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LONG BLOG

Untapped potential: Making games about Social things

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OK, I admit it. This isn't a good title for such a subject for a monthly musing but what can I put on that's somewhat relevant? Ah nevermind...

Video games are becoming something like the new "movie industry". It's a new medium that combines all that cinema includes, making it interactive by the help of Technology. But, unlike cinema, there aren't a lot of games about social problems or have some views or solutions or even show some shocking aspects of our society.



Sure, this kind of entertainment is somewhat for the wealthy people, but so did the cinematograph but it's not 1802 anymore and things get to mature a but quicker since the info spreads around more easily. That doesn't change the fact that video games lag behind in terms of the variety of subjects that will get them into our consience as another art.

Let's get started with some games that *maybe* have some social sense in them. Let's get an example at Mirror's Edge.
Dice's first person parcour title was all about opposing to some regime that tried to control completely the flow of information in the fictional society in the game. They were like the all-seeing Big Brother that know anything that happens anywhere.
There were a lot of social movements showing in this game. Protests, people clashing with the police and then, some secret organisations that exchange info via Runners.

This game had the ideal background to be something like the dystopia that a post-modern society may be. Just because there is a large flow of information, someone will try to put a limit to it blocking content and monitoring people.
Mirror's edge focused on the Faith's story. It's not that it's bad to have a protagonist, but the game never reveals who does all that stuff and why. The police department look like new clan of Nazi employees not revealing why they are so obsessed about capturing Faith. We never learned why the gonverment wanted to regulate every single bit of information in the city and from what social group did Faith and her family came from. Everything was so quickly and simply explained, it threw away so much potential of the story and all the sociological interest this game would have.

Another game that tends to comment over sociological matter is... yes, GTA IV. To be precise, every GTA except some few that came out just because the croud wanted to kill people and jack cars.
Immigrants looking for a better life in America - a fake paradise of chances- is a serious problem in a society due to the criminal stuff that float around in such big communities. Also, bullying and gangs that are products of sub-cultures are tapped by GTA in some degree. Woman discrimination is also there in the Liberty city, and, hopefully, in the newest episode of GTAIV, the discrimination towards homosexuality.
But also, GTA series fail to show a complete image of those matters, even if there is a lot of room in a freeroaming game like that. It mostly stays at the sarcasm of matter that happens in modern and post-modern societies rather than revealing causes and excuses. But, still it's pretty close in sociological interest.

But still, something's missing. Trying to make things look cool in games mostly spoils all the other dimentsions of things. For example, medieval times were hard as hell. There wasn't anything like "honour of a knight". There were just owners of fields and farmers that lived like slaves by the strict rules of christianism. There weren't any magical spells or wizards or dragons. Even the Kings were nothing but some people who have enough money to build large cathedral churches.

Wild West was also a time that, in fact, it was borring and hard as hell. Not to mention 2nd world war that there were real change in the gonverment form in european countries, large social movement throughout natzi regime over europe. None of the games really showed the starving orphans of the war, neither the dirty cabarets in Germany where drag queens (men dressed like women) tried hard to keep their sexual preferrement secret in fear of excecution. Those were really dark times that, for some reasons, through games (and movies but mostly games) look interesting times full of fun and pownage.

I'm not asking for games to stop being fun or try to be some kind of documentaries. That would be a total mess. But, there are games that are as fun, as they have some clear messages to deliver. For example, COD Modern Warfare, had some strong anti-war messages and socking scenes about the beastry of a modern war. Just show the nuclear blast that happened in the game to anyone and they will be overwhelmed by the degree of destruction and shocked by the dead silence of that scene. Bioshock's utopian community that went nuts is also a great example of having really strong and true messages without being sacrificed in terms of fun and gameplay.

But none of them are complete. Since there is room for more social understandment for making stories and goals in videogames I can't understand why the creators keep ignoring them so much. Maybe unpleasant stuff turns gamers down and that's the turning point.

Ever been in XBL playing HALO3? You sure have been and hear all kinds of offensive stuff like "nigger fucker", "homo nigger", "go die u gay noob" and such. How is it even possible for people who are mostly young, to accept a video game that makes them think over some stuff in their society? How is it ever possible to make the majority of people think outside gamerscore, achievements and multiplayer deathmatches? It's a freaking circle. Things like today's games tend to sell because the croud asks for it. Be different, and your games sink in the hell of "games nobody played"

So what needs change? First of all, us. We need to be a bit of thinkers of what the media (not only videogames) transmit to us. IT's not all that hard if you give it some thought instead of leaving your braind in a couch next you when playing. Besides, games can be a way to make the brain actually work, not only in terms of memory and awareness, but also learn new things, receive and process messages about the world around us.

Besides, TV is the main braincell killer, right?

(next time I will refer to stereotypes, games favorite form of human.)
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About Mariolandone of us since 7:35 PM on 02.04.2008

Hey! I'm a 24 years old man and I'm living in Greece. Video games aren't banned in Greece.

Here's another update to my blog description.
Hi, I'm Marioland and I'm a gamer for a long long time. Greece sucks in general. I'm still practically unemployed. We have a VAT rate at 24% for everything except milk and the cost of living vs the salaries are so unequal, that it is needed to have two jobs in order to run your own house. We are the generation that grew up and stays in parents' basements.

My angst for the lame gamers in Greece is now silenced. Everybody plays as they want. I don't care. I have enough friends to play with so, random matches are a stranger to me.

Younger gamers still can't afford to READ the solution for a game. Let alone play it themselves.

And, yeah. Somehow I feel happy. Also, I kinda like gaming on iDevices, as long as it's not an iPhone.

I am growing old to the gaming journalism, but I still count my self as a newcomer. I contribute to a greek gaming site called Game 2.0 where I post news, reviews and editorials. It's all in Greek so, it will be kinda Greek to you.
I still believe that gaming journalism is a harsh place. Everything you do gets a lot of negative attention (that's kinda good in a cynical point of view). But, now I know more of the people in other sites, I could see that some of them are actually good people.

Anyways, I own a DSi, a PSP, an Xbox 360, a Wii and an iPod Touch 4G 32GB. Feel free to ask me for friendship on these platforms. It would be nice to get my ass handed to me by someone from Dtoid.

Keep Gaming!

Update kinda lame. But I had fun changing it!
Xbox LIVE:leeonardo
Mii code:Marioland


 

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