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New Video Games Renew Cold War Stereotypes

In July, President Barack Obama visited Russia for the first time, meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in an effort to improve relations. But in the world of video games it appears Russians will continue to be the bad guys.

Despite efforts by the United States and Russia to move forward in their relationship, old stereotypes are hard to kill.

New Video Games Renew Cold War Stereotypes
New Video Games Renew Cold War Stereotypes

Two long-awaited video games were released last week in Europe, "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" and "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction" and they depict Russians as the enemy.

U.S. gamemaker Electronic Arts' Swedish-based DICE design team produced "Battlefield: Bad Company 2" and "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction" was developed by French video game producer Ubisoft's Canadian studio.

Russian student Alexander Panarin says he loves to play video games and has since he was a kid. But he says he is bothered by the fact Russians are always the bad guys, even in modern video games and movies. Panarin says it is only a video game, but he thinks it is offensive for his fellow Russians. He thinks it would actually be great to win against the Americans.

Sweden-based game developer Gordon Van Dyke produces the video game, "Bad Company." Van Dyke says a lot of times the games are inspired by what is going on in the news and Russia's invasion of Georgia, in August 2008, put Moscow back in the spotlight.

"I think it is just what is going on in the world. We pay a lot of attention to the news and really follow world events and things like that. I think that the fact that the Russians went into Georgia really scared everybody again," he says.

A recent EU-backed independent report says Georgia's attack on the breakaway region of South Ossetia marked the beginning of the five-day war between Russia and Georgia, but that Russia retaliated with excessive force, and Moscow's retaliation against Georgia went far beyond the limits of reasonable defense.

Since last year's brief war with Georgia, the Kremlin has recognized the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

The European Union and the United States consider the areas part of Georgia and have repeatedly asked Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity. Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only other countries to acknowledge the Russian-supported breakaway regions.

Political analyst Masha Lipman of the Moscow-based Carnegie Center research organization says Russia's actions in its war with Georgia have revived old stereotypes associated with the former Soviet Union. Lipman says Russia's actions encouraged a resurgence in the feelings that Russia is not only an incomprehensible, dim and definitely unfriendly country, but that Russia is a source of danger for U.S. allies, if not for the United States.

Irina Semyonova is business development director for Akella, one of the leading producers of personal computer games and multimedia products on the Russian market. She says it is not fair that Russians are often type cast as the bad guys.

Semyonova says she finds it a bit annoying because attacks from the American side happen much more often. She says the Russian gaming industry has some similar games, but there are few examples and they are more of an exception.

But political analyst Lipman says it is no surprise Russian's continue to be cast as the "baddies" and she says it will most likely take some time for the decades-old stereotypes to change. Lipman says relations between Russia and the United States have not been developing too smoothly. And, for the past decade, they have gotten worse. So old stereotypes have popped up again. Lipman says, the circumstances that attributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union, an increase in crime, wild capitalism and murders gave food to Hollywood.