern for what people find to be offensive, I have no interest in restraining any creative project out of such concerns, & I have & will continue to cheerfully tell ANYONE who attempts to coerce me into doing so, to swivel.

    However, I am also the bloody King of the A$$holes, who seeks out sacred cows to butcher as a matter of course. Who has on multiple occasions caused a room full of jaws to collectively strike the floor.

    So my advice would be, that if you were to try to address the topic of politics, don't go by half measures. Either be as close to completely neutral as you can be, & allow the player to dictate the evolution of events, through their own choices, so that the player doesn't feel they are being preached at. I.e. minimize your own voice as much as possible in the narrative, & separate your own politics from the story, so that the player can possibly cast themselves into the role.

    Or go the opposite route, butcher EVERYONE'S sacred cows, accept that you're going to offend lots of people, & don't hold back on ANYTHING.
     
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  5. Chaos17

    Chaos17 Dreamer Veteran

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    Play Witcher or Trail in the Sky serie or Tyranny if you want to see politics.
     
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  6. HexMozart88

    HexMozart88 The Master of Random Garbage Veteran

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    Welp, I had to do a similar thing with religion in my game. I had to make both the Christians and the Atheists have good and bad people to make it seem as though I had a neutral standpoint and to not offend people. As far as politics, all I really have is a monarchy. My profile pic, the queen of Mazoku started out well, but got corrupted. Then there's the king of Kemono, who is basically Hitler, or any other fascist ruler. It also comes into play with the main character, who no one appreciates because he's only 15 and he's the king of the humans. However, that's not necessarily the main idea in my game. I think like the others were saying, if you can make it seem neutral, or make it satire and insult everyone, you'll be just fine. But whatever you do, don't go in and start bashing specific people just to get people to play your game. If you want to bash someone, bash everyone.
     
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  7. Titris Thrawns

    Titris Thrawns It's a trap! ...Or is it? Veteran

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    1) I think it would be interesting, but it depends on execution/actual game mechanics. It also depends on the scope of the game, will it just be exploring one political football or multiple? How will they interact with each other? Does it make sense in the overarching RPG narrative? Would the player make policy decisions throughout the game or just at the end? So many questions, I guess I should think of solutions...

    I second the suggestions of 'neutral' presentation, like a game documentary. Present both sides arguments and let the moral decision be in the players hands. That would be the best to promote critical-thinking and education. The problem there is... how to address a game ending without falling into 'propaganda' mode. That may be why 'real' politics are be avoided in games. A linear story about historical politics playing out could work, especially since history can inform our understanding of politics and policy decisions.

    2) Civilization/Empire games have used 'politics' to different degrees and have enriched that genre of game for me. The issue comes in balancing the 'Grand strategy' with the player's avatar/protagonist. Does the player train their rhetorical stat to win arguments or train demagoguery and win people over with charisma? Who are they winning against; diplomats, populace, key power players? Foreign and domestic? There was a steam game, Long Live The Queen, that I wanted to try out because it appeared it would have a RPG/Politics package. I think a lot of reviews talked about decisions leading to assassinations? *shrugs* That may be a game to research for more ideas.

    More random thoughts: Politics can quickly turn into moral and/or ethics discussions. Would the game also handle morality twists or presume the player's policy choices are morally just for simplicity's sake. Makes me think of Jedi or the theme of Palpatine perverting The 'Republic/Democracy = Good' into the 'Empire/Autocracy = Bad', thus giving the audience a clear judgement of good/evil politics. Which makes me think a 'neutral' political game cannot exist in a climate of 'you are with us or against us'. *shrugs some more*

    In conclusion: As long as the mechanics are fun, the political 'agenda' of the game can draw extra attention to a game. So bad press is good press? Wait, am I pushing capitalist propaganda with that point?
     
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  8. jweav8705

    jweav8705 Veteran Veteran

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    [THIS THREAD HAS BEEN MOVED TO POLITICO 5 GENERAL DISCUSSION]

    Seriously, any game you've played with factions is politically driven.
    Fallout 4 with the railroad, BoS, institute, and minuteman.
    Skyrim with the Imperial Army and the Stormcloaks.
    I won't include WoW though because a new player has to choose their faction before they have any idea about what's going on.

    If you push a SPECIFIC agenda, it becomes tasteless and disgusting. I have my own political beliefs, and they rather overwhelming to anyone I meet, but I'd hate to play a game where I'm forced to have to fulfill ANY political factions agenda.

    A game would become absolute propaganda.
    Absolute propaganda.

