Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy

By | December 10, 2019

I’ve always been really interested in
history so interested in fact, I got a useless degree in it I also like video
games I really liked video games So you could understand why I’ve ended up
playing a lot of historical grand strategy games I’ve also played popular
games like civilization and total war and while those games are very fun and
relatively accessible Neither have a level of detail that can compare to the
several series of games produced by Paradox Interactive paradoxes games have
a reputation for depth that’s pretty well deserved, especially in comparison
to Civ or total war but there’s one big point that I want to discuss where I’ve found that they fail when it comes to representing ideologies left-of-center there’s a notable lack of depth and an over-reliance on stereotypes that
ultimately originates in anti-left propaganda Crusader Kings 2 and Europa
Universalis 4 are two of paradoxes biggest and most recent hits in this
genre set vaguely and the Medieval and Renaissance eras respectively While the historical periods of ck2 and eu4 are primarily dominated by what we now term
right or far-right politics with mostly kingdoms some oligarch republics and a
little bit of democracy. there are two games from paradox that cover later historical time periods when left politics were ascendant these are the
Victoria and Hearts of iron series For the sake of time I’ll mainly focus on
the most recent installments: Victoria 2 and hearts of iron 4 real quick before I move past Crusader Kings, you might have heard of the recent uproar from the
far right about the possible removal of the phrase Dave’s volt from the upcoming
Crusader Kings 3 I’m not gonna be talking about that since it’s a bit outside the scope of this video but if you do want to know more about that I
recommend AndarNation propaganda’s video Deus Vult and the paradox of
history, which I’ll link in the description but now let’s get started
with Victoria 2 Victoria 2 covers the years 1836 to 1936. Perfectly encapsulating an era of violent, frequently leftist revolutions. To compliment this revolutionary period the game has mechanics covering the
political alignments of the populace, their political consciousness and their
militancy throughout the game the politics of the population shift from conservative and reactionary to liberal and further left and then eventually to
socialism and communism during this time period anarchism was one of the major revolutionary political forces throughout Europe alongside socialism
and communism, which makes the two ways that anarchism appears in these games
confusing and flawed the most obvious appearance of anarchists are as a political faction called anarcho-liberals you’ll notice that these
anarcho-liberals appear to be flying the black and red flag usually used to represent
anarcho-syndicalists and anarcho-communists in these games however the
red and black flag is instead used to represent literally any and all rebels,
regardless of what kind of rebel they may be fascist, nationalists, religious,
whatever.. they’re all going be flying this flag while the flag of anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists appears in Victoria 2, these political
ideologies themselves… don’t the true identity of these anarcho liberals can be discerned by focusing on a key term in their description free market to further this point when the anarcho-liberals take control of a country the government becomes a bourgeois dictatorship ruled by free markets
without any government intervention like minimum wages or limited hour workdays based on these facts I have a hard time categorizing these guys as anarchists without getting into the issues of anarcho-capitalism overall, the fact that
these guys preferred form of government is a dictatorship of the bourgeois is
enough for me to conclude that these people don’t represent the kind of
anarchists you’d find in the game’s historical time period and if paradox thinks they do… then paradox doesn’t really know what anarchism is the weirdest thing about the inclusion of these guys in the game is the notable absence of non capitalist anarchism weirdly left-wing anarchism isn’t
represented as a party or ideology despite having immense historical
significance during this time period unlike the anarcho-liberals who weren’t
really a thing Victoria includes Pierre Joseph
Prudhon, considered by many to be the father of anarchism but only as an invention that increases your country’s prestige with a little blurb very briefly mentioning libertarian socialism in other words, just a little footnote like your country getting credit for making impressionist
art or rubber vulcanization the only other representation of anarchists is anarchic bomb throwers a crime event that can occur in a territory of administration and crime-fighting statistics are very low, which increases
the revolutionary desire of the territory I’m not just complaining that
my favored political ideology isn’t in a game i like if there were no anarchists
and that would be one thing but to include an anachronistic anarcho-capitalist faction when this was such a heyday for actual anarchism… seems
weird to me this time period covers the events of the Paris Commune of 1871, the Ukrainian free territory of 1918, and the Korean anarchist Federation in Manchuria
of 1929 while each of these had a fairly brief existence at least they were… you know, real? in the context of leftist history the Paris Commune is a famous event for both anarchists and communists and yet it doesn’t even get a blurb in an
event pop-up or anything like that if we discount the game to anarcho-capitalists since they didn’t actually exist then the only portrayals of historical
anarchists in the game are as dynamite obsessed criminals who don’t have a
coherent ideology worth talking about while this representation is far from
historically accurate it does line up perfectly with stereotypes of anarchists
that were prevalent during this period from “Anarchism in British public
opinion 1880 to 1914” by Haia Shpayer Makov: in other words, Victoria twos depiction
of anarchists resembles historical reality much less than it resembles old
propaganda that presented anarchism as more of a symptom, even a criminal
pathology, rather than as an ideology and legitimate political movement while anarchism is oddly snubbed by Victoria 2 despite its historical significance, communism does appear, although its appearance is equally soured by stereotypes while communism during this period was an untested idea with many
different interpretations Victoria 2 chooses to only represent communism as it existed in the early USSR while certainly the most common examples of communism in modern minds are of totalitarian single-party States this isn’t so much due to the actual ideological underpinnings of communism it has much more to do with what flavours of communism have happened to be most
successful in a world overrun by capitalist States all too willing to use
any means to restrict the possibility of structural economic change simplifying communism down just to Marxist-Leninism Due to its historical success only
makes sense if you ignore the fact that the Marxist Leninist interpretation of
communism was largely shaped by the political and economic situation of
