“In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” –George Orwell
Flying over Bolivia, the dense jungles beneath suddenly give way to a rocky desert. All attention turns towards a convoy of trucks driving along one of the craggy roads, and I move ahead of the lead vehicle before setting down the helicopter. I equip my drone, manoeuvre it just in front of the truck carrying medical supplies, and fire off a crippling EMP blast, stopping the convoy cold in its tracks. Switching over to my BFG-50A, I disable the escort vehicles and pick off stragglers, finally securing the truck. Nomad Team comments on how the supplies will help the rebels out, and for my troubles, I gain more points to spend on an increasingly large library of skills that will make the journey towards apprehending El Sueño possible. With this goal done, I turn my attention to the evening’s next task: picking up a new weapon attachment located in a remote hut perched on the side of a mountain. Ghost Recon Wildlands has proceeded in this manner for the past few months, and outside of the story missions, my time spent in game has proven to be immensely cathartic as I gambol around the countryside, exploring to my heart’s content. It suddenly strikes me that, while Wildlands‘ main story and premise meant that the game invites political discussion, the open world environment and ability to proceed at my own pacing has meant that, outside of the tense moments during story missions and the dialogue that Nomad team exchanges with handler Olivia Bowman, the verdant jungles and remote mountains of Wildlands‘ Bolivia feels remarkably removed from the endless debates and discussions that characterises political discourse. The sharp contrast here in Wildlands offers credence to the idea that not all art and media is necessarily political; one’s thoughts are unlikely to be about how their actions may impact a policy-maker a continent away when they’re sneaking through a village by a tranquil-looking pond in search of Santa Blanca medals or weapon attachments.
Where Wildlands does have Nomad team conversing with Bowman about mission objectives, or the implications of the latest successful assignment, insight is given into Santa Blanca and how the player’s actions are affecting the bigger picture. Taking out a contingent of Santa Blanca submarines will cripple their ability to smuggle narcotics, while capturing a social media influencer stymies Santa Blanca’s ability to spread propaganda. Nomad’s actions yield a tangible change and slowly pave the path towards capturing El Sueño. It is important to note that it is through the player’s actions that advance things, and in this way, Wildlands (or any other game with a large political component) speaks to the fact that all change is the consequence of tangible action, rather than words. To this end, Wildlands shows that it is ultimately through the player’s actions and decisions that Santa Blanca’s hold over Bolivia is lessened, and to drive this point home, Bowman is operating in the field alongside Nomad, rather than directing the team from the comfort of an air-conditioned office in Langley. This is the case in reality: although the media gives the impression that politicians are getting material work done while in office, more often than not, the average politician accomplishes very little. Wildlands therefore acts as a show of how it is the people down in the weeds who get the most useful work done, even if they won’t be recognised for their contributions later. During one assignment, one of Nomad team comments on how it’d be nice to have a statue erected in their honour for what they’ve done to make the world a better place, only for another squad member to reply that as Ghost Recon units, they’re not supposed to exist, much less be remembered. The situation Nomad team’s members find themselves in is a mirror of reality: the people who get the work done and are deserving of the credit are also those whose contributions are forgotten as politicians and the media scramble to occupy the limelight. However, in spite of this, seeing that one’s work has a tangible, positive impact makes it worth doing, irrespective of whether or not one is credited, and virtue is its own reward. For me, it is sufficient to know that I did something that was of value to someone else, and it was therefore pleasant to see Wildlands mirroring this notion.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While I’ve been recently sidetracked by Modern Warfare II, still have yet to make my way through Metro: Exodus‘ DLC content and recently picked up a complementary copy of Star Wars: Squadrons through a promotion on the Epic Store, I’ve not forgotten my commitment to finish Wildlands to the best of my ability. Since last time, I’ve cleared out all of the three-star difficulty areas in Bolivia and have made some progress towards acquiring enough skills so I can take on the four and five star areas.