    Most games are. Look at Fallout 4.
    Look at the railroad fighting for the synths. Are the synths minorities? Immigrants?
    Look at the BoS quests, commandeering farm crops from the people (military industrial complex huur dduurr).

    Maybe I'm looking too deep into it, but I'm super hot over politics right now, and I can't stop seeing them everywhere I look. The only place they don't exist are in the games I make, and now they're on these forums and it just sucks.

    If you incorporate a political agenda into a game, it needs to be broad enough that there's way to many interpretive arguments for what the metaphor is that way no single idea can become the main consensus, or it needs to be so freaking specific that it's impossible for any real world political party/faction to be able to adopt/repeal your game on the bases of "this game supports/opposes our doctrine."

    Sorry, I'm done.
     
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  9. Titris Thrawns

    Titris Thrawns It's a trap! ...Or is it? Veteran

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    @jweav8705 Good examples! I'm ashamed WoW & Skyrim did not immediately jump into my mind as examples of games with politics. Fallout 4 sounds interesting, but from what I gather of your description, the factions are caricatures of specific politics instead of being a group is mutable. I have similar issues with WoW's Alliance/Horde(BC & Wrath of LK era) & Skyrim's Imperials/Stormcloaks. I was disappointed that my dwarf couldn't join the Horde because... reasons?, especially when they implemented the ability to transfer between the two factions. Granted, it is a fantasy political drama to push the pvp game mechanic, but It made less and less sense that the factions were warring when world destroyers were running amok. Thankfully, the politics were outside of player control and just part of the game's narrative. So even though a player choose a faction, it was less political decisions and more 'which side of the pvp map do I start on'.

    Skyrim gave the player a choice, but it almost turns into the same WoW faction choice. Choose a side, destroy opposing side. I liked how each side had it's pros and cons to allow a player to connect with both causes. Yet, the player has very little to do with actual politics. Instead of the player driving any political assertions or agendas, it's more 'Eh, this side seems less terrible' and gives an excuse for more hacking and slashing. The moot comes close, but is more 'dialogue choices to rearrange the civil war pieces' than a meaningful political discourse.

    Sounds like Fallout4 is similar. Reasons to shoot and boom instead of any discourse, compromise and seeing how policy decisions effect each faction's population.

    Fable 3 almost had an interesting political choice and view effects game mechanic. I feel it was over simplistic; 'Good' choices were keeping promises and people happy, but lead to an empty treasury, while 'Evil' choices were breaking promises and land/people exploitation. If it wasn't for the rent infinite money trick & 'Surprise! It's D-Day!' calendar shenanigans... Well Fable 3 almost had something there, but it is the best example of actual 'player policy decisions leading to game world impact'.
    I played a 'Good' person and raised money with rent so I could fill the treasury before the invasion. It was funny legalizing/subsidizing beer and seeing all the NPCs in various states of inebriation. I mistakenly thought I had plenty of time before the invasion to deposit my gold, so I ended up with the 'Good job being a good person, but everyone is dead' ending. Whoops!

    What speaks to me here is, even with political backdrops and caricature factions, political discussions can emerge. I think games simply politics into 'factions' the player can join and champion. But are there games that allow the player to shape and change the politics within each faction? To see the effects of said changes and allow for future shaping? Can this be made into a Player character controlled RPG or is it doomed to be left to the Grand Strategy game genre? I think it can be done, but would require a lot of branching. It seems a lot easier to set up linear political factions that are set to push one agenda with zero ability to adapt.

    I believe everything can be viewed as political if you look at it hard enough. Skyrim on the meta design level has children set to immortal. Warcraft's lore has always had race relation conflicts. Nintendo's localization changes can be viewed as censorship or creative license. I think the focus of using politics in games is to define why there is a conflict between two factions/ideologies, display the pros/cons of each and demonstrate the complex relationship of how the ideologies mix with each other. If it's wrapped and delivered with fun mechanics, then it's a game worth playing, regardless of who tries to use it for political expedience.

    Anywho, Thanks to any of you reading through my walls-o-text. Thanks to everyone in the thread for filling my head with ideas!
     
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  10. Eviticous

    Eviticous Node Js Developer By Trade, FF14 Player By Heart Veteran

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    Most people do not understand politics at all, so this is done very badly. If you get the research done right, then I could see it working.
     
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  11. Philosophus Vagus

    Philosophus Vagus The drunken bird dog of rpg maker Veteran

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    Eh, I have political intrigue written into the storyline of my game but it is obfuscated enough and isolated to the world the game takes place in so that unless the player really pays attention and is already a political analyst of sorts it is unlikely they will pick up on very many parallels to current day politics (which aren't so different from past day politics to be honest, but most people in my social spheres are polarized enough that they'll keep faith with their beliefs in the same breath that they condemn those self-same beliefs as failures while studying them historically) with which they would only use them to condemn my game as propaganda anyway.