Russia at the time of the revolution rather than being a fully industrialised
democratic capitalist state like much of Western Europe Russia before the Revolution was a feudal absolute monarchy the method of centralized and
generally authoritarian rule by the revolutionaries was undoubtedly influenced by the situation that they were trying to escape from while this form of communism seemed to make sense to many Russians at the time it generally didn’t make as much sense in many countries in Western Europe where
communist revolutions did take place but with less success in countries with
well-developed democratic traditions powerful trade unions and industrial
capitalism a revolution of a more libertarian Marxist
character, with expanded Democratic possibilities, could have occurred by ignoring dissenting opinions on the role of democracy in communism. communist states in Victoria 2 are only ever able to have a reactionary approach towards
political freedoms in attempting to represent this via game mechanics, communism in Victoria 2 is inherently opposed to political reforms like expanding voting rights, allowing labor unions, or having a free press You can’t do this to me, I’ll strike! the state forbid strikes Wait till the union hears about this! ah yes the Union, welcome to
our ranks number 1313 this results in strange situations where
you can have a communist government supporting the legalization of slavery Eh, the farm vote’ll put a stop to this! farmers don’t vote anymore! what’ll I do for seed next year? you won’t have to worry about next year the state will do your planning from now on! even if the Communists take power in a country via democratic elections rather than a revolution they continue to support the rollback of voting rights regardless of the existing political situation this is because, in Victoria 2s model, an authoritarian dictatorship is the
preferred form of government for all communists, which they will continue to agitate for until it is achieved while this isn’t accurate it does allow paradox to use a simplistic and monolithic understanding
of communism which, as I’ll discuss later, has its inspiration in the anti-communist anxieties of the past shifting our focus to the economic side
of communism in Victoria 2 doesn’t make things much better even though from an
economic perspective communism and capitalism are usually considered polar
opposites, Victoria 2 oversimplifies that continuum so that the most communism you
can have is essentially just state capitalism Laissez-Faire capitalism is
well represented, with capitalists making sweeping economic decisions based on
whims, and dooming factories and workers to disuse and unemployment on the other side, with a planned economy, the player decides which factories are built and can subsidize the employment of workers but beyond this there is no change in
the fundamental way that the economy is organized by showing communism as just capitalism but the state has more control the game glosses over the fundamental differences in property relations between capitalism and communism which is kind of the most important difference! because the workers can’t own the factories, one of the main ideas of communism and one of its biggest theoretical benefits: communal ownership of the means of production is impossible while this may be, again, an attempt to simulate soviet-style communism with de facto state ownership acting as a proxy for worker ownership the end result is that communism is “when the government does all the things” which is the same level of understanding of communism you’d get from a PragerU video if we jump forwards in history a little bit, we can see another recent entry in one of paradoxes popular franchises, hearts of
iron 4, making a lot of these same mistakes this supports the idea that Victoria 2’s representation of leftist politics isn’t an exception… it’s the rule with hearts of iron 4 starting in 1936 there’s a great opportunity to
present the events of the Spanish Civil War a conflict in which both communism
and leftist anarchism played a big part to summarize the conflict extremely briefly it included both anarcho-syndicalists and communists initially cooperating on the Republican side against Franco’s fascists ultimately this alliance broke down and the anarcho-syndicalist were driven out of power and suppressed, by communist forces operating in concert with supporters from the Soviet Union hearts of iron 4 has things go… a bit
different immediately upon the outbreak of the war Republican Spain becomes just fully communist anarchists are mentioned as part of the International Brigades and as part of the forces on the Communist side but this is only flavor text the events within the Spanish Civil War on the anti Franco side, like the conflicts between the soviet supported communists versus anarchists and the anti
Soviet communists aren’t represented and ultimately the anarchists are only included as a footnote unity within the Republican Spanish ranks is unquestioned this view is in line with the anti-communist propaganda of the time which represented the Spanish Civil War as a simple struggle against godless
Bolsheviks by Franco’s rebels from “Red Scare 1936: anti-bolshevism and the origins of British non intervention in the Spanish Civil War”: fearing the nationalization of British companies holdings within Spain and the possibility of communism
spreading into France and Portugal should the Spanish Republicans be
victorious British politicians pushed a strategy of non-interference for themselves and for France from the same source: the British non-intervention strategy left
the Republican forces to rely heavily upon the Soviets while Franco’s forces received support from Italy hearts of iron 4’s configuration of Republican Spain as exclusively communists aligned with the USSR erases the legitimate question of why the UK and to a lesser extent France refused to provide material support to the Republicans in their fight against Franco the excuse provided by British anti communist propaganda is given undue precedence
compared to the actual reason: fear of British wealth being expropriated by the proletariat which led conservatives in Britain to quietly back Franco’s fascism so that they wouldn’t lose any of their money ultimately, what does this revisionism accomplish well, for one; it saves paradox time and effort they don’t have to explain or model a complicated multi-side conflict with internal struggles it can just be fascism versus communism it also saves them from having to get into what anarcho-syndicalism actually is since in their representation it’s mechanically identical to statist, Stalinist, communism while both syndicalism and even anarcho-communism are featured as sub ideologies in the game sub ideologies are just labels, and
they don’t have any mechanical effect what this means is that even if you have
a nation which is labeled as syndicalist or anarcho-communist, they remain statist
and authoritarian again, this simplification ignores the real differences between leftist ideologies and compresses them all into a Soviet shaped mold a glaring example of this is revealed when we talk about elections as a communist nation you can intentionally create support for democratic reforms, open a national conversation about democracy, and then ultimately, hold a referendum on