- The four and five star areas don’t feature tougher enemies that can take more damage or hit harder, but instead, are more heavily patrolled. Santa Blanca and Unidad bases have more guard towers, alarm systems and generators, and they’ve got a more extensive network anti-air missiles. In these situations, having additional skills means being able to better identify where foes and points of interest are, before taking them out without being detected.
- The EMP drone becomes an incredibly valuable tool in a player’s arsenal, since it can fly undetected into the heart of hostile territory and trigger an EMP that disables alarms. Once alarms are disabled, the patient player can then pick off snipers and methodically move into the base to complete their objectives. Three-star areas are the perfect place to practise one’s techniques, since the bases here are reasonably secure, but not so secure that any misstep will result in enemy helicopters being deployed to one’s area.
- At present, I’m still currently using the MDR as my primary weapon, with the BFG-50A being an excellent secondary weapon – I’ve not made enough progress in Wildlands to begin the Fallen Ghosts expansion content, but the weapon unlocks this DLC provides are top tier. Although any other assault rifle could fulfil a similar role as the MDR does, there’s something about the MDR that makes it an especially appealing to use.
- With the right gear and skills, Wildlands settled into a very relaxing pattern for me – I would go into a region in a helicopter and scout around to find all of the places where intel were, then pick up said intel. After I had an idea of where all of the campaign missions, skill points and weapon cases were, it was time to collect everything and finish the missions off. The variety of missions continued to impress, and there is actually more challenge in the missions where the objective isn’t to eliminate a target.
- Beyond this, Nomad team’s objectives in Wildlands felt very cut-and-dried: in fact, listening to the exchange between the AI squad gave the distinct impression that for Nomad team, lighting up Santa Blanca cartel and Unidad alike was just another day at the office for these operators. While the dialogue is purely meant to create additional immersion, it did get me thinking, and this is what eventually led to the choice of topic for this post.
- From the sounds of things, Nomad team is simply carrying out an assignment. While they’re special operators that act in the interests of the United States, despite being given near total freedom in how they go about finishing their work, their goal is simply to serve their nation by following orders. For Nomad team, politics is unlikely at the forefront of their thoughts when they’re sneaking through the jungle to avoid detection, or flying over from one spot to another. Being professionals, Nomad team is more worried about getting their job done, and while some moments do have them asking questions, for the most part, Nomad team sees their work the same way the typical person sees their own occupations.
- This got me thinking: on a day-to-day basis, I’m not worried about politics or current events. Instead, I’m concerned most about what my tasks are, and how to get those done. While I do think about the bigger picture where required (e.g. ahead of meetings), for the most part, my focus on the typical day is implementing a given feature or sorting out a bug. This is partly because after a hard day’s work, the mind is in need of some rest and relaxation. Talking about current events is the polar opposite of this: political discussions can become very heated, and arguing with people is very draining, so the well-exercised mind tends to avoid these sorts of things .
- There’s little time to be worried about what’s happening halfway around the world, and at the end of the day, I only read the news so I’ve got basic awareness of what’s happening. I’ve never understood why some people are so insistent on making their opinions of current events known to others, but after looking around, it turns out there’s one combination of traits that makes it seem like politics is a bigger deal than it is.
- People without a focus or tangible objective in their lives may latch onto perceived problems and devote themselves into voicing concern for said issues. This happens because the human mind is inherently wired towards problem-solving and overcoming difficulties, so where there are no challenges to face, the mind may fabricate challenges to keep busy. This is the origin of the axiom, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”; individuals with nothing to do might channel that restlessness into unproductive or harmful activities.
- Coupled with the fact that social media makes it possible for most anyone to have an audience, the elements are in place for a social problem. While social media is not inherently evil, the problems it brought to the table resulted from the fact that ordinary people could suddenly become someone of note through virality. Traditionally, anyone who came to prominence did so because they were exceptional in their field and had the right amount of luck. On the other hand, social media algorithms pick content that elicits the most reactions, and since people tend to investigate the most emotionally charged content, polarising, shocking and misleading materials tends to be promoted. It is no joke when I note that a lot of folks out there don’t deserve their followers or audience.
