Anti colonialist video games
July 24, 2021 10:55 PM   Subscribe

Are there any good video games where you play as the force resisting colonialism that are not set in the future? I'm especially looking for any that let you take the role of guerillas. (Also, no Nazis, they're the easy, go to baddies)

The thread on the board game Puerto Rico made me think about all the games I've played where I'm the colonizing empire. I was wondering if there are any that let you play as the force opposing historical colonialism. Extra points for letting you play as the Vietnamese/Filipinos/Lakota/Comanche/etc (essentially anyone who fought a war against the US imposing a colonial structure), but I'd be happy with Afghanis resisting the British or Soviets, the Maori resisting the British, the Wampanoag against the British, the Indians against the British, China against the British during the opium wars, the Irish against Britain, the Kenyans against Britain, Algerians or Haitians against the French, etc. I'm ok with strategy game where you can play as both the good guys and the bad guys. I know there are some sci-fi games or fantasy games where you're opposing the evil empire's colonization, but I want to play against the historical evil empires, or at least a blatant equivalent. (Eg, I don't want White Americans as the oppressed group against a all conquering Mali cast into the role of Britain.)

Also, beyond Spirit Island, are there any board games where you're resisting colonialism?
posted by Hactar to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Pax Pamir might meet your qualifications for a board game. You play as a powerful Afghan family trying to take advantage of the great game. Here's a polygon write up, This board game has you play as Afghan leaders subverting imperialist ambitions.
posted by Carillon at 11:24 PM on July 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Elizabeth Lapensee is an Anishnaabe/Métis/Irish professor who (among other things) develops and collaborates on video games and board games based on Indigenous experience. A couple of games she’s created in collaboration with others:

When Rivers Were Trails—“a point-and-click adventure game about the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities in the 1890's.” Free download for PC or Mac.

Thunderbird Strike —available for free for PC, Android phone/tablet, or iPhone/iPad. “In the 2D sidescroller Thunderbird Strike, fly from the Tar Sands to the Great Lakes as a thunderbird protecting Turtle Island with searing lightning against the snake that threatens to swallow the lands and waters whole.”

She was also involved in the creation of Dialect, a gorgeous board game where players rebuild language after the effects of colonization.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:55 PM on July 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I haven't played them (and they're not #ownvoices), but I know two of the most popular wargames on BGG are the complex solitaire games Navajo Wars and Comanchería. The former seems to be readily available, and the latter is over 3/5 of the way to a reprint.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:39 AM on July 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you'd like a strategy game but Assassin’s Creed III has you playing against Americans after they destroy your village. Assassin's Creed Liberation has you similarly playing as a black, female protagonist in the American colonial era. I did not play the games with a nuanced eye in the politics but the general takeaway was that colonialism was bad.

Arguably Tropico 6 is anti-colonialist in that you overthrow imperialism to run your own island, it is a bit of a comedic version of a Caribbean dictatorship. That said, it doesn't portray your player (El Presidente) as a fool but instead as someone who plays superpowers against each other. It also doesn't define success in the Western sense.

Just Cause series has you freeing an island from a dictatorship.
posted by geoff. at 1:31 AM on July 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Monster Train has a fictional setting, but not future.
Besides being a great deckbuilder roguelike, the lore revealed through the game's events, mouseover tooltips, and dialogue lines shows a diverse hell colonised by a cruel and militant heaven who broke a treaty. The cultures and everyday existence that you're trying to restore are explored deeply.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 2:26 AM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think the world just isn't ready for that kind of narrative, because, think about how in asymmetric warfare, the tactics that the weaker side has to use gets condemned as "terror" attacks in an attempt to delegitimize them.

In fact, I'm actually surprised Assassins Creed (2007) got greenlit at Ubisoft, because you essentially play a Muslim terrorist tasked with carrying out public killings of real, historical members of the Christian military organizations leading the Crusade, who at the time of the game are occupying Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus. I guess this fits the bill of a weaker rebel force trying to dislodge the occupiers.

Robert de Sablé (11th Grand Master of the Knights Templar), Garnier de Nablus (10th Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller), Master Sibrand (1st Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights) are among the historical figures you get the pleasure of killing.

I've always wished Assassins Creed would do something like that again but they seemed to do more conventional sounding stories and settings after that.
posted by xdvesper at 2:39 AM on July 25, 2021

Algeria: The War of Independence 1954-1962: "Algeria is a game simulating the conflict between the FLN Arab nationalist guerrillas and the French government from 1954 to 1962. During the game, the FLN player tries to erode the authority of the French colonial authorities and replace their governing structures with his own, to the point that Algeria makes the transition from being the 10th department of France to national independence."

NB: I haven't actually played this
posted by Ted Maul at 4:04 AM on July 25, 2021

Best answer: There have been several games over the years based on the Battle of Isandlwana of 1879, where the Zulu army met an invading British force.

I played one such game many years ago but it was quite obscure and I forget the details. Two current ones that allow playing as the Zulu side are:

Last Stand at Isandlwana (tabletop war game)
Zulu Dawn (turn based PC game).

In the actual event, the Zulu warriors soundly defeated the invading British forces through superior tactics and discipline, despite their vast disadvantage in weapons.

Their victory successfully repelled the British Empire's first attempt to invade Zululand. Unfortunately, the longer term outcome was that the British, embarassed by the defeat, returned later with much greater force.
posted by automatronic at 4:04 AM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Europa Universalis 4 is highly flawed in how it handle colonialism but it does allow you to play as many different indigenous groups in the Americas. Or you can play as a nation in Africa or Southeast Asia
posted by nolnacs at 4:16 AM on July 25, 2021

Falcon Age is a explicitly anti-colonial sci-fi action adventure game in which a young woman fights off robot invaders and restores her planet with falconry.
posted by subocoyne at 9:43 AM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oops, I misread the question. You are looking for games on real historical anti-colonial struggles.

I haven't played these myself but there is 7554, which is an FPS made by a Vietnamese studio in which one plays a Vietnamese soldier fighting off the French during the Franco-Vietnamese war.

There's also Freedom, an older adventure game depicing the Haitian revolution by Muriel Tramis who is a notable figure in game development for likely being one of if not the first black woman video game developers.

You may also be interested in the books Games of Empire, which is about the inherent colonialism of many video games, or Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games, which I'm not familiar with, but seems relevant here.
posted by subocoyne at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Europa Universalis 4 is highly flawed in how it handle colonialism but it does allow you to play as many different indigenous groups in the Americas. Or you can play as a nation in Africa or Southeast Asia did a great in-depth look at the historicity of EU4 and the strengths and weaknesses of the game, but it does allow you to play any state in the world during the 1444-1821 range of the game; my impression is that the unique mechanics are slightly more developed in Asia than Africa or the Americas. But the review is really good at putting the game in context -- pros and cons -- with the actual history and frankly is worth a read even if you don't want to play EU4.
posted by Superilla at 2:12 PM on July 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe Far Cry 6? The player is a Yaran (Cuban) guerilla overthrowing a dictator from the ruling (more European) class.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:24 PM on July 25, 2021

Best answer: This Land Is My Land is a game about New World indigenous people resisting the encroach of Europeans. I haven't played it, but a friend says it's pretty good. There has been some backlash because the game has no indigenous people working in development.
posted by CCBC at 3:09 PM on July 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bloc by Bloc is about a diverse array of people banding together to resist a police occupation.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:51 PM on July 26, 2021

Response by poster: These are great. I'm in less of a position to check out the board games, but I will when I get the chance. If anyone knows any more, keep them coming.
posted by Hactar at 7:53 PM on July 26, 2021

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