if democracy is right for your country and if it is.. you stop being communist communism and democracy in this game are mutually exclusive what this means is that in the context of a continuum between fascism, democracy, and communism we see that hearts of iron 4 models its politics off of the horse-shoe theory in hearts of iron 4 the differences between fascism and communism are effectively just that fascism can make war declarations more easily and communism can force other countries to become communist neither can have elections and both are totalitarian these mechanical similarities also extend into the economic systems in the game since the economic options don’t include anything resembling a planned economy or
communism they’re just a continuum between an economy only producing civilian goods and one only producing military items which causes the economies of fascist and communist nations to be mechanically identical this makes the differentiation between fascists and communists just a question of what decorations you want on your authoritarian empire I had to pick a side George, it was an aesthetic choice as much as a moral one the problem with this goes back to the very narrow view of what communism can look like which we also saw in Victoria 2 these these games say.. communism can happen anywhere, but it can only be Stalinism the belief that all communists are aligned
politically and ideologically with the USSR, or more recently Communist China has been the inspiration for anti-communist propaganda from before the Spanish Civil War, through to the American Red Scare and beyond on a mechanical level, this simplification of communists being indistinguishable from fascists is likely inspired by, and in turn supports that same long-running propaganda campaign to muddy the waters of what communism actually means by turning communism into just another variant of fascism you make communist ideology immediately dismissable by association number one: the Nazis were of the left, the nazis were of the left the split between the National Socialists and the communists was a split over power, not over fundamental principle and the fact is that the communists were Fascists I don’t draw a massive distinction really, ideologically between Nazism and communism because they both have the same source while the simplicity and shallowness of the portrayal of communism in these games could be the result of some intentional anti-communist bias within paradox it could just as easily be the result of lazy research and lazy implementation this wouldn’t be the only example of that either for instance, in hearts of iron 4, Pol
Pot is listed as an anarcho-communist which has no basis in reality that I
could find and as numerous people on the forums pointed out: Pol Pot would have been 11 years old at the start of this game in 1936 making it very odd that he’d be running Cambodia another oddity is the description of the party that starts out in power in Austria: the Austrian fatherland front they’re listed by Wikipedia as a far-right Austro-fascist party but paradox has their government type marked as “centrist” but…what does centrism as a government type devoid of any other context mean? the description provided by paradox: “centrism is a form of government which wants to achieve common-sense solutions that appropriately address current and future needs that support the public trust and serve the common good with consideration of risk and capacity in
context of these needs this is a super weird way to describe a Nationalist Party modeled after Italian fascism if you look into things a bit, the Fatherland
front actually did *claim* to be nonpartisan which I could see someone interpreting as non-political or centrist but even a glance at their Wikipedia page shows this centrism to be less Angela Merkel… and more Tim Pool to clarify: I don’t think that either of these things are examples of paradox making a choice to whitewash a fascist party or intentionally associating anarcho-communism with Pol Pot as some way to discredit the ideology what’s far more believable to me is that these are examples of paradox making decisions quicker than they can really think about them and skimming the surface of topics
where a deeper look would be warranted I honestly think that this is a case of
quick low effort decisions being made and it’s in these situations where
propaganda can be the most effective propaganda typically relies on quick and
simple explanations of complex issues which makes it the perfect accomplice
for those trying to move quickly through complex topics like a filled out answer sheet casually passed to you by someone who looks suspiciously like Mussolini in this way grand strategy game development and propaganda are sort of a match made in heaven they have a symbiotic relationship with propaganda facilitating easier production of games which then spread that very propaganda one last point I want to touch on regarding communism in these games is the tone of the writing about it going back to Victoria 2, the description of the communist workers goal of a stateless utopia has to be qualified with the inescapable bloodiness of communism and this trend continues on to hearts iron 4 with the description of Stalin mentioning the great cost in human lives of Russian industrialization interestingly, the description for
Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy don’t mention their political or racist violence and there’s even a fawning description of Hitler’s economic successes that last point in particular is notable because it’s a commonly repeated talking point on the right especially when they feel like they need
to say something nice about Hitler if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well okay fine the the problem is that he wanted, he had
dreams outside of Germany hearts of iron 4 for takes a similarly negative tone towards communism in the generic communist tech tree with descriptions like: “internationalism focus”: ideology knows no borders another nation may call itself sovereign but our convictions are above such claims and “political correctness”: people holding mildly controversial or otherwise embarrassing opinions appear to be concerned that there is a wide reaching conspiracy against them this seems like an excellent idea certainly political oppression existed within the USSR and one could argue that communism is a
threat to a certain kind of sovereignty but, this cartoonishly villainous
description of communism isn’t matched by a similar tone for the fascists for example, some matching tech descriptions from the same level of the fascist tech tree: “nationalism focus”: our nation is unique and our political achievements could only have happened here we must fight for it at any cost and, “militarism”: those who view the military as a necessary evil are doomed to hesitate in the face of war we will ingrain militarism into our culture to become a people of soldiers so now communism and fascism aren’t just being portrayed as equally bad anymore now we’ve got descriptions which have a
specifically negative tone directed towards the Communists while these games generally pretend that they’re non-political in most of their descriptions and representations the idea of a non political game about