- The end result of this is that social media, far from being a meritocratic platform where the most useful content becomes visible, ended up becoming a place where extremist rhetoric and misinformation dominated. Those who post such materials do so not because they wish to legitimately inform, but because they believe they are owed an audience and validation. The combination of extreme opinions and a desire for attention results in an endless stream of online vitriol, one where there is no room for moderation. Perspectives such as mine are inevitably drowned out, and there is little opportunity to learn about sides to an argument that isn’t my own.
- This phenomenon isn’t limited to social media, as online forums see disagreement of similar proportions. At TV Tropes, for instance, some members believed that the presence of like-minded individuals who enjoy writing lists of media tropes should have meant that any discussion on politics and current events at TV Tropes would automatically “[leave] one intellectually simulated, knowing [the users] had a productive and entertaining conversation”. In reality, the idea of any conversation at TV Tropes being intellectually stimulating is dubious at best because a vast majority of TV Tropes’ userbase lacks any real-world experience. As a result, most of the political and current events topics rapidly devolve into pandemonium as a result of users pushing their worldviews over others, versus making a sincere effort to communicate and understand other perspectives.
- Similarly, over at AnimeSuki, political “discourse” isn’t very helpful. One “mangamuscle” operates under the belief that intelligent discussion consists of calling political leaders names and constantly reiterating that certain nations are evil. While those mangamuscle and similar-minded people believe themselves to be engaged in legitimate discussion, people like these are why I hold that a disinterest in politics most certainly doesn’t render one less intelligent or knowledgable: I hardly consider name-calling to be a hallmark of a “productive and entertaining” conversation.
- Generally speaking, whether individuals participate in internet discussions about politics or current events, unless there is a clear desire to listen and learn from all parties, I’ve found that it’s best not to participate at all. Avoiding those who aim to shock and anger, and those who presume to lecture, isn’t especially difficult – most of the time, people post extreme content in the hope of driving engagement and validation, so if one isn’t going to reply, retweet or vote, then it would show both the originator and viewers that a given idea simply isn’t worth even the simple click of a mouse. At scale, the originator may eventually lose interest in the topic if they aren’t getting the desired reaction from posting about things.
- More tricky to handle are those individuals who have an agenda to push and a formal background in political sciences or similar – Mark “Ominae” Soo is one user who frequents both TV Tropes and AnimeSuki, and in his forum posts, he makes it a point of posting news articles that are highly critical of one of the world’s nations. While I’m no stranger to this behaviour, Ominae has stated that he’s currently pursuing a Master’s of Strategic Studies at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and plan on a career in defense intelligence, with the hope of joining the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) one day. Given his goals, it is likely that Ominae is part of a larger, organised effort towards influencing online individuals into agreeing with the media’s lies.
- Because individuals like Ominae appear to look like they know what they’re talking about, one may be tempted to agree with them: someone enrolled in strategic studies will constantly be working with military and security issues, and therefore have a strong knowledge of the area. Unfortunately, if one also possesses a very firmly-held set of biases, this can be highly detrimental – Ominae’s background allows him to be confident in his knowledge, but at the same time, Ominae also refuses to hear out other opinions, especially from those outside of the field. Individuals like these are therefore ill-suited for any sort of decision-making role at CSIS; if one allows their decision-making to be guided by ideology rather than fact, the public will inevitably come to harm.
- As a result, I cannot say I’m inclined to see people like Mark Soo succeed in their aspirations. It is admittedly frustrating that some people strive to make a career out of promoting untruths and hatred for personal gain, but at the same time, I also acknowledge that there are simply not enough hours in the day to concern myself with these sorts of things. Posts like these are about the extent that I’ll write about outside of my area of interest – my typical modus operandi is to look at the shows and games I like, but occasionally, I find that it is helpful for me to get my thoughts on topics like where I stand on talking about politics and current events here.
