Once you’re done playing baseball, eating hot dogs, and watching fireworks on Independence Day, it’s nice to sit back and relax with a good ol’ celebration of what America truly stands for: freedom and independence. You could watch a movie or listen to some music to celebrate the United States of America, or you could experience something a bit more interactive and engaging. Passive entertainment can be wonderful, but games allow you to have a much closer and more intimate connection with the subject matter, which is even more important when celebrating something as personal as the nation that you call home.
Just like all forms of entertainment, games are just as much about escapism and adventuring into new worlds as they are a celebration of the ideas that inspired them. Sometimes we play games to experience something fresh, but then other times we play games to appreciate our real world. In doing so, many games exist that celebrate America as not only an important bedrock of historical innovation, but as a beacon for freedom and independence.
Democracy 3 – Spreading the Good Word
We’ve all been there before. During a politician’s speech you think to yourself, “Hey! Even I could do better than this!” Well, Democracy 3 is a game that gives you a chance to prove it. While being the face of a nation may be a highlight of the glamorous side of leadership, at its core, democracy is really just a game of numbers, and that’s a game that Democracy 3 simulates very well.
In Democracy 3, voter AI is specifically modeled on an individual level to create an entire nation’s worth of people. Everything from their habits and opinions to their income and political tendencies are mapped out in a way that pits you as the fearless leader. Regardless of the bad rap it gets for being slow or inadequate at times, political activism is a cornerstone of American culture. Behind every voice is an opinion unlike any other and as a leader of free people, it becomes your duty to cater to those voices and face the same struggles American leaders do today.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Protecting the Homeland
One of the most iconic moments from the Call of Duty franchise has to be storming the White House in Modern Warfare 2. Never before and never since has the franchise provided such a sense of pride in defending your homeland while also evoking fear as you see the symbol of America’s government in flames. It’s a surreal experience because of how real it is. You’re not fighting in a fictional war zone with nameless buildings and imaginary locations anymore–it’s personal.
It’s such an unnerving moment that it makes you almost feel uncomfortable with how close to home it’s getting. Modern Warfare 2 released over 8 years after the traumatic events at the World Trade Center in 2001, but the desecration of another American landmark all those years later still feels like too much, too soon. The game’s tasteful handling of events such as the White House mission, or the airport massacre, speak to the intensity of the mature narrative and how well it pulls you in with a sense of American solidarity to fight back.
Bioshock Infinite – For God and Country
In the world of Bioshock Infinite, we’ve reached a strange alternate dimension that feels both old and futuristic at the same time. The floating city of Columbia is, in many ways, a utopia of American societal influences. Huge monuments to some of our country’s greatest leaders spread across the city and the Hall of Heroes. Columbia serves as the pinnacle of American innovation and ingenuity–a spectacle of the skies and of our minds.
But things at Columbia are never quite as they seem. Since it was created in the late 19th century, it never evolved beyond the shackles of America’s horrible past failures, such as racial segregation. One of the opening moments of the game thrusts you directly into a situation that tests your resolve in the matter of racism, a topic that runs throughout. Bioshock Infinite’s Columbia may be a fictional place, but it’s founded upon a world that feels all too real and distinctly American in ways that are both good and bad.
Duke Nukem – Hail to the King, Baby!
Duke Nukem is to the game industry what Fast & Furious is to Hollywood: it’s simple, ridiculous, and you secretly love it. The Duke is a relic of the era in which he was created as the embodiment of indulgence in pure, unadulterated, bombastic action. In fact, few would argue that Duke Nukem 3D isn’t one of the most expertly crafted games in the history of first-person shooters.
Beyond the marketing campaigns that have positioned Duke Nukem as an unofficial parody of American personality, Duke Nukem is a hero worth celebrating. Being an American is about so much more than just promoting democratic ideas, it’s about being self-aware and able to embrace ridiculousness in moderation. We can shower thoughtful and provocative games with accolades while simultaneously enjoying the fight against alien invasions in Duke Nukem. It’s also about recognizing where we came from, appreciating our heritage, and knowing that without games like Duke Nukem, other shooters, some of which are on this list, may not have ever been created in the first place.
Civilization V – From Sea to Shining Sea
Be George Washington, found America, and expand from sea to shining sea. Those are just a few of the things you can do in Civilization V, a game that lets you explore all of your historical and worldly tendencies. You can establish democracy as a system of governance around the world, you can conquer surrounding lands to spread your vision for America, and you can promote freedom as your nation’s ideology of advancement.
Whereas games like Democracy 3 are all about the specifics of listening to individual voices and personally leading a population, Civilization V is more concerned with big-picture politics. How do you negotiate a peace treaty with Greece? Do you try and win the race to space befor Russia, or do you resolve to embark on a cultural journey to spread your ideals around the world? The freedom of choice in terms of how you approach a game of Civilization V is inherently American and the flexibility afforded lets you establish and create the type of America that you want.
AdVenture Capitalist – Something from Nothing
AdVenture Capitalist is part of the new wave of popular games that continue playing without you. You’re a fledgling venture capitalist with hopes and dreams of ruling the world atop your pile of money. The concept is simple: you go from running a lemonade stand to ruling over a robust portfolio of Fortune 500 corporation and it all starts with that first investment. It’s a silly little free-to-play game, but it promotes ideals that are unabashedly American.
This simplistic concept gets at the core of realizing the American Dream: working your way up from small beginnings to a point of passive wealth. Once you’re businesses are up and running, you don’t even have to be around to make the money at all. You can hire managers to run your operations for you, while you manage them from afar. Building something for yourself from nothing is the message here, the very thing that’s promoted as a hallmark of independence and free commerce in America.
Grand Theft Auto V – The American Dream
If you wanted to roll up all of the underlying concepts present in these other games and put them into one big package that served as a snapshot of the West Coast American lifestyle, then the end result would look a lot like Grand Theft Auto V. San Andreas isn’t actually California, but it’s about as close as it gets.
Grand Theft Auto V is the perfect game to play for the Fourth of July because of how eerily accurate its satire is in all aspects. From the wonderfully appropriate recreation of Los Angeles and hilariously realistic characters living seemingly ideal fantasy lives, to the high-stakes action we all dream about experiencing and diverse cultures represented, it’s a tour de force in American representation. Some of the criticism is a bit heavy-handed, but when you look past the felonies and profanity, it’s clear that GTA is more than just an over-the-top reflection, but is an homage to American society with equal parts respect and criticism. Taking the bad with the good and learning to grow–what’s more American than that?
The Home of the Brave
Are you feeling the patriotism rushing through your veins yet? Each of the games on this list celebrate America in different ways, just like the millions of people that live in the country today. Maybe you’re celebrating America by looking back on the past and fondly remembering the historical roots upon which society has grown. Or maybe you’re imagining a world where things had turned out differently.
The great thing about America is the freedom of expression and choice. Whether you want to criticize our leaders or celebrate our accomplishments, you have the voice to do so. If you wanted, you could play all seven of these games to celebrate the Fourth of July; or you could do something else entirely. Naturally, the freedom to choose is in your hands.