How deception became Helldivers 2's secret weapon

How deception became Helldivers 2's secret weapon
Images via Arrowhead Game Studios

Written by 

Joseph Kime


8th Apr 2024 16:42

Helldivers 2’s success has been almost unprecedented, but it seems as though the structure of the game has been ready for it.

Though server issues caused a slower start, the word-of-mouth popularity of the game has steered it to be 2024’s biggest game so far, with players embracing the fight for managed democracy far more than we had ever expected them to. And frankly, that’s no small feat.

To succumb to the Super Earth propaganda machine in a style that so profoundly borrows from Starship Troopers is compelling as players everywhere get sucked into colonial, uber-macho hopes for the prosperity of Super Earth as though they’d lived there their whole lives. It certainly makes you wonder - how did Arrowhead Game Studios manage it?

It’s an interesting question to answer, especially as its results are still playing out before our very eyes, and now that the charted systems have been cleansed of the Automaton scourge, it’s clearer than ever to see that the propaganda machine is working on such a level that players are starting to defy even the game’s creators. And it’s their playful deceit and ambiguous lies that have led us to the staunch dedication to freedom that Helldivers everywhere have come to adopt.

Helldivers 2’s propaganda machine is strong. Perhaps too strong

Helldivers 2 has already made great efforts to keep players emotionally invested in the hugely satirical fight for cosmos-wide democracy, lowering players in with the game’s opening cinematic that brands players treasonous for ignoring, compelling them to strap on their boots and fight for their way of life. Its reflection of real-world propaganda isn’t lost on some (and we mean some), but it promotes a kind of unity among players. After all, if all it takes is to believe in the cause to drop onto desolate planets to tear up bugs and automatons alike, why not get involved, and claim that your every move is in purpose of a higher “freedom?

The game compels players to lose their wits in a very real way, trading in their sense for fresh rounds and air strikes, and as the game rewards players with even more opportunities to kill, there certainly isn’t any harm in playing along. After all, it’s just a bit of light colonialism (at least that's what we tell ourselves).

It’s compelling to see just how Arrowhead Game Studios has influenced its players, rewarding their brutality with more opportunities for brutality, and as the cosmos is cleansed, the feeling they’re earning in return reflects in palpable pride.

But what’s most interesting now is that players biting at the bait are being left to themselves - and they’re sustaining themselves as they go.

Bugs don’t fly

Three words are all it took to draw the dividing line between Helldivers players and the game’s developers.

Perhaps the one thing that has united players together is knowing that, aside from each other, they’re all alone. The freedom they’ve been fighting for is a beast of marketing and propaganda, but now players know that even though they’re in it up to their necks, they need to fight harder. The support they thought they had is thinning.

The claim that “bugs don’t fly” from Arrowhead CEO Johan Pilestedt flew in the face of real accounts from Helldivers before soaring Shriekers made it to the game, and now as the blue beams firing out of the sky that Pilestedt now claims don’t exist are expected to reveal an entirely new menace now that the Automaton scourge has been cleared from the galaxy, the propagandised are having to turn to each other for validation. Teamwork has never been more important, and it’s a result of the dev team being willing to lie through their teeth that’s banding them together.

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The only thing that’s known after the end of the Automaton siege is that the bond between fighters is strong, and perhaps as strong as any game’s community has ever been (as long as you're not being killed for your cape).

Arrowhead's playful gaslighting has led its fans to trust no one, and that’s perhaps the greatest Helldiver training the company could have issued. The war against all that isn’t human rages on, and as real propaganda seeps past the identifiably tongue-in-cheek posters and calls-to-action, it’s never had its eyes on the prize so firmly. Arrowhead might not have your best interests at heart, but your fellow Helldivers sure do.

Joseph Kime
About the author
Joseph Kime
Joseph Kime is the Senior Trending News Journalist for GGRecon from Devon, UK. Before graduating from MarJon University with a degree in Journalism, he started writing music reviews for his own website before writing for the likes of FANDOM, Zavvi and The Digital Fix. He is host of the Big Screen Book Club podcast, and author of Building A Universe, a book that chronicles the history of superhero movies. His favourite games include DOOM (2016), Celeste and Pokemon Emerald.
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