history is an obvious oxymoron even with non political as their goal the biases of the developers will inevitably slip into their work particularly the unconscious biases and unconscious biases are often formed from messages and imagery found in propaganda so, ultimately, what are these games
saying about leftist ideologies? one consequence of the ‘Stalinism only’ communism of these games is that they reinforce existing cultural
stereotypes about communism in the same way that conservatives who constantly ask “but what about Venezuela?” are repeating an unhelpful and inaccurate
thought terminating cliche these games are repeating an older set of cliches that prevent serious engagement with the idea of communism basically… it’s lazy it means the developer doesn’t need to really think about how communism works outside of ‘fascism without some of the nationalism’ and it means that the people playing these games won’t be challenged on their existing beliefs about what communism is and how it works while this is expedient, it has the major
downside of repeating propaganda uncritically and carrying water for rabid anti-communists, who tend to have fascist leanings while the messages these games
have about communism are pretty obviously the result of oversimplification stemming from a reliance on propaganda the messages about anarchism are much less clear anarchists are, according to these games: simultaneously not important enough to meaningfully include but also one of the most prevalently annoying types of rebels in Victoria 2 as the Anarcho-liberals the games say that anarchism is a distinct leftist ideology but also that it isn’t different from communism in any way and can be folded into communism without discussion Anarchists are represented as bomb-throwing assassins except where they need to appear as rebels who desire a dictatorship of the rich the anarcho-communist flag is used to represent all non-government armed forces and yet, the flag itself also somehow represents nothing at all the overall message from the developers seems to be: “we don’t really understand anarchism, and you don’t need to either” these messages have the end result of making left-wing ideas either undesirable or at least impossible to intellectually engage with due to the frequent repetition of anti-communist and anti anarchist stereotypes these propaganda-driven stereotypes rely on being able to explain ideas quickly and simply making them easier to consume by a general audience than accurate information this then creates a snowball effect of propaganda the stereotype appears in films books and newspapers at a higher rate and volume than the truth
can keep up with and then ultimately this regurgitation becomes accepted fact for a large portion of society if you’ve seen my video about capitalism and the Sims then you know that paradox aren’t alone in conveying pro-capitalist, pro-status quo, anti left propaganda in their games without necessarily even realizing it what makes the repetition of propaganda worse in this case is that while the Sims is pretty explicitly an aspirational fantasy game that only kind of looks like reality paradoxes games are intended to be based on the real world, and its real history if it seems like I’m giving paradox a lot of benefit of the doubt as far as ignorance versus maliciousness in spreading these messages that’s because paradox are, by their own admission, armchair historians “Does Paradox Interactive have historians on staff when making a new game/expansion?” “we don’t really, we are armchair historians just like everyone else edit: actually now that we are much
bigger we probably do have someone that studied history in university or something but for the games you mentioned, definitely not” in light of comments like this it’s easy to see why in the rush to complete these projects they found themselves at the mercy of relying on the simplest explanations available which in this case, happen to have their roots in propaganda by presenting communism as only Stalinism and the leftist anarchism as either
non-existent or not meaningfully different from Stalinist communism these games create a situation where the biggest ideological gap is only between capitalist democracy and the mostly identical extremes of fascism and communism this is not only a silly oversimplification but also ignores that capitalism and fascism frequently have a symbiotic relationship and that communism is not inherently antithetical to democracy these decisions to avoid a nuanced understanding of anything left of center ultimately results in a kind of “safe space” for people who are into centrist and right-wing ideologies centrists won’t be challenged on the idea that maybe a neoliberal democratic capitalism isn’t the final “correct” ideology far-right people won’t be challenged in their belief that communism is a murderous death cult one which *their* murderous death cult of super racists have to violently oppose at any cost and neither group will be challenged by the
idea that anarchism is a well-established political ideology and not just an excuse to spray-paint the cool ‘A’ on things and listen to loud music in real life, a lot of people aren’t satisfied with the status quo which makes sense, because the status quo sucks and I think it’s worth pointing out that the messaging of these games funnels people to the right if they’re
dissatisfied with the status quo since the left isn’t presented as having
anything worthwhile to say the far right becomes an appealing option to folks who are looking for radical change at the end of the day, these mechanics find
themselves serving the same conservative, anti-communist, and anti-anarchist purposes that they were originally designed for over the last couple years paradox have made moves to distance themselves from the more terrible far-right sections of their audience and while these changes are a step in the
right direction they don’t change the fundamental
mechanics of their games that create an atmosphere that is conducive to far-right rhetoric fortunately it appears that paradox are planning to make positive changes in a mechanical direction as well the recently announced la resistance expansion for hearts of iron 4 promises an expanded Spanish Civil War with mechanics for both non-Stalinist aligned communists and anarchist forces assuming these promises are fulfilled the result will be a more fleshed-out and fair portrayal of both anarchists and communists than have ever been seen in these games by actually changing the mechanics surrounding these ideologies paradox can finally escape from the propaganda cycle that these games have thus far been trapped in by extension, this also means that their
audience will be exposed to these ideologies in a way that isn’t so mired in the baggage of propaganda for the people who like these games it’s not just real history that inspires the imagination it’s the possibility of what history ‘could have been’ as a result of these positive changes from this more impartial starting point what ‘could have been’ for both anarchism
and communism can, in the imagination of the audience, turn into ‘what could be’ hey folks, hope you enjoyed my video if you did like my video then you’ll definitely like my friend Becca’s videos and she just came out with a new one about Elizabeth Warren and how she’s not as progressive as you might think that’ll be linked in the description (off camera) do a little ‘thumbs up’ and just say like ‘check it out’ check it out!