- The short of it is that no, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on the things that go on in the world, and when I do write about politics, it will be strictly within the realm of whatever work I am discussing. For instance, I am willing to share my thoughts on the narcotics trade and government responses to it in the context of Wildlands, but I won’t delve into my thoughts on the Canadian government’s legalisation of cannabis. I do not believe I can offer a vigorous, satisfactory account of why I hold the beliefs that I do in the blog post format, and for this reason, I tend to avoid bringing up current events.
- When it does come to something I am knowledgable about, I am much more willing to explain myself. For instance, I am a major proponent of the delegation pattern in iOS development because it allows me to pass information between view controllers sharing a common navigation controller, and the approach, when done correctly, results in clean code (in turn improving maintainability and readability). This is something I can defend because I have experience in the area. Thus, in order to avoid troubling readers with ideas I’m not an expert in, I choose not to mention about real-world politics and the like within my posts.
- With this, I hope to have given readers a satisfactory account of why I don’t talk about politics here. In my twelve plus years of blogging, this approach has served me well enough, and I therefore see little incentive to change things up. It’s more fun to talk about the things that I enjoy doing, and here, I will remark that Wildlands has a considerable amount of activities in it. Even in the regions I’ve cleared, there are plenty of secondary missions to complete, and they offer rewards that help with gameplay. Completing all of them will take a considerable amount of time, and I’ve determined that it is probably more time-effective if I were to complete enough of the secondary missions to get at the skills best suited for my style and move on to the tougher regions.
- On several occasions, I have previously ventured into the four and five star regions unintentionally – this happens when I’m pursuing a convoy, and while I usually end up capturing my target, the problems would show up if I foolishly decided it’d be a good idea to also raid a nearby Unidad or Santa Blanca base. In this way, I would get my face pasted into the ground, and while at this point, I’ve dumped enough skill points into the AI squad tree so that I can get two revives, dying in a place where it’s not feasible to be revived and safely get out has left me wishing for a “skip revive” option at times.
- Outside of these most harrowing of moments, I am free to explore Bolivia at my own pace. Previously, the game had looked amazing on a GTX 1060, but with everything maxed out on an RTX 3060 Ti, the visuals look almost photorealistic. Over the past few months, NVIDIA’s Lovelace high-end GPUs have launched, and more recently, news of the RTX 4060 Ti have reached my ears. Assuming the rumours are correct, the RTX 4060 Ti is supposed to perform similarly to an RTX 3070 and sell for the exact same price point of 499 USD. In this case, the RTX 4060 Ti would be completely underwhelming – the RTX 3060 Ti had retailed for 399 USD and is almost as performant as the RTX 2080 Super, an impressive leap in technology.
- Similarly, the GTX 1060 had been impressive because it had around 90 percent of the GTX 980’s performance for half the price. As such, when it is possible that the RTX 4060 Ti will only match a RTX 3070 in performance and demand the same cost, there is little incentive to wait for the Lovelace series. All of the news means that my decision to pick up my current video card back in September was a good decision, and the RTX 3060 Ti is expected to last me a very long time. Out of curiosity, I took a gander to see if the MSI Gaming X variant of the card I had was still available, and it seems that they are completely sold out now.
- Weather patterns do impact Wildlands, and one can find themselves in the midst of a rainstorm even from perfectly clear skies like these. I remember that during my time spent in the open beta, rain had hit me almost immediately after clearing the first mission, and Wildlands had been detailed enough to render players’ clothing becoming wet from the rainfall. For my screenshots, however, I prefer taking them under clear skies: Bolivia looks wonderful, and the deep blue skies evokes a summer-like feeling. While playing under full daylight means that stealth becomes trickier, they do make for easier screenshots. On the other hand, if there’s a high-stakes mission, I will reset the map and wait for nightfall before beginning an assignment.