    The world of your game should take center stage when shaping the politics that govern it, period. Otherwise like others have said it will be viewed as a propaganda tool at best (and least) and an ignorant caricature that portrays such policies in a false and overly-simplistic fashion at the worst and most often result of injecting politics into a game. Better to try and stay objective and use political squabbles in game as a vehicle for the plot and nothing more, rather than try and inject your own political beliefs haphazardly into the game, whatever they are. You just end up with a mess that way. Look at bioware for example, whether you agree that they are too political now or think they are spot on with their political commentary, the fact is they didn't have raving fans on either side of that fence back in the days of Origins or the ME trilogy for the most part, even though those games had more actual political discourse than either of those games' sequels. Yet because they tried injecting current politics into the more recent games even though actual political plot points are rarer they've divided their once loyal player base into raving polarized nutcases howling at the moon on reddit and other sites and calling each other all kinds of slanderous, hateful names over perceived rights and wrongs in a fictional game with no bearing on reality.

    Politics divides enough people already, oftentimes for the stupidest of reasons. Let's not bring that kind of senseless division of mostly good people into a mindless "us vs. them" collective to our gaming communities too as much as we can help it, please. Especially since people (or at least I do) often turn to gaming as a form of catharsis or escapism from precisely that kind of bs in their everyday lives.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
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  12. Amarok

    Amarok Veteran Veteran

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    the only game genre ive seen to manage politics quite well is the tactical rpg genre, and even then just a few games did it well for me.
    And like Philosophus noted, the reason is that the game world and the politics themselves take center stage, the whole story revolves around them.
    It also helps when the author is trying to make the audience think for themselves, instead of feed them his/her particular point of view.

    Politics are okay in any other medium i can think of, so probably the main reason why just dont work in videogames (most of the time) is simply because they are watered down or badly researched, maybe because the devs dont want to risk all the incoming heat from a full political story.
     
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  13. Arisa

    Arisa probably dead Veteran

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    It could work if it is done right. Politics are usually a pretty sensitive topic and could offend people if the game spams one sided opinions. Or if the game watches the news all day and tries to get any valuable information from what they want us to see. I've always tried to avoid this topic because I'm not that great at not offending people. :p

    Real life politics in games seems to be the worst. The information can become outdated, or it could be preposterous nonetheless. I would go further into this but I like my account. :p
     
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  14. jweav8705

    jweav8705 Veteran Veteran

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    Just to comment on what you wrote here really quick:
    I don't know about WoW because for me that game was just "do the quests get the levels."
    As far as Skyrim and FO4 are concerned, you can't shape the politics of anything (at least that I've discovered) but when playing between different factions, you have the option to demonstrate loyalty.

    It mostly goes like this:
    Get quest.
    Get quest objectives from faction 1.
    If you've been working with faction 2 and 3, alert them to faction 1's plans.

    There is never any "agenda changing," just opportunities to practice allegiance by either following a faction or betraying others.

    I'm unsure about Skyrim as a whole, I haven't even begun a single Stormcloak or Imperial quest. The minor factions (theif guild and assassins guild havent seemed to clash yet, they game talks about them working together). I haven't got too far into Skyrim, I find it boring and slow. I know it's supposed to be slow, and it's good at being slow but MMMAAANNN does that kill me.

    But your right, the "decisions" narrow down to what factions you want to be loyal to, not what the faction does.

    The following may contain FO4 spoilers for anyone who hasn't played, but it's mainly just faction descriptions.
    In FO4 these 4 factions seem to be the main narratives.
    Railroad: Justice for Synths
    Army: Justice for humans.
    Minute men: Justice for peace and harmony among everyone.
    Institute: Honestly...I don't really know, but they seem to be the only people who can push broom and clean up.
    You just kind of pick who you want to serve and go with it. You don't have the option with aligning with one of them and using their resources to push another factions agenda for yourself...at least not for very long. As soon as I finish the quest I have right now in FO4, I'm pretty sure the Institute will be done with me.
     