61 thoughts on “Paradox Interactive is Not Immune to Propaganda: Leftist Politics in Grand Strategy

  1. Shane Vincent Post author

    The HoI4 Spanish Civil War section was incredibly confusing. All depth and variety in that game is obtained almost exclusively via the National Focus Tree, and Spain having only the generic National Focus Tree means that any true unique mechanics are impossible. Both sides are oversimplified as a result.

    If you really want to cover this subject you should read their dev blogs on the Nation Focus Tree that is currently being worked on for Spain. There is a dedicated section of the focus tree just for the Anarchists and they are being labeled as "Unaligned" (In HoI4 "Unaligned" is a blanket term for every ideology that isn't Democratic, Communist, or Fascist) although they do concede "as Anarchist society is inherently incompatible with the way Nation-States are represented in HoI4, we’ve had to get creative with their representation."

  2. afaultytoaster Post author

    You can have democracy and communism in HoI4 at the same time, look at Mexico

  3. xylophone Post author

    In my videogames?
    It's more likely than you think!

  4. Kit Vitae Post author

    Hey, would you consider doing subtitles for these videos?

  5. Carlos Post author

    Love this video!.
    I agree about your criticism to paradox.
    But it let me thinking about marxists and anarchist mechanics in games. Paradox also do city builders games, like my favourite Cities Skylines. But it's imposible to have a communist or anarchist city.
    So i had played other citybuilder games, like "workers and resources of the soviet republic" which is a very good game, with some good communist (stalinist) mechanics.
    But how would an anarchist city builder game, or strategy game would be?
    There is plenty of room for imagination and new mechanics.
    Just imagine a city builder where sims (or Cims) have an opinion and vote!!!. Ive been spamming paradox forums and subs asking for that.
    The tropico series have some of these mechanics. Sims vote, Sims demand, sims protest, sims have a life.
    I dont know, there is so much to imagine and create if developers just let their imagination go away from capitalist propaganda.

  6. Anarcho-Adalia Post author

    They labelled a far-right party as "Centrism"? That sounds about right, I've heard plenty of far-right people who called themselves centrists before.

  7. jdawg Post author

    My two interests are Paradox grand strategy games and council communism so this is a good video for me.

  8. Pablo Varela Post author

    I love that my breadtubers are allways backing each other up. Let's check out Becca.

  9. Jerthanis Post author

    I think in addition to being a result of propaganda influencing the subconscious biases of developers, I think Hoi4 at least is a very meme-centered game. The idea of "political correctness" is treated like a memetic joke in the description you mention, and in some respect defangs the idea by being so blatantly propagandistic it's hard not to read it as a joke. In the Mexico focus tree introduced in Man the Guns, Leon Trotsky can take over the government of Mexico and declare war on the Soviet Union, which is a ridiculous concept from front to back, but it's memey. Interestingly enough, that focus tree allows for Mexico to be a Communist government that still has elections, and a lot of the focuses leading up to it tie Mexico's history of revolution to agrarian socialism fighting against the landlord class, so it's clearly a small step away from presenting leftist ideas as simplistically as they did before.

    It's worth noting that HOI4 simplified a much more complicated ideology tracker from HOI3 with the intent to enable a greater freedom for players to change ideologies and enable a greater diversity of faction swapping. It is simpler to think of Democracy/Fascism/Communism as indicating what side of a three-way conflict you will be a part of, and thus when you're playing as Romania, Democracy means allies, Communism means comintern, Fascism means Axis, and Unaligned means going it alone. It lets you set the computer AI for the US to "Fascist" and Japan's to "Communist" and thus change the battle lines. (Except AI Japan's communists or democrats never win the civil war, so they're never really an option)

  10. UnderTheThunder Post author

    Ight imma subscribe now.

    I've noticed this, and it really, REALLY fucking frustrated me.

  11. MrNoobomnenie Post author

    I think, it will be very interesting if you will also analize the HoI4 take on alternate history (via focus trees) from the ideological perspective.

  12. YEET Post author

    Saved me some times I've seen this game on sale so many times I wonder to pick it up. Now, I know if I want a eye rolling simulator I'll just go look at some red scare propaganda or Europes version the communist specter.

