Tag Archives: video game

Can Video Games Make Thoughtful Social Critiques?

Just to be clear, I am not a gamer. The only video game I ever successfully completed was Jill of the Jungle, which we owned on floppy disk when I was a kid.

I’m pretty sure I only liked this game because Jane was a super cool tough girl,

In fact, up until this past year I would have argued that video games don’t really have any redeeming qualities. At worst, they are a hotbed of misogyny and xenophobia, as chronicled by female gamers on websites like Not in the Kitchen Anymore and Fat, Ugly or Slutty. At best, they are like a bottomless pit where the lives of children and adults disappear, never to resurface.

Although I suppose the same could be said about pretty well anything.

This year a good friend convinced me to try a Digital Humanities class at my University. For those of you who haven’t heard of the field before (I hadn’t either), Wikipedia defines it as the “intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities”.  If you want to see some examples of the kind of research being done in the field, you could check out two of my past posts describing DH scholar Lisa Nakamura’s guest lectures at my university.

While this class has challenged the way I see technology in general, it has particularly challenged my very negative perception of video games. In fact, Ian Bogost, one of the DH scholars we studied in the course, argues that games can form powerful arguments and unique social critiques. In his book, Persuasive GamesBogost describes arguments made by a game as “procedural rhetoric“, or, more simply as “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions, rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures”.

Below, I’ve included four examples of persuasive games my DH professor shared with the class. Each of these games make relevant and thoughtful arguments that wouldn’t have been as effective if they didn’t appear in their procedural form.

The Parable of the Polygons

Vi Hart and Nicky Case preface their simple browser game by stating that “This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.” Hart and Case explain that the triangles and squares are “slightly shapist”. This means that the shapes prefer some level of diversity around them, but will become unhappy if they feel isolated in their community. Players are then asked to drag and drop the shapes until all of the squares and triangles are happy with the community of shapes around them.

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Click on the image to play the game

Once the player begins moving the shapes, it becomes apparent that even a slight bias will lead to large scale segregation. Continue reading

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Culture War Correspondence: Russia and the Ukraine

GORDON: The Culture “War” has more often than not been used as a metaphor, but every once in a while (and with increasing occurrence) battles of the heart and mind start to include blood and iron as well.

Today we’re going to be discussing the ongoing Crisis in the Ukraine, both in regards to its roots and its implications in our society as a whole.

EVAN: I’m going to be one hundred percent honest with you, Gordon, and with all of our readers, I’m primarily going to be viewing a lot of Russia’s actions, and the responses of the other world powers, almost purely as if this were all a game of Sid Meier’s Civilization V.

putinthegreat

Consequently, I can only imagine Putin like this.

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Shame Day: Candy Crush Saga

I don’t own a smart phone, and as a result I do not have Candy Crush Saga. I own a dinky little Samsung slider phone which is complete with six game demos, from WPT Hold ‘Em 2 to The Sims 2. My all-time favourite is Block Breaker 2, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve broken those blocks on the only available level over and over and over again. I’m easy to please, is what I’m saying. Also that I’m not in the target demographic here.

Many of my friends are, though; their enthusiasm for this confectionery-based game has seemingly no bounds. I get it, too- puzzle games are fun. Puzzle games that feature the too-sweet treats that you ideally want in your mouth doubly so. I don’t personally have anything against smart phone games candy-based or otherwise, what I have a problem with is greed and theft.

candycrushshame Continue reading

How To Fix D&D

Normally, the dissection of nerd culture is Evan’s territory. Comic books, super-hero movies, the ins-and-outs of sci-fi flicks- really anything you could or would want to know about geekdom, Evan has covered.

Except, perhaps, for Dungeons & Dragons.

For that, you’d come to me.

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Evan and Gordon Talk: Indie Games [And Minecraft]

EVAN: Two weeks ago our good friend Stew said:

You should write about indie game development and how it’s changing the industry.

And so, after avoiding the topic for a little while, here we are.

GORDON: For the sake of any readers who might not be familiar with what an “indie game” is, while definitions vary, the general consensus is that an “indie game” is any video game developed outside of the major/mainstream video game industry (sometimes called “Triple A”).

EVAN: A pretty good example of this would be Braid. A more well-known example that you’ve probably at least heard about [and that both Gordon and I have played a decent amount of] is Minecraft.

Continue reading