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  15. Caitlin

    Caitlin \(=^o^=)/ Kitten shall rule the world!!! Veteran

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    What do I think of politics in game? Well, let's discuss something without talking about any particular political belief. The Star Wars prequels were really badly done, as it had TOO MUCH politics and not enough action, that made the original Star Wars movies awesome. It felt that you were watching CSPAN instead of a science fantasy movie, which made it a tad bit boring. Having things complicated, because of politics might be a good thing to add, without talking about any real life political groups, political belief... If you did want to do that, you could consider doing what they did on Star Trek: The original Series. You see, Gene Roddenberry couldn't just state somethings outright, without upsetting the censors, so what he did was to change certain things into aliens.

    He could then discuss certain things without upsetting those censors and a lot of people had a lot of things to think about. As a matter of fact, I find that if you don't mention certain things and state things in a certain way most people agree on certain things. Another game, it was being made by RPG Advocate that used super long complicated words and didn't really sound interesting and from what I hear, I don't think he actually finished making it.

    I don't see how politics can be added in a meaningful way, but I suppose now that it's been put in my head, I'll likely think about it for a while.
     
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  16. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

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    I'll have you know that some of us rather enjoy being called all manner of "slanderous & hateful names".

    Personally if I manage to get through the week without being called a Fascist, a Communist, a Feminist, an MRA, a Snowflake, a Troll, an Autist, a Cuck, a Neckbeard, a Jew, a Nazi, a homophobe, a fag, an SJW, an Alt Righter, a racist, a race traitor, a tin foil hat, a member of the illuminati, etcetera, etcetera, be accused of worshipping the devil, get told I am "LITERALLY HITLER!", be offered a free helicopter ride, hear all about my reserved seat in the gulag, & pick up at least one death &/or rape threat from an internet tough guy, I feel as though I haven't lived up to my potential.:troll:
     
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  17. Philosophus Vagus

    Philosophus Vagus The drunken bird dog of rpg maker Veteran

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    @XIIIthHarbinger Well to each their own a guess? I use amateur cage fighting when video games aren't enough to relieve me of my angst and negative emotions but if trolling internet trolls works for you I guess that's perfectly fine too. My overall point though was to make sure that the politics line up with the game's world if you include them, (I'm sure mine will offend a few people too) if yours is meant to outright piss people off then more power to you; to many though include current politics simply for the sake of party line brownie points however, without any real purpose to the story outside of that. I feel they drag their game's potential down into the dirt by doing so.
     
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  18. Seacliff

    Seacliff RPG Maker Mastermind Veteran

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    I would imagine that if you want to bring politics into a relatable world, said politics will be based on the issues presented in our world. If so, you are probably writing a social commentary. If so, it depends on the issues and the solutions you may provide, not to mention your protagonist and especially your antagonist's views on the situation. Tread carefully then.

    Social commentaries are written for more than entertainment. They are written to express an ideal. The ideal could be presenting a problem or a solution to a problem. If a writer adds a relevant set of political arguments into a story without the intention of fleshing any of them out, then it might appear as the writer not caring about any of the problems to begin with.

    People reading anyone's work will hail from both sides from the spectrum, and most will see themselves as righteous. If viewers are presented a situation as black and white, then of course more than a few who relate to the black side might get angry regardless if they are left or right in our world. At the same time, those who align with the white side might not learn anything from the writer's commentary and just nod along in agreement, it's almost a lose-lose. No one likes being told they are wrong, especially if there is no argument to back up the claims against them, and those who agree are just being told what they already know.

    However, If an author were to write situations with a gray vs gray morality, assuming that both sides are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, then it's only going to work if the situation the author is adapting is a situations the author believes both sides can have a good argument for. I won't go into any examples because of my respect for the forum rules on politics, but let's just say a writer will have a hard time finding justifications for an opinion if said writer strongly stand against it and/or have no interest in knowing why people would hold such an opinion.

    It's complicated, but that's because the real world is complicated. Therefore trying to make a shadow of our world to express an ideal shouldn't be simple.

    So yes. I encourage it, but it's not easy.
     
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  19. jweav8705

    jweav8705 Veteran Veteran

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    Stop going to the board then.
    You know what I'm talking about.
     
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  20. Authumbla

    Authumbla Listen To My Soundcloud Fam? Veteran

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    I can vouch for Trails in the Sky being a good example of a political RPG. The writing in it, in general, is extremely sharp.

    Politics are really hard to write properly. You have to avoid sounding ham-fisted, and you'll ideally have to do a lot of research to make sure that you know what you're talking about.

    With that being said, if you care a lot about something, don't let people tell you that it's tacky to be political. Your art is always going to have a lot of you in it and your political beliefs aren't an exception. Whether it's how your heroes act or your villain's motivation, it's always going to be informed a little by what you believe in (as is everything, really).

    Just don't screw it up.
     
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