  13. DudiTheGreat Post author

    Stellaris: A game with a political spectrum ranging from fascist genocidal authoritarianism to… socialist democracy. No, you cant not have a currency. Great work guys

  14. A.C.E Post author

    So the new Focus in Spain is covering the POUM (Independent Communist), the CNT-FAI (Anarcho Syndicalist/Anarcho Communist) And the Stalinist Communist in Spain. Fleshing out both the Republican faction and also the Nationalist with their own factions that can end up taking over after the war is over. Even though the Anarchist are labeled not as Libertarian Socialist or some form of Syndicalism like in Kaiserreich: Legacy of the Weltkrieg (Which I think makes a better depiction of the varying level of ideologies that may exist in the world aside from the COM/DEM/FST trichotomy) They are instead labeled as non-aligned, not the best step but at least they're learning

  15. Creopl Tily Post author

    Just want to say I just found your channel today and I'm glad I did. Your videos are great!

  16. will-Ev Post author

    Good video i would have maybe interjected about alpha centauri but it falls to capitalist propoganda aswell-

    You handled marxist leninism fairly well for an anarchist

  17. morphingfaces alien grey moth whistles Post author

    super informative well made video, thanks  for your work comrade you have solid content!

  18. Panzeh Post author

    I think Hearts of Iron 4 suffers from being pulled in multiple directions, from the idea of being a good, meat and potatoes wargame on one side, and then being a 1936 simulator on the other. Most wargames don't really bother too much with with the mechanics of the different governments as in war time, they became more similar, rather than more different with the needs of wartime mobilization.

    Most spanish civil war games(at least in the cardboard space) do include the anarchists and the other factions of the Republican side, though usually in terms of their military significance(the Durruti column, for example.).

    The Victoria II notion of politics is quite bizarre and i'm not hugely into what the game offers, Anarcho-Liberalism is some bizarre inclusion but not necessarily the biggest sin in victoria 2 politics. I generally prefer more focused games that pick a thing to be about and then focus on being a good game in that context, rather than vague everything-games where you play the disembodied God of History but only for one country.

  19. WarMom Post author

    Dang, that got more and more grim the more the video went on.

    In the context of Victoria, it really sounded like it was a limitation of the game's scope (not that that justifies it) – but in that it's a State Simulator. Same way as in, say, Civilization, your only method of manifesting your will is through a state apparatus, so by definition, Anarchism doesn't make sense to you, it doesn't, it *can't*, enter into your consciousness as anything other than an annoyance or setback. But then, oh lord, you went and reminded me of how 'you know, fascism is *practical*' these games can get.

  20. PuNcH BoI Post author

    Imagine having to explain to your manager what is anarchism and what is communism,yea I don't blame them

  21. FaeQueenCory Post author

    I hate "reactionary" being an adjective meaning "right-wing" and "radical" meaning "left-wing".
    They're such loaded terms that give an inherent implication that the Right is always justified, while the Left is always extreme/unjustified.
    The Right doesn't react to anything when they march into Fascism. If anything, the left is the reactionary side, always growing in response to the bullshittery the Right shits out.

    At least unless one considers Jews and people of color existing at all as something that can be "reacted to" legitimately.

  22. marxmeesterlijk Post author

    Love your content. You're one of my favorite lefty u2be content creators.

    I think it's also worth mentioning that these games are produced under a capitalist system by a capitalist company with capitalist goals. So it makes senses that they operate from that perspective.

  23. Tyler D Post author

    It's not a political strategy game, but I'm now a bit nervous about how paradox's upcoming Bloodlines 2 is going to handle the Anarchs… the original game and the source material already were far from perfect, but I was hoping for an improvement from "angry vampire in a red beret calls you bougie and says vampires could be better at communism than humans and then doesn't elaborate on her politics or philosophy at all." Hopefully it has a better educated writing team than the games you discussed.

  24. Josh Petry Post author

    Wow! You're really killing it with these video topics. All very niche stuff that happens to apply specifically to me.
    Love the video, as always!!

  25. Jason Abrams Post author

    Don't know what you are talking about. Everything left of the democratic party is just waves of evil Russians who are both very dangerous and easily defeatable.

  26. Balmung60 Post author

    To be fair, the next HOI4 expansion will give a LOT to de-simplify the Spanish Civil War, and the rest of the world reacts to an anarchist Spain exactly how you'd expect

    Also, you can mechanically have elections under communism or fascism in HOI4. They just don't really do anything.

  27. David Laurin Post author

    It’s really great to have some discussion about Paradox games! I love their games and there need to be a real leftist discourse and community around those games. I find the eu4 fandom can be very bad and out right fascist.

  28. Terra Torment Post author

    Stellaris in it's megacorp update added a communist civic for fanatic egalitarian empires. It equalizes political power between elites and workers as well as consumption between the two.

  29. Wilton Cortez Post author

    It would be great to see someone do a leftist ideology mod for Victoria 2 so you could do cool things like recreate the Free State Territory of Ukraine or the Bavarian Soviet Republic.

  30. Supermikhail Post author

    Seems like another example for my hypothesis that every online community focused on history or politics eventually turns into a right-wing racist cesspool, without special care to prevent that. Let me emphasize "without special care". I don't know why that is, but I just use that as a rule of thumb for my browsing to take care of my sanity.