- Side-missions in Wildlands are fun, and give players a chance to let loose: on most missions, having a suppressor is mandatory to preserve stealth and avoid alerting foes to one’s presence. There is a skill upgrade that results in suppressed weapons dealing identical damage to unsuppressed weapons, and by this point in Wildlands, I’ve unlocked it, so there’s actually no need to ever remove my suppressors. With this being said, there is something satisfying about going loud. Some of the rebel-related missions do entail fighting off waves of Santa Blanca enforcers, and it is here where I find the most use for an unsuppressed LMG.
- When free-roaming, I tend to run the BFG-50A without a suppressor: the gun is the hardest-hitting rifle in the whole of Wildlands, and its report when firing reflects the sheer amount of damage this weapon can do. This gun has been a game-changer, and coupled with the fact I’ve maxed out my anti-vehicle damage, air vehicles are no longer a problem for me. Similarly, I can leave an entire convoy of foes as a smouldering ruin without much difficulty.
- In a manner of speaking, the Fallen Ghosts DLC has allowed me to play Wildlands with increased flexibility, and this has, in turn, allowed me to progress at a smarter pace. With this being said, however, my map indicates that I’ve actually yet to deal with any of the higher-ranking Santa Blanca members. I imagine that for some of the buchons, some of the missions won’t entail any shooting, so I am curious to see how things turn out once I clear out the rest of Bolivia’s tougher areas. I have a feeling that it is better to clear out all of the buchons, versus just taking down enough to force El Sueño’s hand.
- The takeaway from this jumble of a post is simple enough – I don’t like participating in online discussions of current event owing to the overwhelming ignorance and prejudices out there (as mangamuscle of AnimeSuki has been kind enough to demonstrate), and I see no reason to mention my own opinions regarding current events in a given blog post because they are neither here nor there. Beyond this, I do appreciate how Wildlands does suggest that politics or not, it is ultimately individual action that makes the difference, and as such, I find myself excited to continue on with this game.
- The missions ahead will certainly be trickier than anything I’ve faced up until now, but at the same time, I’ve also got access to a wide array of skills and a better understanding of my arsenal. With this being said, these are interesting times – Battlefield 2042 has reintroduced the class system and implemented something in line with what I’d been hoping for, while Modern Warfare II just announced a new Japan-themed DMZ map, and while I’ve no previous DMZ experience, the map is intriguing enough for me to give it a go. I’ve also reached the halfway point in Sam’s Story in Metro Exodus‘ expansion content, and things have kept me quite engaged. I am, in short, very busy, but I should definitely make some time to push further in Wildlands – I’ve been itching to go back to Montuyoc, and it does look as though I’ve got the weapons and skills needed to survive there.
Longtime readers will likely wonder why I do not discuss current events, specifically, federal policy and foreign affairs here, even where some of the topics I write about are more conducive towards such conversations. The main reason behind this is that as a blogger, I have a responsibility to readers. My aims are to be truthful and fair, and political discourse stands contrary to these goals because, in the absence of any vigorous evidence, anything I state is strictly opinion. This blog’s core focus are anime and games, and while I may occasionally offer some of my thoughts on the systems anime and games present, stepping into things like foreign affairs is outside the scope of my discussion: readers come here to see what I make of a character and their place in a given story, or perhaps pick up trivia on the differences between a Barrett M82A1 and an M95. Beyond this, it is not my place to rattle off my personal beliefs and demand viewers listen to said beliefs, especially since I am no expert in many of the things I hold an opinion in. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some hold that they have an obligation to talk about politics because these matters impact them in some way. While is true to a limited extent, talking about things on social media or forums won’t change anything, and instead, my only obligations are to keep abreast of things and respond accordingly. I find that folks who spend a considerable amount of time writing about their beliefs online are doing the least amount of useful work while at the same time, making the largest effort in an attempt to look relevant. Simply put, people who do not spend time on forums, Reddit or Twitter trying to persuade others of their beliefs or spreading a certain brand of thought, have more time to get legitimate work done. As Wildlands suggests, those who prefer maintaining a low profile and fulfilling their obligations are the folks who will affect positive change most effectively, and even if they’re not going to be recognised or celebrated for their contributions, the importance of their actions cannot be understated.