A video game that promotes violent communist revolution has been circulating unhampered since 2020, serving the needs of leftist ideologues while conservative voices warn about its explosive content.
“The ‘Tonight We Riot’ video game that was released in 2020 had players killing cops and capitalists with bricks and firebombs in order to carry out a communist revolution. It was released on the Nintendo platform and Steam,” independent conservative journalist and author Andy Ngô wrote to Twitter, bringing the matter to attention anew.
The game was developed by American studio Pixel Pushers Union 512 (PPU512) and released through Means Interactive; the former describes itself as a “a cooperative of creative folks,” while the latter “a video game publishing and development cooperative creating post-capitalist, leftist games.”
Available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and the Nintendo Switch, Tonight We Riot (TWR) boasts a “very positive” rating on Steam with 451 reviews, painting a picture of a future dystopian society where every common person is forced to work for a pittance while the wealthy and rich enjoy the good life at their secluded estates.
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However, the oppressors are framed as “capitalists,” while the suppressed are naturally leftist revolutionaries “rising up” complete with communist flags in tow.
Small-scaled upsurges are the name of the game. If the player organizes his team of mobsters well, they can violently overthrow an ever-increasing size of riot police squads and, eventually, implement their own vision of a communist state of salvation.
“What if we just made an honest-to-goodness leftist game that is unapologetically so, where we show that [leftist] structure, we show that there could be this fight, that it could have an actual culmination, that we could go somewhere with it?” PPU512 founder Ted Anderson told the Observer website what inspired them to create the game.
Quite the story
“On one level, it’s a cute little pixel art game,” Stephen Meyer, a TWR developer employed by PPU512 told Observer.
“But on another, there’s a mechanic here that’s different from normal game mechanics where there’s one protagonist embracing this ‘great man’ theory of history. No, no, no. It’s the movement. It’s the people rising up.”
One notable feature of TWR is that the player controls not just one individual hero, but a pack of roaming revolutionaries as they damn the proverbial man.
“There hasn’t been a game explicitly about toppling capitalism before,” says Means co-founder Naomi Burton.
“Seeing those anti-capitalist values that over 50% of young Americans have reflected in a video game makes all of us feel seen and heard, and reminded we’re not alone in the fight for a better future.”
Leftists feel at home
The idea of creating a niche for leftist gamers who want to play out their personal revolutionary comrade fantasy in a combat game seemed to catch on.
Socialist Gamers is a gamer community that connects leftist gamers and endorses games that are woke enough to fit within their ideologically determined boundaries.
At the same time, the platform seeks to push back against what it defines as an alt-right, misogynistic subculture that rules the industry.
“They wanted to carve out a place for leftist video game fans to meet and connect without the toxicity that’s all too prevalent in online gaming culture,” says Leslie, a self-identified female moniker and member of the platform since 2017, quoted by Observer.
“The industry itself still has a long way to go in terms of being more accessible and less misogynistic, but the themes and messaging that games are sharing with players are getting more and more revolutionary, and I think that’s absolutely a good thing,” she added.
TWR was, overall, well received in the gaming community and praised for its innovations, storytelling, and styling. Very few seemed to be concerned with the game’s explosive content and ideology.
A more balanced analysis
Robert Verbruggen, Contributing Editor to the more-conservative National Review, a frantic gamer himself, also reviewed TWR and while he appreciated the game’s wittiness and originality, he said in his article dubbed Antifa: The Video Game that the game is “too simple, short, and easy to justify its $15 price tag.”
Verbruggen described the game’s political statement as “an immature and deliberately offensive cry for help.”
“It’s pretty funny that socialists are selling an overpriced product via Nintendo’s latest console and the computer-game portal Steam, which is run by the multi-billion-dollar company Valve,” Verbruggen quipped.
“Come to think of it, who would expect socialism to produce a better game about street violence in 2020 than capitalism was producing 30 years ago anyway?” he added.