  31. Philip Enders Post author

    Excellent video, just subscribed! I would be very interested in what a grand strategy game WITH these discussions inherent would look like.

  32. Askoldyr Post author

    As someone who has worked on HOI4 mods- a lot of the earlier problems you mention (specifically the "centrist" fascists and the Spanish civil war) are a result of paradox's lack of content actually in the game, and laziness regarding proper implementation of the nations already in. I wouldn't particularly say that's slmething that's especially true for communist nations, and more just the lack of in-depth content in the game in general, though I do see how it plays into stereotypes. And the generic focus tree localisation… Is just heavily lazy writing that is, yeah, heavily influenced by propoganda. I'd recommend the mods for these games if anyone is interested in deeper explorations of ideologies, anyways.

  33. Diphyllum Post author

    At least eu4 is the right time period to build the greatest left wing state of them all, the Sikh Empire!… okay by greatest I mean they had religious tolerance, no death penalty, universal education, comparative gender equality, free food programs and a comprehensive strategy for resisting hierarchical oppression. But yeah the game doesn't go that in depth about them and the amount of the map they actually ruled in the time period is not much, but at least the game is the perfect time to roleplay as their ascendancy! 1469 = birth of Guru Nanak, 1800 = Ranjit Singh's conquest of Lahore… and let's just pretend the wars with the British circa 1850 didn't happen, because that's after 1821 and therefore doesn't exist

  34. Airnspace Post author

    I'm not even an ML but like tbh even Vicky's depiction of ML is rather based out of propaganda.

  35. Daniel Xie Post author

    Should have a sequel titled Game Mods is Not Immune to Propaganda given how far to the right Kaiserreich has shifted recently from refusing to budge on their Nazbolish "big bad" ideology on the far left to outright colonial and monarchist apologia in some cases.

  36. Redem10 Post author

    I'm a bit annoyed that I can't really chose the economic system of my empire in Stellaris unless my empire is all about economic

  37. Eric Guier Post author

    At first I thought it would be a right-winger ranting about how Paradox is a bunch of cucked Swedes writing "Right side of history" propaganda into their games, but instead it was the opposite!

  38. John Smith Post author

    Fuck. Paradox Interactive takes theoretical advice from Ancaps.

  39. David Ballantyne Post author

    Hello! I'm afraid you've put much more thought into this than anyone at Paradox did. It mostly comes down to individual developers deciding on one thing or another rather than any overarching policy. E.g. In Vic2 Anarcho-liberals are just there to give liberals an extreme version. In HoI4 everything's just about how soon you can declare wars or otherwise drive conflict, so Communism focusing on the idea that it wants to violently install itself in other nations.

  40. Dav id Post author

    Also in another paradox game, stellaris, the civic which was advertised as the "communist" civic really only implies an equal distribution of consumer goods, but makes no mention of the abolition of capital, collectivization of industry, and worse yet, still has the worker, specialist and ruler class distinctions.
    Paradox's full of nerdy lib devs with an alarming misunderstanding of politics despite the grand scale of the games they promise to create. These faults are not just to save time, since when you hear them in interviews, they always have these grand ideas for complex, realistic yet fun pseudosimulations with RPG elements and so forth. They say they like manageable complexity, a fun simulation, but how true to the complexity of reallity a given part of the game is depends solely on whether they bother to understand it to put it in the game. Alot of the things you brought up are pretty easy to fix with mods, so I'm sure the devs could do it. But they don't, even when fans talk about it.

  41. Marlon Brando Post author

    After watching the entire video I must heavily disagree with your take on how Leftism is portrayed in Vic2 and HoI4. Not that there aren't certain issues in these games but your video paints a lopsided picture of how these ideologies are represented. First up Victoria 2.
    In Vic2 every ideology besides fascism is represented by a moderate version which is open to democracy and a radical version which wants to abolish it. The axis are conservative – reactionary, liberal – anarcho-liberal and socialist – communist. Anarchists are found in the broad socialist camp while authoritarian Marxist-Leninism is found in the communist category. That socialist parties have state Capitalist or planned economy is not the best representation but the closest Vic2's economic system can get to try and simulate the will of the people.
    Insinuating that leftism (although you only really spoke about anarchism) is treated badly in the game is a strange statement to make. Every experienced Vic2 player loves socialists in the upper house as passing social reforms like better schooling, better access to healthcare and a high minimum wage are, while not essential for a successful game, highly appreciated and beneficial to the country. The only reason(s) why socialist parties are ever disliked as a ruling party are Planned Economy if someone doesn't want to micromanage everything and a general tendency to be Anti-War/Pacifist.
    Now to HoI4 starting with the little things. That Communist Cambodia and Austrofascist Austria are the way they are in the game comes down to one simple fact, the game, at least initially on game launch, only modelled governments aligned with either the UK, Germany or the Soviet Union. The ideologies are more or less cast in stone with Communism being Marxist-Leninism. Unaligned nations are all democracies, monarchies and dictatorships that don't support any one of the parties in general. There are a few exceptions but those are irrelevant. Additionally that Pol Pot serves as head of government has the simple reason that Cambodia is irrelevant during the time period. Similarly in South America several (potential) heads of government were children or not even born. As you correctly deduced it was laziness, not malice.
    The Spanish war in the base version of HoI4 represents both sides of the conflict badly and was not a focus of development until now. I find it strange however that you solely focused on the lack of diversity on the Republican side while ignoring that the Nationalist side, whom you simply stamp as fascist, was equally ignored. Luckily both sides will be expanded upon in the next DLC and the Anarchists even get a whole unique path in which a commune forms, if you can survive.
    Lastly the idea that economic mobilisation laws are a sort of horseshoe analogy is a poor reading of the mechanic. These laws simply describe to how much industrial capacity the player, as the state, mobilises/has access to for military matters. The delay for democratic countries to increase mobilisation has the simple historical reason that these countries were often slow to mobilise and had to be in a much worse spot for property rights to be suspended.
    In the end your video contains a lot of half truths which I hope to have cleared up.

