Videogames are fond of constructing imaginary versions of real world locales. The Grand Theft Auto series invites open comparisons between its Vice City and the actual Miami; Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare takes place in an unnamed Middle Eastern nation that is Iraq in everything but name; The Banner Saga‘s faux-Scandanavian setting is meant to evoke Viking era Northern Europe. Everyone who plays these games knows that the fictional places they’re exploring are only stand-ins for somewhere that really exists in the world. Because of this, it’s possible to, say, offer a new spin on the Norse sagas by breaking away from what we already know about them. It’s even possible to make commentary about the legitimacy of Coalition forces occupying Iraq and Afghanistan by abstracting elements of these nations into a single imagined one. That being said, an unwillingness to set fiction in real locations isn’t always motivated by a desire to make interesting art. In some games it may serve as nothing more than cultural cowardice.
Over time most non-Native North Americans, born in the continent after generations have eroded the lines of their family immigration, come to realize that the place they call home is not really their home at all — that it is in fact land stolen from the people indigenous to it. This, for me at least, was a pretty unsettling revelation. As children, none of us fortunate enough to be born in politically stable nations think much about whether or not our country truly belongs to us. We Canadians sing an anthem that subconsciously reinforce the idea the nation is “our home and native land” and only when we’re a bit older and wiser do we understand just how stomach-churningly ironic such a lyric is.
How do we deal with this?