Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has entered the virtual world of international law. In an effort to increase public knowledge about the law, she has founded Our Courts, an organization dedicated to fostering democratic participation and 21st century civics. However, 21st century civics seems a lot like virtual colonialism. Grab your joystick and play Guardian of the Law to “spread the rule of law to a fictional world.”
After leaving the land of law, you enter a dilapidated landscape of broken houses in which you grab loose diamonds to ‘gain legal knowledge,’ and combat disorder and chaos. Through logic, and possibly snatching up local resources, you bring law to the destitute locals. When you plant your flag in the middle of the community, Law, in the form of a continuously spreading red glow, seeps into the surroundings, rehabilitating local structures and sprouting fresh flowers.
The virtual exercise of bringing law to decrepit communities by planting your flag and snatching up diamonds falsely represents how legal institutions are cultivated and cultures of individual rights established. The game visually implies that spreading law is like bringing light to dark places. It implies that impoverished communities have no law, no organizing system of social checks and balances for those who transgress. It falls back on colonial tropes of civilizing lands without law, which has been awesomely effective in Africa.
It teaches our youth that spreading the law actually makes flowers sprout. And that’s problematic.