  42. Kowl oyes Post author

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  43. TheGr8Whoopdini Post author

    Communist USA, at least, retains its democratic elections and legislature in HoI4, and IIRC has a National Focus named "Libertarian Socialism". Also, I know you didn't cover it, but EU4 actually includes better representations of left ideologies! Pirate republics can be anarchist (run by the sailors, for the sailors) and declare "War Against The World", allowing them to topple totalitarian governments all over the world until everyone is free. Also, among many other things, the next big update will include the possibility of peasant uprisings establishing Peasant Republics, as well as a deep dive into the French Revolution, with an option to take it more leftward than it went in our timeline. And the prexisting Peasants' Republic of Dithmarschen will receive missions with titles like " Break the Chains", "The Means of Production", and "The Conquest of Bread"!

  44. Jazzratt Post author

    Love this video, wish I had a more profound/insightful comment to leave on it.

  45. Mario D`Angelo Post author

    I really liked the video even though I disagree with a lot of the premises and conclusions and have a few objections like in the game you are the state or the government not the people, People are just numbers on a screen You don't have any actual vested interest in them outside of Using them to your benefit like any other mechanic this is not how the real world works Obviously So it makes sense To do things like abuse human rights invade other countries ect If it helps you with your goals

    Also there is another problem that I think is more worth mentioning about Propaganda that helps the right than you even brought up They have a policy of not including genocides or things like that in their games Or at least try to avoid making in a mechanic ( There are some exceptions of course like the trail of tears in Victoria 2) or if the mechanics are included They try to make it as vague as possible like cultural conversion in eu4
    When you say convert culture do you mean teach them your language Do you mean explain national history or do you mean kill them all? It's not really clear one way or the other Because you're converting the culture of the province not any actual real people within it And the development doesn't go down so it's probably fine This is further confused by the expelling minorities feature but that's not the point

    And another thing I actually think they are a political but they Use a different definition than you do It's not that they try to be neutral it's that they don't care There are a video game company They care about making games and Like all companies making money Which sure you can criticize but it doesn't make them Really unique in any sense

    But yeah even though I don't agree with all your politics (I'm libertarian right arguably libertarian center depending where you would put laissez-faire Georgism?) I really enjoyed the video keep up the good work Let me know if you ever wanna play multiplayer lol

  46. GoblinCookie Post author

    I think the degree to which Paradox's decisions are based upon the mechanics core to the game engine is being underestimated here. For Anarchism to exist breaks the game, it is the game no longer working as far as Paradox grand strategy mechanics are concerned; so we can pretty much sum up the different political systems in the game as various strategies to put down Anarchism which can only ever be a piece of grit in the imperial machine. Actually having Anarchism in the game, as the bomb throwers attests to is rather sad because these folks can never win since them winning subverts the fundamental logic of the game itself. They made a game that is the opposite of Anarchism and then naturally the historical existence of Anarchism is incompatible with the game.

    The worrying thing for Anarchism is that 'All actual Communism is basically Stalinism' as a statement has so far been historically accurate. The actual cause of historical events in the eras Paradox are depicting follows the exact logic as the game, nobody advocated the ultimate Stalinist 'aberration' but it is what everyone ends up with despite their protestations. The thing is that subjective desire is not objective reality, we do not get what we want but instead we get the consequences of our actions according to objective reality. That explains the Anarcho-Liberals, they do not consciously want the dicatorship of the rich but it does not matter that they do not want it; their actions realize that outcome even if that outcome they has them shot. They got rid of all checks on the power of the rich in the name of 'liberty', so the rich subjugated everyone to them.

    Perhaps Paradox is completely ignoring the subjective opinions of historical actors and the true horror of the game is that it is bundles people into 'consequence groups' based upon the final end of their actions.

  47. Emilio Singh Post author

    This is a criminally undersubbed channel. I've been binging it and I'm very salty I didn't think of the name Huntress X Thompson sooner

  48. Josh p Post author

    There was a review on one of the stellaris dlc packs (apocalypse I think) where the dude claimed he got banned from the paradox forums for mentioning communism in a negative light, so I think its safe to say (if that review is indeed not full of shit) that paradox interactive are indeed pro communist, or at least the people they hire to police their forums are.

  49. Lincoln Bohn Post author

    I really liked your video, even if i disagree with some small parts of it. Thank you.


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